In August 2005, Dennis and Tom took part in a discussion called “Between Lawyers Roundtable: The Future of Legal Blogging” on the ABA Law Practice Today website. This marked the burst of energy for legal blogging, or blawging, in 2005. Ten years later, lawyers have decided to examine the landscape of law blogs. Bob Ambrogi and Paul Horwitz at PrawfsBlawg started a discussion about how law blogging has changed since 2005. As Dennis and Tom have seen and been part of the law blogging scene from the beginning, they could not resist jumping into the conversation.
In this episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell discuss recent commentary on the last decade of blawging, the current state of blawging, and the future of online interaction and marketing for lawyers. They discuss whether legal blogs are still popular, how the online landscape has changed for legal professionals, and what might be replacing the personal law blog. Tom notes that due to podcasts, social media, and general writing exhaustion, individual lawyers are updating less often or have stopped all together. Dennis talks about how there are more law firm and group blogs that are SEO optimized and targeted for marketing. They both agree that blawging is not dead, but has changed remarkably in the past ten years.
In the second section of the podcast, Dennis and Tom discuss Jeena Cho’s Above the Law article, “ABA TECHSHOW: A White Man Affair” and a similar comment by the Lawyerist’s Sam Glover. With 65% of the speakers at ABA TECHSHOW white and male (and many middle aged), the hosts have decided that this is the right time to talk about diversifying the legal technology field. As always, stay tuned for Parting Shots, that one tip, website, or observation you can use the second the podcast ends.
Special thanks to our sponsor, ServeNow.
Mentioned in This Episode
Kennedy-Mighell Report: After A Decade of Legal Blogs or “Blawging”… – 5/11/2015
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Dennis Kennedy: And welcome to episode 152 of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. I’m Dennis Kennedy in St. Louis.
Tom Mighell: And I’m Tom Mighell in Dallas.
Dennis Kennedy: In our last episode we shared our reflections on ABA Techshow 2015. We started to experiment with an approach I call entering the conversation. We make note of topics being discussed in the Legaltech community and weigh in on them in this podcast. One of these topics lately has been how law blogging has changed in the last decade. Now that’s a topic I think we know something about and can’t resist adding our own two cents to that. Tom, what’s on our agenda for this episode?
Tom Mighell: Well, Dennis, in this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, we’ll be reflecting on changes in law blogging, where we are, where we think we might be going. In our second segment, we’ll discuss what has been referred to as ABA Techshow’s “White people problem,” and as usual we’ll finish up with our parting shots, that one tip, website or observation that you could start using the second this podcast is over. But first we want to talk about our recent posts by first Paul Horowitz on the PrawfsBlawg, the excellent Law Professor Blog, and Bob Ambrogi on his LawSites blog, responding to that post, that look at changes in law blogging in the last decade. Neither post has any comments as of this recording, that I’m aware of, but then again Bob chose rather than to reply to it, he chose to write his own post. So we thought we’d enter the conversation here and talk about it a little bit more. Dennis, we routinely see stories that blogging is dying. We bring this up on the podcast constantly, is blogging dying or something else dying. We’ve seen lots of introspectives about how law blogging has changed, whether or not it’s got a future; we’ve seen this really it began, since you and I started talking about blogs and that’s almost 11 or 12 years ago. Is now a good time for that discussion to start up again?
Dennis Kennedy: It surprised me that the discussion did start up, but for a couple of reasons it’s not a bad time, and I’ll touch up on a couple of those things. I think that there are some things that have changed, there are some common elements. Some of the most interesting parts of this discussions if we’re actually almost a whole decade away from when those of us between lawyers blog – so that’s Denise Howell, Marty Schwimmer, Ernie Svenson, you and me – did a roundtable discussion in law practice magazine about blogging in 2005 and what the future held. So it’s sort of weird that ten years later we’re sort of looking at the same topics. But I think thing go sort of full cycle. I went back and read that article, Tom, I don’t know whether you got the chance to do that, but we sort of, in a way, looked like we knew what we were talking about, which is kind of interesting. Because even at that time, I think we had a little bit of a concern that maybe blogging had run its course and we weren’t quite sure where it was going. I mean we certainly had some ideas and then things changed over time, and I also thought it was sort of interesting because I think that in a lot of ways, 2005 was maybe the biggest year of law blogging there’s ever been.
