When I first started writing this blog back in November 2014, I had no idea what I was doing. While some might say I still don’t (thanks, Mom!), I have gotten better at it. This blog now has over 2,400 followers – which still amazes me – and I sometimes pause for a moment to think why that is. I remember that one of the reasons I started writing “Ten Things” was because I was frustrated with many of the blogs and articles I have read as an in-house lawyer. While full of good intentions most of them just weren’t useful or were just poorly disguised marketing pieces. I would read them and when I finished I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to take away from the article in my everyday practice as an in-house lawyer. My goal has always been to try to write about topics that are interesting and to provide practical, useful advice. My guiding principle has always been to imagine myself sitting in a room with someone and trying to explain the issue and the next steps. Then I write that down. Yep, pretty much that simple. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am not solving world hunger here either. I’m just writing a blog.
Occasionally, I get asked, “what makes a good blog?” Usually, this is a question asked by someone who wants to start writing their own blog. First, I highly encourage any of you to start your own blog if you have any interest in and passion for writing. Second, keep three things in mind:
- Write about what you know and what interests you. Don’t’ try to be a fake expert on anything. If you don’t enjoy it, it will seem like drudge work. And we all have enough of that already;
- Write simply. Yes, you went to law school and paid a lot of money to learn about big words and Latin phrases but – and sorry to break the news – no one wants to read a blog that reads like an AmLaw 50 firm brief to the 7th Circuit. Stick to short sentences, active voice, and a definite lack of legal jargon. Impress people with your ability to write clearly and succinctly vs. breaking the meter on pomposity;
- Always give the reader some practical and usable advice. When I am done reading a blog post I love it when the writer gives me a list of “here’s what you should do next” or “here’s some sample language.” Providing useful tidbits is what keeps readers coming back.
I don’t always succeed with my blog but I do use these three points as my writer’s compass whenever I start to write a post. All of which brings me to the point of this edition of “Ten Things.” For past couple of years, I have posted a blog listing ten legal blogs that I think are worth your time to check out. You can click here to see my 2015 and 2016 editions. I continue to highly recommend all of the blogs listed in these prior posts. But, I am always on the lookout for new ones and, fortunately, there are a lot of great writers out there who have legal blogs that are worth your time and – in my opinion – closely follow my three points for what makes a good blog. But, you can judge for yourself. Even if you only find one of the blogs below to be useful to you, then I have met my goal. So, in no particular order of importance, here are my top ten blog suggestions for 2017:
1. Artificial Lawyer. If you’ve read my blog, you know I am really into the use of artificial intelligence by in-house legal departments. Here is a blog that covers AI and its use by lawyers. It’s not only about AI though, this blog also covers other uses of technology by lawyers. A close second is the LawGeex blog. I subscribe to their blog and I think their “5 things in Legal Tech” posts are great.
2. Business of Law. I have to give LexisNexis credit – this is a damn useful blog. Especially now that I have gone back in-house, I find their articles on legal operations to be very good. And the writers provide a wide variety of posts covering many topics. The site covers big law, small law, and most importantly, corporate counsel. Click on “corporate counsel” in the heading and you’ll get content specifically tailored for in-house lawyers. There are some ads for LexisNexis products but that is not the thrust of the blog. This is really good stuff.
3. Apps in Law. If you use an iPad or an iPhone, you need to subscribe to this blog. It is 100% dedicated to exploring the best apps for lawyers using either device. You can sign up for the newsletter, listen to podcasts, watch their YouTube videos, etc. My favorite feature is the “Best Apps” page where you will find a list of category links (like “Annotating PDF Files”) that you can click on to find the best app(s) for that category. And if you believe technology can improve the productivity of in-house legal departments, this is the blog for you.
4. Trading Secrets. All things trade secrets and non-competes. If your company has trade secrets to protect, this blog is worth checking out. Consistently has breaking news on the trade secrets front and its “Resources” page cannot be beaten in terms of a wide list of trade secrets resources, including statutes, government resources, and even other trade secrets blogs. Currently, the Seyfarth firm (which produces the blog) is offering a free desk reference book on social media privacy laws in the USA. Click here to order your free copy.
5. Settlement Perspectives. If you are heading into a settlement meeting or mediation, be sure to check out this blog first. An incredible amount of useful information about structuring and negotiating your settlement. The blog goes beyond just settlement agreements and gives practical advice around negotiating in general. Includes an excellent resources page with lots of links to other blogs and to useful material. If you negotiate deals or settlements, spend some time with this blog and see if it doesn’t become one of your “go to” sites.
6. In-House Blog. The name may be simple, but this is a great blog. The focus in on all issues surrounding in-house legal jobs. Lots of helpful articles on topics like “what’s it like to go in-house,” salary surveys, how to get promoted, and GC “ROI.” And it also is the site responsible for “GoInHouse.com” which is, in my opinion, the best site when you’re searching for an in-house job (or you have one to post). But, you don’t have to be searching for an in-house job to find this blog useful.
7. Legal Productivity. This blog is aimed primarily at law firms, but its focus on lawyer productivity presents lots of useful materials for in-house lawyers as well. I particularly like the “Get Organized,” “Leverage Technology,” and “Resources” pages (and especially the infographics in the resources section).
8. The Contracts Guy. Since contracts are the lifeblood of most in-house legal departments, blogs dealing with drafting better contracts are always valuable. Right after Adams on Contract Drafting, this is my favorite blog about contracts. It’s a little tricky to navigate and be sure to click on the “About” link to get a list of categories covered. I think the “Battle of the Forms,” “Contract Law Basics and Tips,” and the “The Reading List” are particularly useful.
9. The Law of Order. An amazing amount of content on how to run proper meetings. And if you sit in as many meetings as I do, this is a fantastic resource. Relying mainly on Roberts Rules of Order, this blog presents very helpful articles on topics like “Handy Tips for Keeping the Discussion Under Control” and “Ways to Make an Agenda Work for You.” How can you not love that? The resources section is brief but you can get your Parliamentarian-fix with just a few clicks. And the list of topics in the lower right side is very useful too.
10. Bryan Garner on Words. Sure, drafting contracts is very important. But so is writing in general. All in-house lawyers want to write better. Bryan Garner has a monthly column in the ABA Journal (print and on-line editions) dedicated to helping lawyers write better. Every time I read his posts, I learn something I can use to make myself a better writer. He also runs a blog called LawProse that also contains a lot of very useful writing tips. Though, many of the posts on LawProse refer you to webinars and other materials you can purchase. I have no problem with that but just a heads up.
So, there you have it my “Top Ten” blogs for 2017. As we head into the holiday season and you get a little downtime, take a few minutes to check out these ten blogs (or some of the blogs I mentioned in my past posts). I hope you find one or two that are useful and that you start to follow them. And if you find a good blog, don’t keep it a secret. Let your friends and colleagues know about it! LinkedIn posts can be a great way to share. If there are blogs you really like that I haven’t mentioned, I would love to hear about them and you can email me directly at the address below.
November 30, 2017
Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel: Practical Advice and Successful Strategies is now available for sale. Described by the American Bar Association as “The one book all in-house counsel need to own!” Click here for details on how to order. The perfect holiday gift for to clients or members of the legal department.
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