Where are all the great plaintiff-side law bloggers?

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Illustration by Greg Storey

You know what makes for great content? A great story. Like a lawyer who’s been fighting for more than a quarter-century to hold companies accountable for deadly contaminated food. Or a Miami attorney who serves as one of the cruise industry’s most persistent watchdogs. Or a rewnowned Seattle trial lawyer who stands up for jailed civil rights protestors.

The LexBlog Publishing team, as of late, has been working on how we write about people and things, and in looking for past examples I came across this story from a decade ago on the aforementioned Seattle lawyer, Karen Koehler.

In the piece, she discusses a point I’ve thought about a lot over the years—and more-so since re-joining LexBlog in January of last year—which is, why don’t plaintiffs’-side lawyers do a better job of managing their reputation online? Why, if they do blog, is it a series of cringey (and sometimes distasteful) SEO-schemed headlines followed by the old “if you or someone you love experienced…“?

Here’s Koehler, back in 2011:

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“The worst are the headline grabbers, I call them the ‘tragic headline grabbers,’” Koehler said. “They just grab the tragic headlines and post them one after the other after the other. It’s like a running feed of disaster.” […]

“You’re creating a brand and so, if you’re a tragic headline grabber, that’s your brand, and you’re going to be lumped in with all the other tragic headline grabbers. You will be indistinguishable,” Koehler said. “People don’t put enough thought into ‘What kind of brand am I building? What kind of reputation do I want to have?’

“And for a personal injury lawyer your reputation is your most precious asset.”

And I still see this type of thing.

Why would you want that to be your reputation online? Maybe the idea is that it doesn’t matter, or that if you generate enough SEO-centered leads, it makes up for it?

I’m not saying this alternative is easy, but you have to figure you can bring in good work by, like, being known as the best lawyer in the country fighting on behalf of those poisoned by foodborned pathogens—enough that the Washington Post and New Yorker profile you.

That would be Bill Marler, who joined Bob Ambrogi on LexBlog’s This Week in Legal Blogging podcast a couple of weeks ago. He described the experience of writing and then sharing a post he wrote for World Food Safety Day earlier this month. In it, he discusses memorable cases he’s worked on and some of the specific lives impacted by foodborne pathogens.

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“I tweeted that out and got it on LinkedIn and other social media. And the impact that I got back from people was ‘We need to know that information,’ people from industry, ‘we need to be reminded of that, that that’s why our job as a food safety professional is so important, because we want to avoid that. And then we want you not to sue us.’ But to me, that’s the power that I have as a blogger, advocate, lawyer—it’s complex. I’m not doing this all for altruistic reasons. But I think if you can find, you know, a job that combines altruism with capitalism, with a reason for being, I think you’ve found your sweet spot. And I have found my sweet spot.

And if you want to talk about sweet spots and social reaction, I have one more anecdote for you—from that cruise industry watchdog Jim Walker and Cruise Law News.

The other day I saw a tweet from a local reporter asking for experiences from those who have worked in the cruise industry. Knowing Jim and how plugged in he is to this space—so plugged in that he gets tips on items to report himself—I digitally sent her his way.

Now, a small peek behind the curtain, Cruise Law News gets an obscene amount of traffic for a law blog. It is consistently—as a blog exclusively on cruise law—one of the most trafficked blogs on our network of more than 1,000. So if the Facebook page gets the most, I had to see this.

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I draw your attention to the number at the bottom. Two hundred and forty five thousand, three hundred and sixty one.

As a point of comparison, the largest law firm in the United States by headcount, per these 2019 numbers, is Baker & McKenzie. On Facebook, they have 19,454 likes. And that’s no knock on them—it just shows you the raw power of a lawyer who’s doing right by consumers in a very targeted way.

So I return to the question in the headline—why don’t we see more of this? It could just be that it’s hard. There’s no doubt about that. These bloggers pour hours into their blogs every single week. Still, it’s hard to deny how high the ceiling is on their impact, and I’m left wondering why more people don’t chase it.

How many other industries would be well-served by watchdogs like Bill and Jim in food safety and the cruise industry? Are there folks out there aiming this high that I’m overlooking? Are there ways we at LexBlog could help?

I write this not only to underscore the success of these folks, but to genuinely ask the question. I’d love to hear from plaintiff’s lawyers, and I’d love to help.

Drop me a note if you want to chat on it—at colin@lexblog.com.

As Publisher at LexBlog, Colin leads the Publishing team and guides LexBlog clients and community members on blogging digital publishing strategy. A professionally-trained journalist, he’s applied the trade by helping keep LexBlog at the forefront of blogging and digital media trends for more than a decade—split up by a four-year stint helping lead the Seattle Mariners’ digital marketing efforts. He’s a fan of those M’s, the Green Bay Packers, Seattle craft beer, pinball, jogging and ebikes.

Photo of Colin O'Keefe
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