Tom Mighell: I think we’ve talked on the podcast before, there was a period of time where I was incredibly statistics-orientated about blogs and I was keeping track of every single blog that had come out for a number of years. And I got up to a list of almost 4,000 blogs before I just ran out of steam. But I went back tonight to look and see how many blogs came or debuted in 2005 and I counted over 600, 600 law blogs started in 2005. What was interesting is that the vast majority of those blogs had already shut down by the time I finished with my spreadsheet, which was maybe 2011, 2012. So the majority of those blogs in 2005 hadn’t really lasted as long as maybe we expected them to. What I thought was interesting about Paul Horowitz’s article, he wa talking about some of the reasons why it might be reasonable to assume that law blogs are teetering out or going away or fading away. And a couple of them really make sense to me, one is, ten years wears out a blogger. And you and I are going to talk about this later. I can contestify that I’ve been worn out, you can look at my blog and tell that I’ve been worn out. It’s difficult to maintain a blog with that level of energy over a long extended period of time. And I’d be very interested because one thing we didn’t see – since we said there’s no comments to either of those and I don’t think I’ve seen a corresponding blog post by Kevin O’Keefe and maybe I’m wrong, maybe I need to go look out and see but I expect for him to weigh in on this. I don’t get the sense that there’s been this incredible upsurge of lawyers who have been blogging. I think that you’re right, I think that the upsurge was really in the 8 to 10 years ago. And I don’t see that happening these days. I agree with him that group blogs can be administratively difficult to manage, although they tend to even out the burden a little bit. I agree that comments and dealing with people who respond on the blog are also exhausting. It’s like being a lawyer without paying clients that you’re having to deal with all sorts of hostile comments and people saying things and hearing things on Twitter and other places. Which really leads to the other issue which is that lawyers are finding other tools: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Other tools tend to be better, easier ways to distribute or to disseminate information than blogs are. I think all of which lead up to this general thought that maybe blogs are going away. I think there’s validity to some of those points, I don’t know how you feel about that Dennis.
Dennis Kennedy: I feel like the same argument’s been made over time and that there’s always been a relatively small number of blogs. In a way, I have the sense now that there might be more blogs of by lawyers or maybe more accurately by law firms than there have ever been. But I think it’s a matter of change, so if you go back and you look at the earliest bloggers, I think we’re all sort of bloggers first, lawyers second, and writers definitely and sort of exploring with things. The most interesting things we were doing a lot of times, at least on our blog, didn’t have very much with our law practice and we kind of followed it in different ways. But I think in 2005, there was a sort of fresh burst of energy and you saw some things that were really cool that happened, especially by some younger lawyers and they took blogging and aligned it to their practice areas and to the things they wanted to do and with really interesting results. I think of the Rethink IP guys, Doug Scirocco, Matt Buchanan, Steve Nipper, who really built IP practices out of their blogs in a lot of ways. Dennis Crouch, another patent lawyer was an associate at a firm, totally unknown, now I have people telling me he’s probably one of the most prominent patent people in the country because of his blog and he turned that into the opportunity to become a law professor at the University of Missouri. So there’s a whole bunch of examples there and it’s sort of like that in 2005, people kind of caught how blogging might work in connection with their actual practice. And then there’s been some evolutions since then, but to me, I would say lately, it’s more of the law firm blogs, the group blogs, and I think what’s missing is that a lot of blogs now – and especially ones that are starting now – I really have no idea who the individual behind them is, whereas in the early days of blogging, you knew the individuals who were doing the blogging. And in the earliest days, it was possible that in any given day, you could get an email from all of the prominent law bloggers because there were just a few of them. And now I couldn’t identify – especially these big firm blogs which have a lot of great content – I couldn’t identify the individuals writing them or who the voice of these blogs were coming from
