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Molly McDonough, editor and publisher since Feb. 3, 2017, joined the ABA Journal staff in 2001. She had been...

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Sharon D. Nelson

Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. is president of the digital forensics, managed information technology and cybersecurity firm Sensei Enterprises. Ms....

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Episode Notes

Print may seem like it’s going out of style but the ABA Journal is still going strong. In this episode of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk to Molly McDonough about news stories lawyers want to read and how the ABA Journal has adapted to changes in media consumption. They also discuss the ABA Journal’s role as the primary source of legal technology information for attorneys.

Molly McDonough, joined the ABA Journal staff in 2001 and has been editor and publisher since Feb. 3, 2017.

Special thanks to our sponsors, ServeNowScorpionAnswer1, and Clio.


The Digital Edge

The ABA Journal: Legal Journalism in the Digital Age



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Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.


Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 123rd edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We are glad to have you with us.

I am Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.

Jim Calloway: And I am Jim Calloway, Director of The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is The ABA Journal: Legal Journalism in the Digital Age.

Sharon D. Nelson: Before we get started we would like to thank our sponsors.

Thanks to our sponsor Clio. Clio’s cloud-based practice management software makes it easy to manage your law firm from intake to invoice. Try it for free at  HYPERLINK “” That’s  HYPERLINK “”

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We are very pleased to have as our guest, Molly McDonough, ABA Journal editor and publisher since February 3, 2017. Molly joined the ABA Journal staff in 2001. Before then she worked in print and online media for American Lawyer Media and covered legal affairs for daily newspapers.

In 2014 she was named to Folio’s Top Women in Media list. Thanks for joining us today Molly.

Molly McDonough: Thanks for having me Jim and Sharon. I am so excited to be here today.

Sharon D. Nelson: Well, let’s go back into a little history Molly and tell us how you first got involved with legal reporting.

Molly McDonough: Sure. I started out as a general assignment reporter in South Carolina and that’s where I began covering courts and politics in a big region near Florence, South Carolina. A big court case came out of that area at the time, a big desegregation case and I developed a beat in courts and politics and then started covering more of the business aspects of law when I went to the Chicago Daily Law bulletin and then to American Lawyer Media.

I joined the ABA Journal as part of a team that was brought on board to launch the first electronic newsletter for the Journal.

Jim Calloway: What have been the biggest changes that you have seen in the legal profession since you first started reporting on it, Molly?

Molly McDonough: I think what stands out the most is technology. It’s been the technology that’s been the biggest disruption to traditional law practice. Even early on I think it was a huge help, but the learning curve was really high for lawyers. So even as technology becomes more and more sophisticated and useful, it’s really just now I think becoming easier for lawyers to use and savvy consumers who want or need to advocate for themselves.


And I just wanted to mention, over the weekend I followed a social media thread in which kind of a group of non-lawyer moms helped another mom walk through the steps of filing for divorce and custody. And again, this is all over social media, I don’t think any of these women actually knew one another. Several suggested lawyers, but as part of the discussion it became clear she didn’t make enough money for legal aid and didn’t have enough to pay the retainers and fees she was quoted, like in the $2,000-5,000 range.

So she was directed to several online resources where she could use a mix of fillable forms and follow then kind of a guided process for filing her divorce online. That’s just been a huge change in the years I have been covering the legal profession.

Sharon D. Nelson: Well, there have been a lot of changes, particularly with the ABA Journal itself. I can tell you in the old days, and I know you will take no offense, because you weren’t around at that point, I used to regard the ABA Journal as a chore to get through, it was so boring. But it had a really radical change and maybe you could talk about that and how the Journal adapted in response to the changes around it, because it is now, I actually really look forward to reading the ABA Journal every time.

Molly McDonough: Thanks for saying that. One of the things I remember when I first started at the magazine is a stat from the Journal’s regular reader survey that revealed apparently more than once that the Journal is the place our readers learn about technology advances in the profession and I remember that kind of stunning the editors.

So we started covering technology more and more, especially after more and more products were developed to assist lawyers and law firms. We had a tech column and started covering technology’s impact on the industry.

