f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 19, 2004

Craig Williams Shares His Thoughts on Weblogs

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:05 pm

J. Craig Williams doesn’t just attract clients with his weblog May It Please the Court (see below), he scores points with webgrumps like myself with his prompt and insightful replies.  Less than two hours after I wrote to Craig, asking for his views on weblogs as marketing tools, he gave us a gem.  Since the New York Times made Craig a weblawging idol today, I’m especially grateful that he would so quickly find the time to respond to a stranger’s plea. 

After over a week debating these issues and collecting opinions, I believe Craig’s thoughts are too valuable to hide inside our Comment box, so I’m presenting them in full on the front page.  Despite the opening line — “David, you’re right” has a  nice ring to it! —  I think Craig has a lot to say that will encouarge Kevin O’Keefe at lexBlog.

small suave dude    David, You’re right. I spend about an hour or more a day (in my business that’s over $10K a month in invested time), and my blog is stamped with my personality and quirkiness. I think that would be hard to achieve in a packaged blog – at least I hope so if other lawyers ar going to be competing with my blog.

We also host another blog – posted to monthly – A Criminal Waste of Space. That’s written by a local appellate court justice.

May It Please the Court has driven both small and large clients to our firm. We get emails and calls about the items that are posted on it – most of which relate in one way or another to our practice. Of course there are the occasional posts that are about topics I can’t resist, and that’s where you begin to see the full range of my personality.

Sure, Kevin’s got a great product, and I expect that it will sell, and hopefully he’ll make money. But, the lawyers’ personality won’t show through. Let me put in a self-serving quote from Amy Langfield’s New York Notebook on Business Blogging Models:

“This, I think, is a case where businesses who know nothing about blogs should pay attention. What his law blog is doing – I suspect – is showing a potential client exactly where he is coming from. You get a mix of his personality and his expertise before you even pick up the phone to talk to him. Possibly most importantly, he starts to develop trust. Brilliant.”

OK, very self serving. But, the point she’s making is where I’m driving. Most people hire lawyers based on recommendations from others. A blog allows my potential clients to get to know me first, and develop their own relationship.

That’s what drives marketing. It’s how others view you.  s/Craig Williams 

&Key neg   As if the above contribution weren’t enough, Craig supplemented it with the following email message at 9:43 P.M.   As you can see, you can’t just launch a weblog and start counting the cash (emphases added):

To; David Giacalone

From: J. Craig Williams


My weblog, May It Please The Court, is a part of an overall marketing strategy for my law firm:  we use it in email responses, it is on our letterhead and announcements, in our brochure, and even has its own business card.  I speak about it regularly at continuing legal education seminars for lawyers, and to others who are developing marketing projects. 


We send out email “pushes” once a month with the last 20 postings so readers can go right to the article of their choice.  I think, actually, that’s where most of my direct responses come from.  Sure, I may already have a relationship with those people, but it’s the blog that triggers them to call me.  It’s also a reminder.


But, the success of it (I think what drives clients) is that it is, at the same time, none of those things. 


It has it’s own lifeI love to write (I teach legal writing at Chapman University School of Law), and I love to publish.  Blogging allows me to do that without an editor.  It’s really me, and it’s not packaged.  I think Kevin’s prepackaged blog is no different than the prepackaged newsletters you get from lawyers, doctors and dentists.  For those people, they’re trying to develop brand recognition.  They want to get their name in front of you.  Kevin’s product will do that. 


black check  Will it [Kevin’s product] result in business?  Compared to legal bloggers who write their own content, I’m not quite so sure.  I think you have to put yourself out there, who you truly are, and let people see that.  You show them that you’re the one they want to hire because you either write well, they understand what you write, or you’re writing about the very thing that they need help with (admittedly, the last is very rare).  But, it’s you.  It’s not an editor that gets hired. 


Just as important to getting clients, however, is that the blog teaches me.  In order to write it,  I read slip opinions, cases from other jurisdictions, other blogs and lots of legal news each day.  I am consequently more informed about the law than if I did not write it.  As an example, I got an email from an environmental consultant this morning (April 19, 2004) about a decision from the Ninth Circuit on the attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product doctrine.  It was a new decision to him.  I had a target written about the case back on December 11, 2003.  He was impressed that I already knew about the case, and I was able to point him to my blog entry for more information about it.  Lawyers who use prepackaged blogs will not have that benefit



Here are additional thoughts from Amy’s New York Notebook (thanks for the pointer, Craig):

I think Channel 9 and May it Please the Court are two strong examples of how businesses will start using blogging successfully. And if you think about how much distrust is still in the air from the stench of Enron, Worldcom, Shell, the mutual fund industry scandal, the accounting industry scandals, etc. and so on, you figure people are hungry to find someone they can trust and blogs could go a long way to providing more transparency for honest businesses.