Tom Mighell: And I’ll get to that in a second because that’s a big point I think that Bob makes in his post that I want to talk about. But I want to come back and take a small bit of issue with something you said at the very beginning. You said that some of these reasons for why blogging might be dying are the same kinds of reasons, and there’s two of them that I think aren’t the same reasons. The first one is just the fact of time, is that ten years ago, we hadn’t had people blogging for ten years, we had people blogging for four or five years and a bunch of them were still dropping out even in that point in time. I think that we’re starting to get to the point where there’s real blog fatigue from those people who were part of that kind of renaissance of blogging in the 2005, 2006 space. And I think that we’re really starting to see that that level of fatigue may be setting in to a certain extent, or at least it makes sense to me. The other one that I think is completely different is social media, is that social media now is available as a tool and as one of the bloggers posted on the PrawfsBlawg, he said as a quote that the “party is elsewhere,” that the blog is not the place to have the discussion, that social media is. And you and I have talked on several podcasts about the idea that the blog should really be the homebase, it should be the place where you want people to go back and see the content that you have and the things you want to tell people about and the stuff that you really think is important and that you use social media and your Facebook and your Twitter and your LinkedIn and whatever, Google Plus, you use that as your outpost to drive people back. I think it’s having somewhat of an opposite effect because all of those other tools are so much easier because people are thinking in terms of 140 characters. They’re thinking in terms of a short Facebook post, they’re thinking in terms of just something short on LinkedIn to type to people. I was talking to someone the other day who said I really only digest things in terms of 140 to 160 characters, it’s just easier for me to do. And I think that has a lot to do with it, lawyers are looking at these other forms of social media and saying I can do a better job and it’s better use of my time to use these tools than to sit and spend the time trying to think of a blog post and to sit there and write it. I just don’t have the time or the energy to do that.
Dennis Kennedy: I always felt that blogging was a writer’s medium and it was difficult and that’s always what I told people, that people who did well in blogging were writers at heart and that’s certainly not every lawyer. I think you’re right about whether it’s just social media or whether it’s just other media, is that there are alternatives to blogging that make a lot of sense. I just have the feeling that podcasts are absolutely exploding, that there are tons and tons of new podcasts and it’s hard for me to keep up with them. If you ask me why am I not writing a lot on my blog, I would say because this podcast is the main vehicle I have for certain ideas that I used to write about on my blog and this podcast is way better for me and way more enjoyable than writing on the blog. You also have bloggers who have written books, and Tom, as you will agree, writing a book just takes it out of you for doing other writing. If you have irregular columns, which both you and I do, that also makes it hard to do blogging. And then you’re right, social media’s way easier, I just tweet. When I can’t think of something to tweet even, I just retweet other things and so I have a presence there whereas when I look at my to do list that says write a blog post tonight, I just say I don’t even know if I have any ideas. I am going to just sit down for half an hour and write something that’s pretty interesting that kind of starts things up. So I think you have that on the media side and also I had a really long conversation with Kevin O’Keefe at Techshow and I’m always struck every time I talk with Kevin about how he sees the conversation as being the key element of using the internet. And so it’s the interaction with people and it’s the conversation you have. And so I think that, as you said, it’s harder for people to find blogs, I think there are better ways to initiate conversation. Sometimes that could be Twitter, that could be Facebook, that could be other things, but I think that blog as being the main vehicle that you had discussions around as it was say 12, 13 years ago when we started and certainly up to year ten and maybe ten years ago and beyond that a little bit. Blogs were the way that you had these conversations and now I think there’s less of that. And in a way, both the earlier blog posts that we talked about, about the human element of technology, and this one, one of the things we pointed out was that there were basically no comments on those posts.
