Best of 2014: Law blogging — Time is of the essence. Not.
Originally posted on May 29, 2014.
Had a delightful lunch with a couple of very interesting lawyers yesterday. It would have been perfect if they hadn’t both lingered over salad nicoise while I sat there attacking my steak au poivre. I too love salad nicoise, but this was a legitimate IRS-approved T&E write-off luncheon! And one does so need the protein, as will be evident about halfway through this post.
At one point, one of my companions asked, “How long does a blog post take you?” He was trying to understand how blogging might help him and his partner promote their practice. So that’s a perfectly logical question because before making an investment you have to truly understand the cost. And as the Great Emancipator said, time and advice are a lawyer’s stock in trade.
Now, there’s a lot of garbage out there in the form of law blogs, including IP blogs. There’s also some astonishingly stupid blogging about law blogging by lawyers who have neither the chops, the track record or, by all indications, the brains to give such advice.
Evidently they have been told that they shouldn’t worry about that because it’s “content marketing.” How a lawyer, in particular, could be content to be seen publicly as saying something not only intuitively idiotic but lacking even an attempt at justification by reference to empirical facts, recognized authority or anything beyond her flimsy ipsi dixit is beyond me.
I’m not linking to the post that set me off on this just this evening. I hope that the young thing whose tweet led me to read her stupid advice — which, when I clicked the link in the tweet, I knew would be stupid — will be able to look back and laugh about it some day while quietly deleting all or some of what she publishes. She doesn’t need any more link juice going to her callow blog than she’s pushing there herself.
All this makes me thankful for the Internet, though, but not for the reason you think. But I digress.
So let’s forget, for now, about the “advice” part. Indeed, if you want advice about whether lawyers should blog at all, I have already conveyed it here (mainly by citing the advice of ones better qualified than I to give it). The question was about time.
And I am asked this question a lot.
The answer, as usual, is complicated. Pass the tartar sauce, please.
I used to blog virtually every day, and in those days, I may have spent two hours a week blogging. This is considered a small amount of time to actually achieve something. I could do this, however, and “succeed,” because many posts consisted of merely a clever sentence wrapped around a single relevant link, in the style of Instapundit. Such blogging could actually constitute added value when I started doing in it in early 2005. At the time, this approach was good enough — if sustained — to make a little bit of a name for oneself.
Now it is over nine years later, and such minimalist posts have become tweets, or, if you will, microblogs. You found a link and, maybe, have a little spin on it? That’s a tweet, not a blog post.
So now, most weeks, I spend at least two hours blogging. But that’s if I write one post. If I write two or three — more than that is rare — I might spend more than ten hours writing. Because to qualify as a LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® post in the 2010’s, I have to write. Posts typically have much more heft, much more analysis, and even require footwork of a factual or legal nature these days. Scroll through and you’ll see what I mean.
So that’s the answer. I probably spend five to 15 hours a week directly blogging. Obviously during a very busy week it will be less. But here’s the thing: Some of my longest, most labor-intensive posts have, in fact, been uttered during some of the highest billable-hour weeks in my career.
How can that be? It’s not because the work I’m doing leads, substantively, to a related blogs post; that almost never happens. But what does happen is that when I’m in the thick of things, whether it’s a brief or a trial or an evidentiary hearing — the real adrenaline-rush moments of commercial litigation practice — the neurons… they are hot! They are sparking, firing — all the things!
And then in a brief moment of distraction we see a tweet, or a breaking story, or a vision (you will not get visions; it’s okay, that’s probably a good thing) and…
We have to write, i.e., to blog. And to get the other stuff done, too, well, we have to stay up rather late. Which for the neuron-popping, vision-having set, tends to happen anyway.
Does that answer your question?
Now, of course, the fact that Twitter has, for my purposes, all but killed the mini-post, and that I can blog longer but less frequently, doesn’t mean I spend less time blogging in 2014 than I did in 2005. Oh, no! I spend at least that much time again managing three Twitter accounts — @roncoleman, @likely2confuse and, further afield, @goetzfitz — the first two of which serve, in part, to direct traffic here.
Unlike the blogging itself, of course, the tweeting can be done in small stretches such as in the interstices of my clunky commute, during a coffee break or in the elevator up to 31. But once or twice a week, it’s necessary to take a half hour or more a day, at the desk, to do it right,i.e., with smoke rising from a couple of monitors and about six Windows windows to develop appropriately sophisticated, topical tweets such as by insuring that the posts they point to are up-to-date, don’t contain dead links or graphics (many of these posts are old) and … and …
And, as so often happens, by the time I get to this point I understand it myself differently from the way I did when I started the post. Funny — I always wondered what novelists were talking about when they would describe this process whereby the story and characters would take on a life of their own as they wrote. As an entirely non-fiction person I always found this inscrutable, but maybe, as I think about it, yeah.
And what I said about, well, there’s time, and there’s advice… now I understand that differently, too, compared to when I first wrote it.
It’s a false dichotomy, as I think about it. (Which I kind of do more clearly at this time of night anyway. That’d be another digression, however.)
So yes, if you have to write… if you get visions… if you have to say it, even if no one is going to pay you for it and it may or may not rope in the retainers and maybe it will even annoy someone who in theory you think you’d be better off not annoying, but still you say it, and you back it up and you prove it and you click PUBLISH and sit back… and then look at the clock and remember that responses to interrogatories are a hard thing to start drafting at 11:45 PM…
And, of course, you do them — and do them well, because you’re not a writer who’s waiting tables, i.e., playing lawyer — you’re a lawyer, and you write because you’re a lawyer every bit as much as you do discovery and cross-examination and tables of authority…
If the number of hours spent blogging is really an irrelevant question, one you never think about at all until a normal person asks you how many they might be — that’s its own answer.
But chances are, if you’re a lawyer, that’s not you. Which makes sense. Just this: If you don’t, then … don’t. Don’t waste your time, effort and hopes. At least you won’t have something inane to delete when you finally figure it all out and ask yourself why you wasted so much time.