Associates in the Trenches

To Blog or Not to Blog?


Originally, he was just Matt the blogger. Not wanting his writing to be seen as a market­ing tool, Matthew Lerner kept his iden­tity somewhat secret on New York Civil Law, an appellate Web log that focuses on New York state and federal cases. But readers wondered about his identity, so Lerner decided to reveal it. To­day,

http://nylaw.typepad.com has become a marketing tool of sorts, he admits. “Since I started it I’ve had a number of [reporters] contact me about interviews. That didn’t happen with the case summaries I wrote for the firm’s Web site,” says the fifth-year associate, who practices in Albany.

Blogs, sometimes spelled “blawgs” in the legal context, can be a simple way for associates to get exposure, partic­ularly if they focus on one legal area, says Kevin O’Keefe, founder and president of lexblog.com. A former trial attorney and president of Martindale-Hubbell, his business helps lawyers design, set up and promote blogs. It’s entirely possible, O’Keefe says, for a legal blog to gain significant notoriety within a few months. “The associate goes from being an unknown lawyer to being known all across the country, maybe the world.”

Lerner says his firm is supportive of New York Civil Law. He usually posts at night, after his work is done. “I don’t write things off the top of my head because I think [the blog] is a reflection of my practice and me,” he says, adding that he keeps his law firm separate. “I don’t want to jeopardize the firm’s reputation if the partners and associates do not agree with one of my posts.”

Undercover Authors

Some associates prefer to blog anonymously, partic­ularly if their topic is a bit more controversial than recent legal developments. One such blog, “Underneath Their Robes,” focuses on federal judiciary gossip. The author is an associate who goes by “Article III Groupie,” or A3G.

Inspired by magazines like People and US Weekly, the associate says that no one at her firm knows her as A3G. If they did, she’s not sure what the reaction would be. While her blog is a personal project unrelated to her work, most of her practice centers on federal court matters. Ap­pearances in front of the judges, particularly those she’s poked fun at, might be a bit awkward, and she has no immediate plans to reveal her true identity.

But she does have to deal with temptation. Her page at http://underneaththeirrobes.blogs.com/main, launched in June 2004, gets around 1,500 hits a day. It’s been mentioned in Newsweek, and she’s now fielding lunch invitations from curious federal jurists. “I derive some private amusement from hearing the guesses and speculation about who I am,” she writes in an e-mail. “But it’s frustrating that I can’t step forward and take a bow.”

Jeffrey Lewis, an Irvine, Calif., lawyer whose blog focuses on politics and high-profile trials, also started his blog anonymously. He ultimately decided to reveal himself, and has since made partner. His firm really doesn’t care about his posts on Southern California Law Blog, Lewis says, providing that he doesn’t do it on firm time.

“My readers are all what I would call ‘legal geeks,’ the kind of people who watch Court TV and are hungry for any bit of high-profile trial news,” says Lewis, a business litigator whose blog is at www.socallawblog.com.

Interview requests inspired Lewis to reveal him­self. “A lot of people suggested this might be a way to be on the partnership track, and get some exposure in the community,” he says. The blog has also gotten him some referrals. “I suppose I’ve alienated half of my client base, but endeared myself to those who agree with my opinions.”

Lewis adds that he would support any of his associates writing blogs. “I’d be great with that,” he says. “I’d give them the same rules–don’t use firm time, and don’t write anything that adversely affects the firm.”

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