The future of law publishing (reprise)

By Nick Holmes on January 29, 2014
3 comments
Filed under Blogging, Publishing

Kevin O’Keefe is a tireless promoter of the benefits of blogging for lawyers. I may disagree with him on many points but I’m with him all the way with the underlying proposition that blogs (for lawyers) are the best thing since, well, sliced bread.

His recent post Bloggers to be driving force in legal web journalism is inspired by an article by Ezra Klein in the New York Times on web journalism asserting itself, from which

More and more, it’s becoming apparent that digital publishing is its own thing, not an additional platform for established news companies. They can buy their way into it, but their historical advantages are often offset by legacy costs and bureaucracy.

This is another way of saying that the web has democratised (news) publishing which should come as news to no-one.

Kevin extrapolates from this

And blogging lawyers are at the heart of legal Web journalism. Lawyers, law professors, law students, and judiciary, consuming and producing content at the same time.

I am not referring to pseudo-bloggers producing content for web traffic. I am referring to lawyers who are following and engaging other bloggers and legal publishers in a real and authentic way. Lawyers offering insight and commentary on niches never covered before.

Lawyers will not be drawn by money and opportunity to join digital media networks. Lawyers will publish and engage, be it blogging versus articles and traditional networking, for the same reason they have for decades. To grow their influence and network of relationships.

Blogging lawyers will come from small and large firms and from rural and metropolitan areas. Large marketing budgets will not be a required. Gatekeeper publishers and editors will not be a hurdle. A keyboard, passion, knowledge, and a willingness to offer insight and commentary in an engaging fashion will get you a [seat at] the table.

Technology will be important going forward. WordPress, as with digital media networks, gets us only part of the way.

Technology platforms will need to enable curation (manually and via machine learning), encourage lawyers to blog, enable easy mobile consumption and sharing, drive advertising, and harness data generated by user activity.

Legal web journalism may trail the digital media networks which have drawn reporters from the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post.

But it seems inevitable that legal Web Journalism will assert itself – if it has not already – and that legal bloggers will be the driving force.

I’m wondering why the future tense and why confine the comments to journalism? Good law bloggers established themselves as a publishing force some years ago. In the UK there are several I could name who have established themselves as leading experts in their fields and cemented their firms’/chambers’ reputations; others who have set up their own publishing businesses off the back of their blogs; some who contribute also to national news networks. All have this in common: they are digital-first publishers, enabled by the web, blogging in particular.

What has changed in the last few years is that everyone is now at it. Not only do we have more good blogs, we also have more indifferent blogs, more bad blogs, more pseudo-blogs, more downright evil blogs. Blogs for marketing, blogs for SEO, blogs “made for Adsense” and the like: these do not count as journalism or even publishing nor do they add a jot to the sum total of human happiness. But, hey, blogging is for everyone and democracy is messy so we can’t complain except about the worst excesses.

Where are we headed? I looked back at a post I wrote 7 years ago (yes indeedy)  Community, democracy and the future of law publishing and though we have moved on and it sounds a bit dated, the sentiments are pretty much still intact.

3 comments

Interesting article, thank you.

I am a commercial property surveyor, specialising in rent review and business tenancy advice for landlords and retailers in England and Wales. I am developing a website to provide free professional support to property lawyers for the drafting of rent reviews clauses – it’s early days but the site is live: rentreviewmatters.co.uk

by Michael Lever on 30 January 2014 at 2:02 pm. Reply #

Interesting stuff. My difficulty is in the risk of confusing legal journalism with legal blogging and with legal publishing. I see no reason to view them similarly.

No doubt that the news and updates side of legal information, to which might be added industry gossip and even updates of latest case and legislation fall into a particular category that might be called journalism and blogging. But in my view, it’s a million miles away from the task of the law publishing task of commissioning and maintaining a Chitty on Contracts, a White Book or an Archbold, where you actually have to know something or somebody else who does. I see some of the skills as described in: http://www.slaw.ca/2014/01/02/ever-cuddled-an-aardvark-ever-studied-zymurgy/.

by Robert McKay on 5 March 2014 at 6:11 pm. Reply #

Robert – I don’t think there’s any risk of confusion. Kevin is saying some law bloggers are turning into good journalists. I am saying some law bloggers are turning into good law publishers. Blogging is a publishing platform, not a type of profession or business.

I’m not suggesting any of this new breed are going to challenge Sweet & Maxwell / Thomson Reuters who will likely buy some of the juicy ones.

For those interested there’s a brief history of S&M at http://cosgb.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/sweet-maxwell.html. (You know all this.)

Back in 1802 somoeone like me undoubtedly said some law booksellers were turning into good law publishers.

by Nick Holmes on 6 March 2014 at 10:45 am. Reply #

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