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Comment: Legal Blogging: understanding the form

by Brian John Spencer *

Charles Christian wrote what I have come to consider one of the seminal pieces on legal blogging. The piece was called The Art of Legal Blogging

The title gives a hint to what the content and message of the post was about. It was this: that lawyers don’t get blogging because they mistake the form. Instead of writing a blog post they empty out every single bit of heavy and turgid legal writing they’ve ever read. The sort of Latin-soaked piece that would impress a Supreme Court Judge as Charles said (or so they think).

They do this because they’re trained as legal technocrats. Law school teaches you to read and apply the law in rigid and formulaic way. However, blogging is not rigid or formulaic. That is to mistake the form.

Blogging is an art form, as per Charles’ title. An art form is loose, personal and off the cuff. Not prescriptive and polished. Charles Christian finished off his seminal piece by saying that lawyers need to look to non-lawyer bloggers to understand the form. People like Seth Godin.

I’ve also written about the importance of learning from non-legal bloggers and have profiled some other people on top of Seth Godin:

And what Charles also said in addition to this was important: he said that blogs can and should be short. Think 200-300 words.

Kevin O’Keefe said something similar when he urged lawyers to lower their blogging inhibitions:

And if you don’t believe Charles and Kevin O’Keefe that blog posts should be short and open, I urge you to read a piece by Slate Magazine that produced methodologically rigorous data that said short blogs are best.

So I want to finished by saying Charles is absolutely right on all three points:

1. Don’t mistake the form. Write in plain, free and flowing Anglo-Saxon English.

2. Learn from non-legal bloggers like Seth Godin. And others like my favourites lAndrew Sullivan of the Dish and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings.

3. Keep them short. Research says its best this way if you don’t believe us!

All that’s left to say is that I hope to use this post as a springboard to launch a series that will investigate what legal blogging is all about. Get down to basics and understand What the form really is. Ask if it’s a “blog” or “blog post”. Find out where it started. Who does it. Who’s best at it. How to actually do it yourself and so on.

* Brian John Spencer is a writer and legal consultant who runs the legal communications company Legal Wire and the blogs The Ideas Workshop and Twitter for Law Firms @brianjohnspencr