  • For a change, I’ll refrain from offering my inflated two cents. . . prof yabut small 

Update (04-22-04):   I’m pleased to report that Kevin O’Keefe has re-written the lexBlog premium services page, removing a quotation from author Rebecca Blood, which we have noted was taken out of context (leaving out the importance of hands-on weblogging for achieving expertise and authority status), and which seemed to suggest that Ms. Blood endorsed lexBlog’s services. 

Kevin Found a Marketing Success Story

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:49 pm

With entrepeneurial enthusiasm and hyperbole, Kevin O’Keefe just left a Comment about the potential of lawyer weblogs to generate clients (and posted about it at his site), quoting this paragraph from today’s New York Times:

“J. Craig Williams, a lawyer in Newport Beach, Calif., began his Web log, May It Please The Court.net, in August. He said his postings, which focus on his particular area of law, have brought him hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of legal business.”  (NYT, Many Started Web Logs for Fun, but Bloggers Need Money, Too, by Julie Flaherty, 04-19-04)

strike it rich neg  Kevin writes (his emphasis): “That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars – six figures – in new business in less than a year folks. This type of evidence should begin to silence those who say lawyer blogs do not work as a means to market the lawyers services.”

Of course, we here at ethicalEsq are interested in finding out what’s really happening, and preventing deceptive practices, not in defending our initial skepticism.  As we pointed out last week, we have never said that a lawyer weblog could never work as a marketing tool.  We did say there seemed to be no useful evidence “supporting the theory that any significant number of consumers or businesses seeking legal services have found a provider through a law firm weblog.” 

check red  We asked last week whether Kevin had any such evidence, but so far the NYT article, giving the May It Please the Court experience, is the only example Kevin has proffered.  Now, I only took a one-credit statistics course in law school, but I’m fairly certain one is not a significant number, especially to back up claims that weblogs are “More effective than advertising,” and can “easily” be used to “cultivate new business,” and that Kevin knows they “work to bring in new clients.”

The NYT article about BloggerCon II noted:

  • “The blog watchers agreed that the vast majority of the estimated 2.1 million Web logs out there today would never even attempt to make money. But even now there are exceptions, like AndrewSullivan.comDailyKos.com and PaidContent.org, and bloggers speak of them with reverence because of their profitability.”
  • “Mr. [Jeff] Jarvis, who led a discussion on blogging as a business, has been watching all the ways that bloggers have managed to bring in a buck. Some bloggers have made money by selling books, T-shirts or CD’s on their sites. Some have tried selling access to individual articles or content through micropayments (99 cents for a poem, for example). A very few, like Andrew Sullivan, have made tens of thousands of dollars simply by asking for donations from loyal readers .”
  • $key neg “But the most talked about route to profit was selling advertisements that pay by the month or by the number of blog visits.”
  • “Before advertisers will flock to blogs, Mr. Jarvis said, bloggers will need to develop data on who is visiting their site, and how often.”
  • “Many participants said that their Web logs had made them money indirectly, through promoting their businesses. Some credit blogs with helping to increase their consulting work. Some say blogs have helped lead to book deals, freelance writing jobs or lecture tours.”

suave dude neg flip  J. Craig Williams, the lawyer behind May It Please the Court, is an accomplished attorney, lecturer and writer.  His weblog is stamped with his humor and personality, factors that seem hard to capture with any packaged weblog or weblog content.  Unlike the paradigm suggested by lexBlog, May It Please the Court does not contain lots of useful information for the public — it is an idiosyncratic collection of links to items that interest Lawyer Williams, with brief commentary. 

While Williams told the Times that the weblog is “focused” on his practice areas, it’s a broad focus, as the 4-lawyer firm [which will soon need a fifth] lists its practice areas as: Environmental Practice, International Trade & Tax, Environmental Due Diligence Employment Law, Corporate & Business Advice, Appellate Law, Real Estate & Natural Resources Practice, Entertainment Law, General Negligence, Premises & Product Liability Insurance Law     

I’ve just written to Craig, asking him to share his insights with us.  [And, he did!].  Information makes for wise choices. 

Report on Access to Justice State by State

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:50 pm

Access to Justice Partnerships State by State (April 2004) is a newly completed study from SPAN: Access to Justice Project that gives information on programs in existence in each state that are working to improve access to justice by all citizens.  The report says there is an accelerating trend toward creation of state Access to Justice Commissions or the equivalent—formal state-level bodies dedicated to expanding and improving civil legal assistance in the state, often created by state Supreme Court rule, composed of appointed representatives of the bar, the judiciary, providers and other key  constituencies.

“In 1999, only five states had active entities of this type. Today, the nationwide total has risen to 16, including new bodies created in 2003 in Alabama, Arkansas and Vermont. And, that number is likely to grow by at least half a dozen by the end of 2004.”

