Last week I was pleasantly surprised when I was included in something called a “blog hop” which is sort of analogous to what people of a certain age call a “chain letter.” The blog hop, however, is focused on a common theme. Also common to this particular blog hop is that the chain includes bloggers who I consider to be an elite group of writers. You could say I’ve made it to the blogging mountaintop.
In fact, the instigator of this particular blog hop, Dan Schwartz of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, sealed the deal for me when it came to deciding to start my own blog. Specifically, I was on the fence about whether to blog and the law firm I was with was less than supportive of the idea (the head of the litigation department viewed it as a waste of time and – worse – giving away “free legal advice … That’s just dumb”). Nonetheless, I found Dan’s blog and what he was doing was not only informative and entertaining, but it just made sense. And about four years later, here I am.
What I’m working on
My pet project is the Michigan Employment Law Blog, which focuses on federal and Michigan employment law issues. I went live with the blog at the beginning of 2011.
Before settling on the focus of the blog, I really wrestled with whether I could add to the employment law “conversation.” At the time there were a number of solid employment law blogs that consistently published top-shelf information (e.g., Molly DiBianca’s Delaware Employment Law Blog, Jon Hyman’s Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, Robin Shea’s Employment & Labor Insider, and (obviously) Dan’s Connecticut Employment Law Blog). In a fit of delusional grandeur, I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Why do I write what I write.
For me, writing about employment law issues on my blog brings together a number of the things that I really like about being an attorney and a way to avoid what I hate.
Certainly at the top of the list of “likes” is employment law and writing: Going back to law school and when I first started practicing in 2001, I enjoyed employment law. Also, I was fortunate enough to start my career with a law firm that placed a high premium on writing well. Also, I like learning and blogging has been a great way to stay on top of, or at least even, with employment law trends.
As to why the focus on Michigan, I was born and raised in Michigan. I lived in Detroit (the city, not the suburbs) during law school and I’ve been in Metro Detroit ever since. I think Michigan is an incredible state and I believe it has so much to offer employers and start-up companies when it comes to creating a successful business and balancing it with a fulfilling personal life.
As to avoiding what I hate, I’ve never enjoyed the sales side of the equation when it comes to the law – euphemistically called “client development” or “rain-making.” Perhaps it is a distinction without distinction, but I’ve found it much easier and more my style to “sell” my knowledge and expertise by “educating” through my blog or sharing relevant content with a prospective client. Some have called this “dumb,” but it has worked for me.
How does my writing differ from others of its genres?
To be perfectly honest, if anything I’ve tried to emulate rather than stray from writers in the genre of employment law. What I mean by this is that going back to the attorneys referred to above, these are not only great thought-leaders but incredibly effective writers. In reading their post they clearly understand why legal writing is often less than effective and aggressively go in the opposite direction. So I’ve never tried to shy away from that style.
However, I have tried to inject my writing to some degree with my personality. I (try) to include a humorous comment or perspective and always incorporate visual content to bolster the content.
I have in the recent past started to venture into areas where I am willing to take more of a position. This is especially true when it comes to same-sex issues that arise in the workplace. As mostly an employer-side employment attorney, this stance is not necessarily where my clients’ interests always fall (what employer wants more regulations?). But in good conscience and as a matter of good public policy, I think employees should not be discriminated against simply because of their sexual orientation. See for example Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Michigan Law – Is it a Time for a Change? (the short answer is, “yes.”).
How does my process work?
For me, the process begins with just being curious and feeding that curiosity with a healthy dose of reading material. To that end, I use Twitter extensively to keep up on employment law issues. I also have a long-standing relationship with the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. And it is still hard to compete with a well-written, thought provoking book. However, lately I have found TED Talks to be highly addictive.
But just devouring information isn’t very productive if you can’t make sense of it and apply it. I try to take this perspective with my writing process, trying to answer the question of why does topic “X” matter and how can I use it in my own professional or personal life?
And my writing usually ends where my life begins – my wife (I know, cue the cheese). She is also an attorney, a better writer than I and (usually) a compassionate editor. In the early days I think almost every post went through her before being published.
Keeping the chain going.
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be included on this blog hop. It is definitely a quality group of bloggers involved and probably an even better group of people. But I’m going to need future verification on this last assumption, preferably over great dinner and/or at a fantastic bar – first round’s on me.
Returning to the original purpose of the blog hop chain, if the following were to join in on this loop I’m confident that readers would be fortunate to hear their insight:
- Kevin O’Keefe - He authors Real Lawyers Have Blogs. This is THE guy when it comes to blogging. And he happens to be the one who pointed me in the direction of Daniel Schwartz’s blog as an example of how to do it right. Kevin and his company are great to work with and have truly been great business partners since I started down this path.
- Patrick Lamb - Patrick authors “In Search of Perfect Client Service.” I’ve never met Patrick, but I love the way he convincingly gives an intellectual middle finger to the dysfunctional status quo in the legal industry. Definitely someone to follow whether it is leading a revolution or simply writing about it.
- Eric Goldman and his Technology & Marketing Law Blog. He is the thought leader’s thought leader when it comes to all things the Internet. He also has an uncanny ability to make extremely complex issues easily (or approximating) understandable.
And thanks again to Robin Shea for inviting me to be a part of this chain. I really appreciate it.