The many advantages of blogging while at Law School

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Students, take note: Blogging tends to be the white elephant in everyone’s dorm or conference room these days. To blog or not to blog? That question is on the minds of students and lawyers alike. For lawyers, there are perceived pitfalls (mine is not to question their risk aversion, but only to recognize it). Law students, however, who do not blog should rethink their decision not to do so. If it is the result of either a dearth of ideas, concern over time, or lack of motivation, then your choice is probably not well founded. ''Blogs are like little doorways or windows to insight,'' says LexBlog’s Kevin O’Keefe. ''It is a living and breathing resume that allows you to network with students, professors, and lawyers,'' he adds.

Unlike any other tool available to students, a blog equalizes the playing field. It is the easiest way to get published because it is almost as simple as sending an email. Its potential readership and distribution is broader than any publication to which a student or junior practitioner might have access. And, it provides a transparent way for one to demonstrate his or her knowledge and interest. ''A blog is no different than who you are as a person,'' adds O’Keefe.

Those still skeptical should consider the efforts of Travis Hodgkins, a 3L at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. ''When I started law school, I had never even heard of the blogosphere,'' he says. While few readers of this book are probably unfamiliar with the practice of online journaling, it is still relatively rare in school and throughout the rofession generally. In fact, a quick search of Technorati or JD2B.com will reveal fewer law student blogs than one might think, though the list grows daily.

Bucking the trend, Hodgkins started writing about China for the Asia Business Law Blog during his first year after a few friends approached him because he was one of their few classmates who had been there or knew any Chinese. ''Once I started writing for the blog and started receiving such positive feedback from readers, I was hooked,'' he says. He later founded the Transnational Law Blog. His work on the Asia Business Law Blog earned him widespread recognition and a position in Beijing the summer after his first year. His writing for the Transnational Law Blog garnered him a job in Shanghai for the summer after his second year.

For firms hiring law students, bloggers are a good bet. ''You already know how they think and how they write,'' says Dan Harris, founder of Harris & Moure, PLLC in Seattle, Wash. and co-author of the award-winning China Law Blog. ''To a certain extent you also know their personality so it reduces risk,'' he adds.

Harris is himself a prominent expert on Chinese legal issues and has seen his practice explode with the popularity of his postings. ''Blog on what you know and love only,'' he cautions. ''Don’t blog to impress; blog to express.''

For many, the art of writing online for a mass audience provides an opportunity to shape their voices and organically relate to others with similar interests. Whether you are a non-traditional law student pursuing a second career in an unusual location or a first-year associate establishing a presence in a new practice area, blogging offers a customizable way to get published on your own schedule using your unique situation and personality.

For Hodgkins, ''it was a means for me to maintain contact with people and to continue learning international law,'' he says. One of those people was Dan Harris. In addition to serving as his blogging mentor, teaching him blogosphere etiquette and techniques for increasing readership, he was his employer in Shanghai.

Lawyers, academics, students (and even writers of books about writers of blogs) contact Hodgkins on a regular basis. ''Although networking was not my reason for blogging, it has been an obvious and unavoidable consequence of my work,'' he says. ''My blog contacts have been so helpful that I never even bothered with the traditional on-campus interviewing process, which most of my classmates considered career suicide,'' he adds.Even the law school’s dean has been in touch. ''Hastings has been very supportive of my blog,'' Hodgkins says. After Dean Nell Newton contacted him after reading a law professor’s blog post that linked to the Transnational Law Blog, she invited him to co-sponsor a two-day symposium about global warming (an event at which Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi could potentially speak). ''In my eyes, it has elevated us to the status of a law journal,'' says Hodgkins.

All of the virtues aside, blogging is not as easy as it sounds. ''Most lawyers are terrible bloggers,'' says Harris. ''They are so afraid of offending people they neither impress anyone nor garner a readership.'' Start by studying those that manage the medium well. Ask questions. Seek advice. Participate.

Sidebar: Why Bother Blogging?
  • At its core, a blog provides one with an opportunity to demonstrate his or her interest and enthusiasm for a particularsubject. It also let’s you showcase your talent and experience.
  • Its scalability creates unforeseen opportunities by allowing you to broadcast your work worldwide via the Web.
  • Online journals help connect their student authors with school officials, practitioners, and others who can influence,mentor, and inspire.
About the Author

Ari Kaplan is an attorney and the author of The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008). He teaches attorneys at law firms nationwide to organically promote themselves through the art of getting published and creative networking. Visit www.arikaplanadvisors.com to learn more.

University of California


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