  • States where a proposal to create a commission or similar body is pending or under consideration include Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

handshake   The SPAN website has lots of information, papers, and links to governmental and private entities interested in access to justice.  Also available is the SPAN Access to Justice Update can is a newsletter that “reports on the latest information about the efforts of Access to Justice partnerships around the country, as well as upcoming events, descriptions of new documents in the SPAN Access to Justice Document Library, and other useful information.”


The report incorporates the prior paper, Twelve Lessons from Successful State Access to Justice Efforts, which stresses the need for a strong partnership among the bar, the judiciary and legal aid providers.  I’m afraid the bar and organized legal aid providers are far from enthusiastic participants (or not even part of the equation) in many states.  We’ll have more on this topic soon.

Some Monday Inspiration (on courts, fairness, liberty)

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:30 pm

Yesterday evening, I was lucky enough to find an inspiring speech posted on the SelfHelpSupport.org website.  It’s called A Court and a Judiciary As Good As its Promise, and was given by Chief Judge Kevin S. Burke of Minneapolis, MN, upon acceptance of the William Rehnquist Award in November, 2003.  Judge Burke has gleaned wisdom from some great Americans, and woven it into a plea that judges and lawyers use “the decisions we make day in and day” to “affirm the public’s faith in the strength of democracy.”


gavel neg  Judge Burke asks for feedback on the speech, which deserves to be read in full (as do many of the sources cited).  Here are some key points in the speech:

“Today the dissatisfaction with the administration of justice is at a level which none of us should tolerate or accept for it threatens our democracy as much or more than any terrorist.”


Citing, Roscoe Pound’s The Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice, Judge Burke notes that a major factor that contributed to this dissatisfaction  

“was political jealousy the other branches of government have with the judiciary due to the doctrine that courts have the final say in what the constitutional law is in our nation . . . . Unfortunately, some political leaders are too easily prone to speak of judicial tyranny when there is disagreement with the outcome of a case.



“Pound identified a third cause of dissatisfaction which he described as the sporting theory of justice.  The sporting theory of justice is the view that essentially the legal process is two modern gladiators in a pitted war, with the role of the judge to be simply a referee for the combat.  Even today the sporting theory of justice is so rooted in the legal profession in that many of us take it for a fundamental legal tenet.” 

Pound argued that the sporting theory of justice disfigures our judicial administration at every point.  It leads the most conscientious judge to feel that he or she is merely to decide the contest, as attorneys present it, according to the rules of the game, and not to search independently for truth and justice.  It leads attorneys to forget that they are officers of the court and to deal with the rules of law and procedure exactly as the professional football coach deals with the rules of the sport.”

“We need to maintain perspective. Our nation has always been critical of the judiciary.”  [Burke gives examples such as impeachment movements against Chief Justices Marshall and Warren, billboards in the 1970’s against Justice William Douglas, and Teddy Roosevelt’s claim a banana had more backbone than Oliver Wendall Holmes.] 


vote small  “A factor that contributes to our generation’s cause of popular dissatisfaction with the administration of justice is the way we conduct public debate on the issues of our time.  Regrettably too often the current method of policy disagreement is to take the other guy’s idea, mischaracterize it and announce your profound disagreement and outrage.” 


In his The Spirit of Liberty speech in 1944, “Learned Hand articulated a vision of justice and liberty that — despite our healthy and legitimate differences about how justice should be delivered — calls to mind some of our highest aspirations.  On May 21, 1944, when the world faced many of the same kinds of challenges we face today, he asked: What, then, is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith:  

  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right
  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women;
  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias.'”

“Hand tried to tap the powers we bring to the bench, not just those that are attributed to us on the bench.  If judges and lawyers are ‘not too sure we’re right’ we can be far more creative.”


We can move away from the sporting theory of justice.  Instead, whether we are judges, lawyers, or administrators, we must move from recycling problems toward resolving them with the best thinking of the courts and communities. . . . The courts of the future require partnerships with the other helping professions and the public at large.”


“Today more than ever we must model our behavior and our debate of the issues that face the courts so that the other branches learn from our example.  In the relationship judges have with court administrators and employees, we must remember we were appointed, perhaps elected, but never anointed.” 


scales rich poor “Courts cannot be satisfied with being quick.  Nor can we be satisfied with being clever.  We must strive to be fully just to every person who leaves the courthouse. . . . To address the popular dissatisfaction with the administration of justice, courts and judges must measure and be accountable for the fairness of our actions. 


“Most importantly, we need to directly confront the notion that although judges at every level must be neutral – neutrality does not dictate that we mask that we care.  Litigants and the community must know that the judges of our country care about them as individuals.”

Lots of good ideas — but they’re useless if we don’t put them into practice, into the practice of law and judging.

  • tiny check Back in December 2002, Armed Liberal wrote about the Learned Hand speech on liberty:  “But the key phrase to me is: The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right…’ That’s something I’m working on pretty hard, and something I look for and care about in other commentators.”  Amen!

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