But the Journal had to change its structure too as reader habits changed. I mentioned we started the eReport, a weekly e-newsletter in 2001. Then in 2007 we launched  HYPERLINK “”, which included a Directory of Law Blawgs. Out of that we developed the Annual Blawg 100, celebrating blogging and directing readers to the resources developing in their areas of practice and areas of interest.

And then as we developed  HYPERLINK “”, we also made sure to establish ourselves on social media platforms. The goal was to be where our audience, readers would be, so we could continue to connect them to our journalism.

Jim Calloway: Well, that’s interesting about the technology information. What can you tell us today about the technological savvy of ABA Journal’s readership?

Molly McDonough: When the Journal first launched its site, I will just kind of go back to a little anecdote, we had a tag cloud. Immediately the feedback we got was that our readers didn’t get it. And not only did they not get it, they didn’t care for the trendy features we were trying to impose on them, I think was some of the feedback we were getting.

Our staff kind of consistently showed that the Journal, overall, readers aren’t early adopters, but they are becoming increasingly savvy and they have expectations for the speed of delivery and the type of information that they want to receive from the magazine.

Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.


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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is The ABA Journal: Legal Journalism in the Digital Age and our guest is Molly McDonough, ABA Journal Editor and Publisher.

So Molly, we are all finding our news in new ways, but lawyers in particular, how are they finding their news and what kinds of stories are they seeking out?

Molly McDonough: Lawyers are really well-read and anytime we write about books, we get a strong engagement and it’s one of the reasons we started the Modern Law Library Podcast a few years ago. And they want information that’s easy to read, easy to share and has value to them, personally and professionally.


It’s true that cute baby stories do pretty well on our site, when you talk about the types of stories they seek out, headlines certainly matter, but so do stories we found about lawyers doing inspirational things or stories that lawyers can connect with on a human level, and then again back to some of those 10:09 baby stories, ethics stories I like to call them, lawyers behaving badly stories do particularly well, and so do substantive topics, especially like developments in the Supreme Court.

Jim Calloway: Well, Sharon and I have noticed and appreciated I might add that the ABA Journal has been publishing many more features on cybersecurity and law firm technology security and that type of thing. Are lawyers becoming more aware of the technology field challenges for security in the digital age?

Molly McDonough: Yeah, I think lawyers have to become more aware of technology, just to be able to do business in a pretty competitive environment, but I am constantly surprised how much lawyers after they have learned to use technology have total faith in their vendors without making sure the very sensitive data is secured or backed up.

And I think that’s changing, but it’s one reason we decided to write about cybersecurity for this whole year, not only does hacking impact lawyers as consumers, it’s so important to the success and security of their business operations.

Sharon D. Nelson: It certainly is. There’s been a lot of changes, another one was that you shifted from the Blawg 100 to the Web 100, so what was the thinking that went on behind that?

Molly McDonough: Even before we had our 10th Blawg 100, we were looking for ways to recognize the impact and influence that social media and podcasting were having on the profession, and blogging has changed in so many ways, but it’s still thriving. So we didn’t want to give up recognizing bloggers. So we came up with the approach that we debuted last year in December.

In addition to blogging, we recognized podcasting and lawyers on social media, mainly Twitter this year. We tried to feature law firm websites, but we really didn’t get enough good entries, so we hope to kind of work that feature into the next Web 100 or in future years.

Jim Calloway: Well, The Digital Edge Podcast was named in the ABA Journal’s first Web 100 under the category of Best Law Podcast. So as far as Sharon and I are concerned that designates you as an authoritative source right there. But how did you arrive at the list, what was the process?

Molly McDonough: So unlike the Blawg 100, when we first launched that we actually kind of struggled to pull that first list together, podcasting is already flourishing. There are so many great podcasts related to law and the profession. The trick this year was winnowing it down to the ones we really wanted to share with our readers the first year.

Sharon D. Nelson: Molly, that was very interesting, but can you tell us a little bit more about the Web 100 and what categories there are and the selection process?

Molly McDonough: Sure. So we take nominations for the Web 100 and before that the Blawg 100, we do it in the form of Amici, we call it Blawg Amici and now Web 100 Amici, where we do Friend of the Blawg or Friend of the Web 100 briefs. And they are sort of — we are soliciting testimonials from readers. We really prefer to get the nominations from readers of blogs or listeners to podcasts. And so when we opened up the Web 100 this year to include podcasting and social media and websites, we asked for Amici in all those categories.

