This blog post is a bit of a milestone: ten years of blogging as a lawyer. I would never have guessed this blog would last so long. And along the way I've learned a few things about having opinions (that I post on the Internet).
Having Opinions And Posting Them Online
This blog started not too long after I left McCarthy Tetrault, where I was an articling student who had been tasked with writing a couple blog posts. I saw what very conservative legal blogging looks like and decided I wanted to do something different. Without any reputation or much experience, I didn't have much to lose. But I also started this blog with a conviction that being wrong sometimes is ok, and that there's more to be gained from having a conversation than staying silent. Over the years I've posted around 300 different blog posts, on various topics and with varying degrees of legal research backing them up. So far I don't think I've made too many mistakes and I've certainly made a lot of contacts along the way. A few people have disagreed with my opinions but almost always in a polite manner. I've received hundreds of emails from people who enjoyed my articles or who learned something from them. It's heartwarming that fan mail outweighs critical messages by probably 50:1 with my blogging.
Learning From Critics
A decade into doing this, I'd say posting opinions has been a success. They've attracted a lot of clients who think similarly, and the ones that were put off by them, well, would they have ever been clients? That's not to say I always agree with my clients. I've even been hired by organizations that I posted quite strong criticisms of. Smart people know that criticism of ideas or processes isn't a criticism of the people who carry them out, and that there's something to be learned from critics.
I learn a lot from reading critics. I seek out opinion pieces that contradict what I think today because maybe I'll change my views tomorrow. And if you care about a topic, you should care about what people with very different perspectives think about it. They're rarely WRONG and most often somewhat right. The most interesting questions and issues don't have clear right or wrong answers.
Being Wrong In Public
When I first started blogging I dreaded hitting publish. Even with hardly any readers. It's so engrained in young lawyers that they should never be wrong that too many don't write.
There's nothing wrong with being wrong. I've been wrong a few times, and it's important to know that. No one is right all the time and everyone has something to learn from other people. Overall, this hasn't been much of a problem. And it's been greatly outweighed by the benefit of being correct in public.
I've posted opinions on my blog that have later been borne out by developments in the law on crypto topics. It's one of the best things about working in my niche, I'm often exposed to the future through my clients. Being early is a nice way to build rapport with clients, because I can send them articles I wrote years ago on the topic they need help with.
What's mundane to one person is very helpful to another. Writing about the law and sharing it online saves other people tons of time. It can also make surprising connections. I have lots of stories about this and it's hard to pick a favourite. Niche topics connect with niche audiences and those people really, really engage with the content. On some issues, I'm probably the only person in Canada to write about it. Most of the people that my knowledge sharing has helped will never reach out to me, but enough have that I see the value in keeping at it.
Why Take A Stand On An Issue?
Many lawyers avoid taking positions on topics. They think that neutrality is the better avenue. I'm not sure neutrality is really possible with many issues, but even if it is, I don't recommend it because it's boring and harder for readers to understand. Picking a side or picking an issue to argue in favour of makes writing have more of a point. Readers of sophisticated writing know what an opinion is and they can see that there's other opinions out there - they don't have to believe mine. Opinion pieces are also often shorter because not every viewpoint needs to be represented. Attempting to neutrally discuss an issue can result in very watered-down and dry pieces, which is tough for a reader to engage with. Ultimately, the point of writing should be to share and to engage - so the more engaging, the more useful to many people.
Engagement can result in overly polemic writing, or even outright misleading writing (Twitter anyone?). I write for other purposes too, but in a busy world with a lot of sources of entertainment, it's helpful to readers to have writing that has a point. Fortunately, legal issues are rarely perfect and there's often something to suggest that might make it better. And bit by bit, everyone, as a collective, helps to build the future. A brighter future is only possible with wide-ranging discussion and a quest for improvement, which blogs can help with.
Ten Years Of Blogging
Thank you for reading this blog. It's possible that you're a reader who's been reading my posts since 2013 and if you are, thank you for a decade of readership. Maintaining this blog has been a big long-term commitment but one that I strongly recommend to lawyers that want to participate in the ongoing dialogue of what the law is and should be.