Tom Mighell: Right. And you mentioned that podcasting is one reason why you’re not doing as many posts. For me it really comes down to just lacking the energy to do it. I am constantly keeping up with what’s going on in both legal technology and the technology world and I’m always finding great ideas for a blog post and then when it’s time to sit down, I just find it’s easier to find something better to do. I can’t bring myself to actually do it and that’s killing me because I really want to do this and I suppose that this is just the writer’s dilemma, just forcing myself to sit down and do it, take the time to do it and I really, really ought to. I guess I want to talk real quick maybe about the future and whether we agree with the comments. I think that the PrawfsBlawg seems kind of sad, they may not be totally pessimistic about it but they don’t seem real enthusiastic about the future of law blogs. Bob Ambrogi on the other hand is really enthusiastic and he even says that law blogs are thriving but the first two examples he gives for that are one, that big firms have paid writers producing blog content, and two, marketing and PR firms send canned content to law firms. He says some other reasons why they’re thriving, but not one reason in there are that lawyers are talking about the things that interest them as lawyers or impressing people about their experiences as lawyers and are not having conversations with other people on legal topics. It sounds to me like we’re really getting away from the lawyer as the blogger, we’re more towards the blog as a marketing tool driven by marketers. And if that’s thriving, I don’t know that I really want to be a part of that kind of thriving. I really thought it was a lot more interesting when it was lawyers driving the conversation and not marketers. Dennis, what do you think about the future?
Dennis Kennedy: Well I think it would be really interesting for our listeners to go back and find that 2005 between lawyers roundtable article.
Tom Mighell: And we may very well post that into the show notes.
Dennis Kennedy: I guess that’s a hint to you, Tom, to put that in the show notes. But I go back to a couple of things. So Dave Winer is sort of the godfather of blogging, always defined blogging as the unedited voice of a person. And so that was the cool thing about blogging, you had your own printing press, you could get your message out, you could find your own voice. And so I think as blogs become more specialized and more professionalised, as you’ve described, we’ve moved away from that. And so I think where the potential with blogs still exist for me and where we’re maybe not doing as great a job as we could’ve is what I call speed to publication. So when you write a blog post, you would put it up and it was out and people could see it right away. So you didn’t have to wait for some period of time for a newsletter to go out, you didn’t have to wait a couple of months for a magazine article to come out or a year or more for a book to come out. So lawyers engaged in this conversation by being helpful, by talking about new important cases, new laws, things like that, and they could do it really quickly. And so I think in the earliest days you had a really strong non-lawyer audience in a lot of the legal blogs. I think it’s just become super specialized and maybe the focus has become other lawyers to weigh and also that professional marketing thing where it’s kind of hard to say, do I really want to follow this on a regular basis and something that’s sort of been SEO optimized and people choose the keywords and what they say instead of letting it go. I remember so many earlier bloggers, even those who were really focused on legal specific topics for their blogs said that what really changed things for them was maybe one night they were up late, they were writing, they just wrote what was on their mind, they were like, should I post this or not and they posted it and they were afraid what was going to happen. And it turned out that people got in touch with them and they liked what they were saying and they liked them and it could be that work came out of that or opportunities came out of that. But certainly friendships and other conversations came out of that and that’s where I think we’ve moved away from and that’s possibly why some people are wondering where blogging is going and I think that’s also why podcasting may be becoming more of an interesting area. Because I think you can really find your own voice, talk about what you want, and for people who aren’t writers first, podcasting has become really interesting, same with social media. So there’s always going to be other outlets and I think that blogging is text, it’s writing, and it’s regular content and not everybody can do that. So I think there’s a lot of potential there, but I think it’s a good time to rethink what blogging is. And Tom, in the case of you and me, it seems like we’ve spent the last two years trying to figure out where our blogs are going, but I know we’ll get that figured out one of these days.
Tom Mighell: One of these days, but not before the end of this segment. Before we move onto our next segment, let’s take a quick break for a message from our sponsor.
