The Blawgosphere

The Blawgosphere

Many attorneys who write blogs about the law—or blawgs—distill and dissect useful information for businesspeople. But they’re also trying hard to keep it readable. “For my practice area, the challenge is coming up with things that are relevant and interesting,” says Tyler White, an estate planning attorney who runs an individual practice in St. Paul and writes Tyler E. White’s Blog. “There are a lot of important things with estate planning and tax laws, but just because something is important doesn’t mean it’s something people want to read.” White says that a lot of estate-planning blogs talk “insider baseball” and aren’t aimed at helping—or entertaining—clients.

Roy Ginsburg, a partner at the Dorsey & Whitney law firm in Minneapolis, has an interactive blog. It sprang from an annual “Quirky Employment Questions” breakfast seminar that he and a colleague put on to address some of the stickiest and most bizarre employment law questions he’s run across. Ginsburg realized the seminar topic would effectively translate into a blog, so in October 2007, QuirkyEmploymentQuestions.comwas born.

Ginsburg posts a question every Monday along with the answer to the previous week’s question. Once a month, he addresses a scenario he gets from his colleagues in Dorsey’s West Coast offices, so he can broaden his reach to companies operating throughout the country.

However, attorneys must be mindful that their posts aren’t misconstrued as legal advice. Blog posts are not intended to be definitive statements of the law and attorneys could be liable if the material is misconstrued as legal advice. Most legal blogs have a disclaimer that says as much. “I go out of my way and make sure that I use general terms and frame it is an informative piece rather than, ‘If you do this, then you should do x, y, z’ or comment about a specific event,” says Kenneth Kunkle, an attorney with an individual intellectual property practice in St. Paul and a blog called Legal Muse.
Sometimes readers send data or contracts as part of their question to Ginsburg, but he declines to use this information when answering so he can avoid straying into the realm of legal advice. “Sometimes I have to say, ‘Hey, great questions, I’d love to address it, but this is so specific to your situation that I can’t address it, and I can’t establish an attorney-client relationship between us,’” Ginsburg says. Such a relationship would require a process to establish, such as vetting for conflicts with other Dorsey clients.

Lawyers who blog don’t typically see a rush of new business after a particularly compelling post. But blogging can help them connect with clients and potential clients. White says his blog may have helped win over some prospects. “Maybe because my blog is a little more casual, they feel like I’m a little more approachable,” he says.

—Katie Westfall