If you’re reading this blog, you might be a practicing attorney, a law student, or even an undergrad who’s thinking about going to law school. Regardless of which category you belong to, there’s a good chance you’re often reminded how much time and effort you’ve put toward your studies and career.
At any point along this trajectory, you put in blood, sweat and tears. You chose to go through hours of expensive schooling, late nights studying and rigorous testing because you’re passionate about helping others and building a great career for yourself. You took the gamble that becoming a lawyer would pay off in the long run — both in terms of personal fulfillment and a comfortable salary.
If you’re at the point in your career where you’re being paid for your legal expertise (or perhaps just imagining what that will be like), you might wonder what would compel an attorney to openly blog about their understanding of the law, seemingly giving that information away to the entire internet for free. With all the time and effort put into such a calling, attorneys surely wonder:
Shouldn’t I be getting paid for that?
Great question. In this post, I’ll explain to you why there’s an absolute advantage for attorneys who choose to regularly blog about what they know — and why lawyers who hoard information are doing themselves, and their law firm, a true disservice.
Information Economies vs. Information Societies: Understanding How We Use Information Today
Without understanding the way we use information in the Information Age, attorneys — and lots of other people — are probably confused about why someone would give their legal knowledge away without being paid for it.
We’re in the middle of a major shift in how we think about knowledge. In order to understand where we’re going culturally, we have to understand where we’ve been, first.
Before the way that we currently use the internet, and before the internet altogether, our culture was an “information economy.” An information economy is an economic stage that follows hunting, agricultural advances and manufacturing (though an information economy can be concurrent with manufacturing, as well). Information economies use knowledge as a main source of value — so much so that the majority of the workforce contributes to society by taking information-related jobs and most products created are information-based products.
As an example, The United States were an agricultural economy starting in the early 1800s until, with major advances in science and technology, we transitioned to an information economy in the 21st century. A statistic from the 2009 CIA World Factbook cited over 60 percent of workers in our labor force were involved in information-related jobs.
However, our culture is in the midst of an interesting change. We’re moving from an information economy to an information society — that is, a culture that no longer pays for information.
Information societies are defined by civilizations that rely on the creation, distribution and use of information, rather than relying on information as their most valuable, money-making material — something to be hoarded and protected at all costs. For example, while our culture is not so much interested in selling information, we are interested in selling communication technologies. It’s why concepts like Facebook, marketing automation and even interoffice communication tools like Slack have done so well.
So what does all this mean for you as an attorney?
Fear Not: Computers Can’t Do Your Job As A Lawyer
As you’re reading this, the following thought may have crossed your mind:
If we’re part of a culture that doesn’t value information in a traditional way, and technology-based services have a foothold, should I be worried that computers are soon going to be able to do my job as a lawyer?
While information societies don’t revolve around selling information, they still very much sell services — and that’s where you come in as an attorney. A person can learn all they want about the law, but without a living, breathing attorney to represent them, not much can happen. While your knowledge of the law is tremendously important, your ability to act as an advocate is even more valuable.
There will be lots of software that can assist lawyers in what they do, but one thing that will likely always stick around is an attorney’s ability to act as an advocate. In a one-sentence summation, here’s a good reason you should put what you know on the internet and make it available for public consumption:
Shelling out content on a website is not the same as actually representing a client and never will be.
If You Don’t Blog, Other Lawyers Will
As we’ve discussed above, we’re in an information society, which means that people aren’t paying for information anymore. However, information societies rely on creating, distributing and using information — even if that information is worthless or inaccurate. It’s one reason the internet can be such a scary place: anybody with access to an internet connection, a keyboard, and an idea can type virtually anything they want and have it reach people at the far corners of the universe. For all its perks, the internet has a way of giving people the illusion of authority when they have none to begin with. That includes lawyers who aren’t at the top of their game, blogging misleading information to their readership.
This is another reason why you should start blogging as soon as possible: if you don’t, someone else will. And that means that the general public will likely be exposed to all sorts of misinformation. Wouldn’t you rather they be well-informed, particularly by your blog posts?
By blogging about what you know, you have an advantage in securing your reputation and credibility as a well-educated lawyer. Better yet, you’ll be an attorney who proves that you’re the right person to represent a client by offering meaningful website content that encourages viewers to not only educate themselves, but to seek your particular brand of counsel.
How To Stop Hoarding Information At Your Law Firm
With all the changes that are happening in our world, it can be a strange time to be an attorney. However, the spoils will go to those who are able to think flexibly about how our culture works (and where we’re headed in the future). Blogging about what you know will give you an advantage in building your reputation, your client base, and your revenue.
Here are some ways to start putting your knowledge to work for you in a blog:
- If you’re not sure what topics to blog about, have a look at newspapers or a news aggregate to find timely, relevant stories that will spark your creativity. If you spot something in the news that piques your interest as a lawyer (or might pique the interest of your readers), consider blogging about it.
- Set aside 15 minutes every day to write something. It doesn’t have to be particularly lengthy, but if you make a little progress each day, over time you’ll have accumulated an impressive amount of content that can help build your brand. Furthermore, if you’ve got writer’s block, fifteen minutes is an easy commitment that can often turn into more content once you take the pressure off of yourself to produce something.
- Maybe you already started writing some content for your website, but you feel it’s outdated or you’re not sure what to do with it. Repurpose that old content for a new blog post, updated for your viewers. Furthermore, if there are advances on the topic you’ve already written about, you can write a new blog post linking back to your old one.
E.B. White, author of the famous children’s book Charlotte’s Web, once said the following:
“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth […] Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.”
Think about your audience in the same way. They’re certainly not children, but they’re definitely curious and interested. They’ve come to your website for a good reason. Without writing blogs filled with attorney jargon, give your audience something to think about. You can write about legal strategy (for example, potential defenses if you’re faced with a criminal charge), case studies, statutory analysis, myths about the law and more.
The law is a complicated, diverse, interesting topic. As long as you’re able to explain concepts in easily understandable terms, you’ll impress your readers by showing them what you know and why they can benefit from that knowledge. Putting that sort of information out in the open now will mean more business for your firm later.