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Tom Mighell: And now let’s get back to the Kennedy-Mighell Report. I’m Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy. And we’re entering into another conversation. So Jeena Cho started up a conversation at and after Techshow with her post on the Above the Law blog called, The ABA TECHSHOW: A White Man Affair. The money quote that got people talking was, “I’ll just come out and say it, the ABA Techshow has a white people problem, there is very little racial diversity.” While she noted, “I only post this as an observation and not as a criticism,” and that she was looking forward to coming back to Techshow next year, this certainly started some conversations. She and Keith Lee also recorded an episode of their resilient lawyer podcast called ABA Techshow 2015 PodBlast: Wrap Up, TECHSHOW has a White People Problem, that I personally enjoyed and can certainly recommend the podcast, which goes into the topic in more detail – both the original event that sort of gave raise to the post and the feedback that Jeena got after that. Tom, I don’t know if this is an inflammatory topic, but it’s a certainly controversial topic but I think a really important topic, so what are your thoughts?
Tom Mighell: What was interesting about this and then I think it was also covered a little bit on Lawyerist was that both posters, Sam Glover and Jeena Cho said that they don’t mean this as criticism, mostly just as an observation. But I think it highlights an interesting issue. So I wanted to set out once and for all, what are the real numbers that we had. So I went and I looked at the faculty, I counted 70 faculty members total. Of those, they’re right. 65% are white males, 25% are white females, 8% are females and males of other ethnicities. Interestingly, about 8% are also gay and lesbian, so there is at least also that diversity present in the Techshow faculty, but no getting around the fact that predominately white and male. I think it’s a good observation that that’s happening, but I’ll also come back and say that it’s not really a new observation. Dennis, when you and I served on the Techshow board, we were on the Techshow board beginning as early as 2004 or 2005. And this was very much an issue back then and it has remained an issue that the boards have always struggled to find. And so I think that the article title really should have been instead of ABA Techshow has a White Man Problem, it really should be that Legal Technology has a White People Problem; I think that this is an industry issue, frankly. I don’t have specific numbers, I may be wrong. If somebody wants to contact me through the podcast page, I’m happy to talk about it. But every time we look to the industry to try to find new and interesting voices or minds in technology, it is really difficult to find diverse voices in that mix. I agree that there’s a lot of diversity, I think that it’s always been a challenge. So I’m going to throw out to listeners and I’m going to say help us identify those diverse legal technology experts. We’ve struggled. I know when I was on the board it was hard, I know that Techshow board struggles to find individuals. If you’ve got individuals that you think would make good speakers, good experts on legal technology, I’m going to give you a ton of ways to contact us at the end of the podcast. I’m interested to know so that we can pass that along to the Techshow board because I tend to agree that it’s an issue but it’s been an issue for a long time and I’ve always struggled with the right way to deal with this, I don’t know about you Dennis.
Dennis Kennedy: So a couple of things on this, and I think you’re right, the numbers don’t lie. And people who know me know for the last however many years, I will often say that when I’m at a room or at a place like Techshow and I feel like I’m one of the younger people there, it makes me wonder if we can do a better job on some of these things. There are a lot of difficulties so I think it’s tough when you see it posted in this way. First of all I think it’s a really good thing because I think you need to starkly bring up the issue, but I think that sometimes you feel like people don’t realize that a lot of effort was put into this and it’s not like other people don’t notice the same thing. So a couple of comments on this story. When I read this story, what I realized was that the pivotal moment of Jenna’s realization that she was in a room basically of all white people at a reception at a very fancy place in a hotel, she was really enthused to see her friend Tim Baran come into the room to kind of help with diversity there. I realized, Tom, I think both you and I walked in the door with Tim, so it was kind of an odd moment for me when I read that in the story because I remember the moment that was happening. And I can’t deny that I don’t basically have the same feeling there at Techshow and I struggle with it, so I tried to do a couple of things and I think I have a couple of ideas for people. So what I decided a few years ago was I’m not going to be on a panel where there are just all middle-aged white guys. I can’t do that anymore, that doesn’t make sense, that’s not a service to anybody, especially the audience. So I try to do that and that’s sort of my own thing. But I think in terms of Techshow and conferences and I think Techshow is a really great opportunity for people, so if you want to do some things and to improve the diversity of Techshow, at least last year I know that, Tom, they solicited proposals. And you and I submitted a proposal – which unfortunately was turned down in one case – but even at this point, I’d submit the proposal. So I would say here’s this great opportunity to help diversify speakers by saying okay, I’m going to submit a proposal. I think there’s a villain in the piece in a structural way that at Techshow, you always require speakers to speak on two topics. So somebody could be really strong on one topic but then not have a second topic or have a really weak second topic and that sometimes hurts. So I think that when you submit proposals and you make inquiries about potentially speaking at Techshow, I think you want to give people like 3 or 4 different subject options that you could talk about. And then the other thing is I look at the Law Technology Today blog as a great opportunity for the diverse legal technology people to get visibility in a place to show what they can do and have that published in the ABA and you’re definitely going to get the attention of people and that will make it smoother for you to become a speaker at Techshow. Then I think that gives you entry to meeting more people and to being in the place where you can actually make some changes. So this post, I think I really do take it more as an observation than a criticism and I think that potentially if people work with it will be a springboard to some definite improvement in the numbers. Now it’s time for our parting shot, that one tip, website or observation you can use the second this podcast ends. Tom, take it away.
