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Blogs identify legal gaps and foster a sense of community

March 13th, 2014  |  Lorene Park

By Lorene D. Park, J.D.

Okay, I admit it, when I first started writing blogs for Employment Law Daily I thought that most blogs are only written for two reasons: marketing and pumping up one’s ego. No doubt marketing actually is one main reason, as evidenced by the proliferation of ghostwriting bloggers who post for firms. And there is a certain ego boost when a blog you have written is well received. But what has truly surprised me is the other value I have seen in both reading and writing legal blogs, including the comment section.

Blogs identify trends and gaps in the law for the unwary. Bloggers hale from all over the U.S. and when a similarity of headlines crops up, it signals that either the issue is just emerging (making it interesting fodder for discussion) or that it is something the legal community is struggling with. For example, there were a slew of blogs on:

  • The EEOC’s questionable litigation tactics and its overstepping during the conciliation process.
  • Ownership of social media accounts given the lack of precedent and legislation on the issue.
  • Whether obesity should be a disability under the ADA.

This list could go on and on. Plus, if you want a big picture of main trends, just take a look at the many “top ten” (or “recap”) blogs for the year. The point is this: Blogs have real substantive value. Good blogs can provide legal summaries on key issues, links to primary sources, and practical advice. In many ways, there is as much value to be gained from reading blogs as there is by attending continuing education, though you won’t get course credit for it.

If you are lucky, someone will disagree. For many years my Dad wrote a column for a local newspaper in a small community. He was always tickled when a column sparked a debate among neighbors and he loved getting responses from those who strongly disagreed because it gave him new ways of looking at an issue. To me, legal blogging and commenting also foster the exchange of ideas. For the blogger, instead of discussing an issue with a coworker who has a reason to not offend you, you are putting your thoughts to a large professional community. If you are lucky, someone will disagree with you.

Blogs foster a sense of community. Let’s assume for a moment that: not everyone enjoys “networking” with total strangers at conferences or professional events; many professionals are too busy to regularly attend such functions; and many do most communicating electronically, perhaps because it saves time, avoids “telephone tag,” or because they are telecommuting from a remote location. From my point of view, blogs enable such individuals to more fully enjoy the exchange of ideas and the sense of society that they might otherwise miss. Even for individuals who do regularly make time for conferences, social sites with their blogs and comments provide a way to glean additional insight on issues of particular interest. For my part, I have found a few blogs and comments intriguing enough to reach out and ask the writer to consider submitting an article for the daily news report published by my employer.

Free advertising, but only if you are good. The question of whether a blog is free advertising turns on who your readers are. For example, I doubt a potential client is going to do an Internet search and choose an attorney based on a blog. It would have to be a blog on the individual’s legal issue, written by an attorney in the same geographic area, and the client would have to be a layperson with enough legal knowledge to understand the substance of the blog. That said, I do believe blogs are free advertising – but only if they are good. Good blogs will be noticed by others in the legal community and it is from them that an attorney might possibly garner a referral. And posting good blogs on a regular basis can help distinguish one professional from the rest.

Blogs are fun. The last thing I will say about blogs is that they are fun both to read and write. Blogs are where attorneys and other professional often go beyond plain old analysis and say what they really think about a particular court decision, agency action, or proposed legislation. That sense of irreverence is just the kind of fun you get at happy hour with coworkers – but who has much time for that?