the executive summary:
Nutshell: if you’re a law firm considering hiring me, and you stumble across this blog, please don’t get nervous. Instead, talk to me, and/or read the rest of this post. I’m eager to explain why I blog, and why I think it may make me a better lawyer and a good addition to your firm.
[Image by Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void fame; used with permission under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 1.0 license. For more on why Hugh licenses his images this way, see here.]
the full story:
Why are you writing this post now, about this topic?
Yesterday I finally got the interview question I’d been dreading/looking forward to: “So, you have a blog…” The interview was a little rushed, so we didn’t get to discuss it much, but they seemed to think it was interesting and a potential positive.
Not all firms who find this blog are going to be so forward-thinking, of course, and some will be legitimately nervous about finding that a candidate is so far outside the expected norm. I thought I’d write this Q&A to demystify the blog and explain why it shouldn’t worry (and might even excite) them.
What is a Q&A, anyway?
A Q&A is a blog post format I borrowed from my friend Steven O’Grady, an analyst at Redmonk. Basically, it is exactly what it says it is on the label- a question and answer format. I’ve found that it can be a useful way of clearly communicating information when you anticipate a lot of questions about a specific issue- which is exactly the situation here.
So why do you blog?
There are a lot of reasons, some of which are more important than others on any given day. Among them:
- I want to follow the advice that I gave the Wall Street Journal: the best way to control your online identity is to create positive information about yourself. (It works- not only is this blog the top search result for my full name, it was for a long time the first search result for “luis”.)
- When I started blogging, it was an important part of my job description; it helped me communicate with partners and with the volunteers who I used to coordinate. This is no longer true, of course, but once you’re in the habit it is hard to break.
- I have lots of friends scattered all over the world who read blogs, and so my blog is an easy way to keep them up to date on my life. (And even my mom reads it now. Dad is still resisting.)
- I like writing in an informal but coherent manner, and getting a chance to clarify and discipline my thoughts by writing about them. I didn’t get much chance to do that in my prior life as a programmer and manager, and I certainly don’t get much of a chance to do that in law school, so this is an outlet.
- Frankly, because occasionally other people post things like this. It never hurts to have your ego boosted from time to time, and blogging gives other people the opportunity to do that ;)
What do you blog about?
A mix of things- some technology, some law, some in the overlap of law and technology, and quite a bit of personal information- anecdotes about concerts I’ve been to, that sort of thing.
Who reads it?
My logs suggest that about fifteen to twenty thousand people read the average post on my blog. While I can’t know for certain who they all are, and the numbers are imperfect, most of them are probably technologists and engineers of various stripes who are familiar with my work in a previous life, and who remain interested in my experience as a technologist moving into a new field, as well as my occasional digressions back into technology. Most of these probably don’t read the blog directly, but rather through various news sites (called ‘planets‘) which I’m syndicated onto.
A smaller number are classmates and other law students (some posts are syndicated into facebook), and at least a handful are practicing lawyers who specialize in technology issues. (At least one GC of a very large technology company has emailed me thanking me for my posts on the new General Public License and letting me know that he’d circulated them to his executive team.)
How do you find the time?
Once you’re in the habit, you can make time. It doesn’t always happen, of course- I’m sure an analysis of my posts over the past year would show that they dropped to nearly nothing during exams. But even then I can sneak in the occasional mental health post, and you’d be surprised how much you can write between 2 and 3am (most of this post, for example.)
Do you think you’ll find the time to continue once you enter the legal industry?
Now that is a very good question. I’m really not sure. I’d like to, because I’d like to think that some of my readers will be starting their own companies in the future and hence they’ll be future potential clients, and (obviously) because I enjoy doing it.
But I’m also a realist- the first few years at a firm, even more so than law school, have a reputation for stripping away your spare time. As one interviewer told me the other day, ‘when I get home, the only technology I want to use is my remote control.’ So… ‘maybe.’
It may also continue as a very different beast than it is now- probably more constrained in the topics covered (because of confidentiality and conflicts) and perhaps more constrained in the volume I can write.
Are you crazy? Lawyers don’t blog!
I don’t think I’m too crazy- lots of tech lawyers are blogging these days, so it isn’t completely unusual like it might have been even a few years ago. Certainly some of the lawyers whose careers I’d most like to emulate (like Mark Radcliffe of DLA Piper and Mike Dillon of Sun Microsystems) are now starting to do it, albeit in low volume. Of course they have the advantage of being very established and very senior, which I obviously don’t, but I’m working on that :)
Aren’t you scared that you’ll say something that will offend someone, and it will cost you a job or otherwise jeopardize your well-being?
Frankly? Yes, a little bit. As a result, I know I’ve self-censored some posts since I started school, and there are other posts which I did not self-censor, but that I constantly worry I should have. On the whole, though, I think the benefits outweigh the risks- I’m not exactly a radical in most senses of the word, so the risks aren’t too high, and I hope that most firms will look at my resume and realize that I’m a professional, and know how to constrain and modify my behavior when necessary. If the firm is so risk averse that it still troubles them, well, then, we should talk.
On the whole, are you glad you blog?
Absolutely. It isn’t a magical cure-all, and it might not be something I always have the option of doing, but I enjoy it right now, and I hope it is something that I’ll be able to continue to use to enrich my private and professional life for a long time.
[I’m going to leave this pegged to the top of my blog until interview/offer season is over; apologies to anyone who reads the blog the normal way for having to skip over it to get to my regular posts.]