Tom Mighell: I have a DropBox tip for this podcast. DropBox has been slowly moving away from just being that company that will store your documents in the cloud. Now they’re trying to be a company that really helps you manage your documents better, and they’ve recently rolled out the ability to add comments on DropBox files. A while back, they gave you the ability to actually edit Microsoft Office files while in DropBox, which is really helpful. But now, when you share a document with someone and you open that document up in the DropBox website, you’ll have a comment pane to the side where you can have a conversation and discuss a document. You can actually bring in anybody to the conversation, even if they don’t use DropBox, with a link that takes them straight to the file. So it’s a really interesting and new use of DropBox. If you happen to be a DropBox user, give it a shot and give it a try, I’ll put it in the show notes. Dennis?
Dennis Kennedy: I’ve got a couple of things this time. So Legal Talk Network that produces our show has a great series called Special Reports from Legal Conferences and there’s a whole bunch of podcast interviews from ABA Techshow that I found really enjoyable, so people should take a look at that. Our friend Neil Squillante at TechnoLawyer pointed us to a TechnoLawyer research report called The Egg Theory: What Clients Really Want From Their Lawyers; definitely worth checking that at. And then listening to a podcast where somebody’s talking about something called the 10x rule. A guy named Grant Cardone wrote a book on this and I just found this really interesting. So when people saw me on the panel at the appathon at Techshow, I revealed one of my secrets in innovation that I always like to do the flip on things. So when I’m not sure how something’s going to work, I say okay, I’ll just flip it around and see how it’s going to work. So say if I’m not really sure that I can get lawyers to use this service; I would say, can I get the lawyer’s clients to use it and does that make the idea more attractive in some ways. So the flip thing is one thing, but the 10x rule is potentially even more interesting. So it’s saying if we’re trying to get 10% improvement, then we’ll make little tweaks and changes and do evolution. But if we say we want to make things 10x better, then we really have to rethink how we’re doing things and change a lot of the assumptions. So if you say you would like to make a million dollars a year, then you would say you would do some things. But if you would like to make ten million dollars a year, then that becomes everything that you do and the way you think about what it would take for you to get there, changes the thinking. So not necessarily you’re going to make a million or ten million dollars a year, but certainly the thought process and what you decide to do could become way different. And so I find myself a lot of times saying what would be the example of 10x for me and I find myself saying more and more often that I would like to find ways to take lawyers out of the equation where lawyers don’t need to be in the equation; and I think that’s an example of 10x thinking. So just that 10x rule is something that I would suggest people give some thought to.
Tom Mighell: So that wraps it up for this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Thanks for joining us on the podcast; information on how to get in touch with us, as well as links to all the topics we discussed today, is available on our show notes blog at TKMReport.com. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or on the Legal Talk Network site where you can find archives to all of our previous podcasts. If you’d like to get in touch with us, please email us at [email protected] or send us a tweet. I’m @TomMighell and Dennis is @DennisKennedy. So until the next podcast, I am Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy and you’ve been listening to the Kennedy-Mighell Report, a podcast on legal technology with an internet focus. Help us out by telling a couple of your friends and colleagues about this podcast.
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