The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
My friend, Harold Weaver, who wrote a great guest post for Practical Paralegalism about landing his first paralegal job, is going to be speaking with Jeannie Johnston of ParalegalGateway.com at the Georgia Association of Paralegals (GAP) Paralegal Career Workshop on Saturday, May 15, 2010. Their topic is “So You Want to Be a Paralegal Blogger/Writer” and they will be sharing tips for better writing and how to get published.
First, I don’t practice law at Practical Paralegalism (or anywhere else). I don’t hold myself out as a lawyer, give legal advice or offer to help anyone with legal issues. The few times I’ve been contacted by people wanting advice because of my blog, I always say, “I am not a lawyer. The best advice I can give you is to contact a local attorney who specializes in your type of legal issue ASAP.”
Second, as tempting as it is to tell war stories every day – I don’t. The same confidentiality rules apply to paralegals blogging – and posting anything online anywhere – that apply to our daily live interactions. I don’t ever want to commit a breach of confidentiality, so I don’t talk about our clients, which is different than discussing a task or event that happened during the day – in a professional manner. If I ever did write about a client for any publication, and sometimes you need to for a good cause, such as pending legislation which could impact victims’ rights, I’d get my supervising attorney and the client’s permission first. Lawyers sometimes share client stories in publications – with that client’s permission, preferably via a signed release.
Third, never use your blog to complain about work. Never, ever publish negative information or feelings about your employer, a client, co-worker, opposing party, a vendor or any other professional in any social media venue, including Facebook or Twitter.
Did you ask me this question because I’ve made you raise your eyebrows? You know I’m grinning as I write this, but I think if you don’t introduce thought-provoking content, your audience won’t remain your audience for long. Readers are not going to spend their valuable time at your blog, among the many thousands available to them, if they are not entertained, engaged and/or informed. But I don’t say anything in my blog that I wouldn’t say in front of a live audience, hopefully as a teachable moment. Plus, after 15 years of working together, my bosses know who I am – and what you read is what you get.
I don’t think I talked to my supervising attorneys much about starting a blog, more because I didn’t have enough knowledge or experience to do more than brightly (and naively) announce, “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a blog for paralegals! Is that okay with you?” None of us knew much about blogging at the time. We all likely thought, “Er, okay, good luck with that!” and promptly forgot about it. In retrospect, I’d recommend researching blogging, having a game plan for your place in the blawgosphere, and talking to your employer about your proposed content. Many firms now have social media policies, so if your firm has one in writing, review it carefully.
Keep in mind that our firm is very small and definitely on the open-minded side. I was so new to blogging that I viewed it more as a minor writing outlet for a teeny audience, say 27 like-minded paralegals. I probably mentioned after the first two posts that I was really doing it as more than a lark, and sent them the link. But when I started, I didn’t know what I was doing – and you sure can tell in some of my early posts. I never thought about Practical Paralegalism having a significant future.
I knew that my blog would have to remain professional at all times, and would not be an appropriate venue to share overly personal information or vent about a bad day in a non-constructive way (if my readers can learn something from my mistakes, that’s different). When I post content, I’m aware that it’s out there forever, and I’m aware that my point of view and writing style may be off-putting to some people who don’t share my particular sense of humor. I’d tell any paralegal thinking about starting a blog that you have to keep your career goals in mind at all times when you publish online content – about anything.
If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you. Seriously, I write about what engages me, and I tend to gravitate towards social media and technology, current events, paralegals doing good (and a few paralegals doing bad) – and things that make me laugh out loud.
The editor with the idea for the first national workers’ compensation textbook for paralegals called my supervising attorney, at the recommendation of an attorney friend. My boss (who hates it when I call him that), J. Griffin Morgan, is a N.C. board-certified workers’ compensation specialist and teaches the workers’ compensation class at the local law school. But he said he wasn’t writing a workers’ compensation textbook for paralegals without me – because he didn’t exactly know what I do! He wrote the first two chapters with the overview of the law, and I wrote the remaining eight chapters about the practical and case management skills, with his insightful editing. But even if the publisher calls you, you still have to submit a lengthy book proposal with a draft table of contents. (This process makes preparing a tax return for an international corporation look simple.)