And the other new thing we did is we kind of pulled from our Blawg 100 Hall of Fame, which we still maintain and we asked some of those folks to be judges this year to help us select the finalists for the Web 100.

So in each category we had kind of a panel of experts in those areas and then had them pick their favorites, and then from that, the staff, editors at the Journal finalized the list for the year. And I think that worked really well. We really got more nominations that way. We had nominations from judges that some areas we weren’t aware of. So I think it expanded our list in a good way for our readers.

Jim Calloway: Well, Sharon and I aren’t quarreling with the results. Before we move on to the last segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.


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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is The ABA Journal: Legal Journalism in the Digital Age and our guest is Molly McDonough, ABA Journal Editor and Publisher.

So the next question I am going to ask you should never be asked of me because I would go into a rant, but I will ask it of you Molly and see what you say. Do lawyers resist new technology or are they receptive to it?

Molly McDonough: Well, after that intro, let’s see, I want to hear your rant, but seriously more and more, I think as technology vendors create products that are easier to use and easier to implement, I think lawyers are becoming a little more receptive to technology. I still wouldn’t call them early adopters, but I think they are more comfortable with technology in other aspects of their lives. I think about online banking for business and social media to communicate.

So to me, it’s not a big leap for them to then start using the same or similar tools in law practice, to handle things like billing and communicating with clients, but again not exactly early adopters, but certainly I would say more receptive.

Sharon D. Nelson: So you are a lot kinder than I would be. I am not going to do the full rant, but basically lawyers are cheap, they want everything for nothing and they are very resistant to taking time to learn to use the technology properly. So that would be part of my answer, but I do think they are getting better, but it’s awful gall-darn slow.

Jim Calloway: And any lawyers who are offended, that was Sharon Nelson.

Sharon D. Nelson: Thank you Jim. I needed that assist.

Molly McDonough: That’s the same, going back to the cybersecurity question, that’s the same issue is, so once you learn what you need to know, did you learn enough to make sure that your data is secure?

Jim Calloway: It’s a challenge Molly because we are used to relying on precedent and so many of these changes are really unprecedented and so it’s harder for lawyers to plan based on future conduct rather than reading old cases, right?

Sharon D. Nelson: Yeah, yeah, there’s probably some truth to that. We are hardwired into the precedent thing.

Jim Calloway: Well, I want you to know that I share at least one or two articles, maybe more, from the ABA Journal through my social media accounts every single month. So what are your plans for the ABA Journal this upcoming year and in the future beyond the next year?

Molly McDonough: Well, first of all, thanks so much for sharing. I encourage as much sharing as possible the Journal stories and as many channels as you have.

So the Journal needs to reflect the interests of its readers. So right now in this last year, besides learning how to do this job, I have been doing a lot of listening and learning what our readers want and need and how they need that information delivered.

We have been in print now for more than a 100 years and I don’t expect us to completely go digital, but I think we can and should be doing more online, so that’s what we are focused on right now.

Sharon D. Nelson: Well, we certainly appreciate the time you have taken to be with us today Molly. I know how very, very busy you are. But since I love the written word, I am very much fond of the Journal and the great stories you guys do. And I am also very pleased to see the Journal have evolved over time to something that is really useful to lawyers and really is something that they look forward to reading.

So thanks for your good work, thanks for taking the time and being our guest today.

Molly McDonough: Thanks so much for those kind words and thanks for having me today Jim and Sharon.

Sharon D. Nelson: That does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. And remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at  HYPERLINK “” or on Apple Podcasts. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us in Apple Podcasts.

Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.

Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails cowboy.


Outro: Thanks for listening to The Digital Edge, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway for their next podcast covering the latest topic related to Lawyers and Technology. Subscribe to the RSS feed on  HYPERLINK “” or in iTunes.

The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.

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Episode Details
Published: March 14, 2018
Podcast: The Digital Edge
Category: Legal Entertainment , Legal News
The Digital Edge
The Digital Edge

The Digital Edge, hosted by Sharon D. Nelson and Jim Calloway, covers the latest technology news, tips, and tools.

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