Every job has its benefits. I don’t mean 401k or paid sick leave. No, I’m talking about the unforeseen side effects of working in various industries. I remember getting free pizza at my first job as a dishwasher and I felt exceedingly blessed. I also remember getting free books from my time working at Eastern Washington Univ., but again I digress. So the question, what is the side benefits for working at a company filled with successful bloggers? Since I started working for LexBlog, I’ve wanted to try my hand at a serious blog.

At LexBlog, I will be attempting to use the LexBlog platform to launch my new blog. Unlike my failed attempt at a food blog years ago on google blogger: Grim’s Gratitudes, or my “never-was” blog Tech Comm Corner last year, my hope with this blog is to gain access to a community of scholars. Currently, I have two blogs on WordPress, my nerdy friendship club Currently Undecided and my courtship with my significant other, Intentional Vulnerability. I also write from time to time here on donuts. While blogger was meh and I haven’t had any issues with WordPress, when offered to use LexBlog to launch my new blog, I couldn’t help but think of all that I could learn.

So far, I reach out to a multitude of bloggers to add them to LexBlog for free, but I don’t ask them to switch platforms or even use LexBlog in any capacity though many of them have started subscribing to different channels. However, I never thought to ask what the process looked like to make a blog on LexBlog. I’m curious to see the result. So far, there has been mention of a checklist and I’ll be reaching out to the Success Team for more info. In any case, I’m excited.

My day is filled with looking at blog after blog, some good and some, well, not-so-much. I even follow several law blogs now. My day is filled with people collectively thinking, writing, and sharing about experiences, thoughts, ideas, and innovations. They are doing this at no-cost. Sure, many of these people want to advance their careers, but otherwise, the motivation seems to be more valuable. They want to share and explore the world. I use to have a professor that talked about the “power of thirty people in the room all knowledgeable about a singular subject”. The room has now expanded to incorporate the entire world. Blogs, allow you to step into that room. I hope to take that first step.

Between process and motivation, I feel as though I’ve stacked the deck in my favor. In a few weeks I’ll write another donuts post about all the things I’ve learned. Maybe my motivation will take on a new form different from the “collective experience”, but we’ll see. Right now, I’m in the planning stages. I want to give the serious effort of 2 posts a week and have a good idea on the tone I would like the blog to take. I have images already set for the first several posts. I even have a logo. With all the ingredients for a good blog, I hope to bake me a delicious multi-layered blog. The process will be the most interesting.

In the meantime, I will continue to reach out and learn what good blogging looks like. I’ll sift and sort as many law blogs as I can learning what good blogging looks like. I won’t go into details about what my new blog will entail. I will only say that it involves something that lawyers know all too well. So, stay tuned. We’ll see what we learn.

Lately, I’ve been think a ton about lead theory and how it concerns all of our jobs. In manufacturing, lead time is the amount of time between initiation and action. For example, you press a button on your coffee maker and 10 minutes later you have a full pot of coffee. For a full moving process like making a car, there can be hundreds of initiations within one major one. Look at Rube Goldberg machines if you want to know what I am talking about. Lead theory, in my mind, is the missing “verb” in the sea of adjectives that make up gestalt design principles, but now I’m just diving into the nerdom of information design. What I’m terribly getting at is this: you change 1 small part of a process, it can change the whole process.

I recently changed my email process. Instead of treating attorneys like I’m Oliver Twist asking for scraps of attention, I cut-to-the-chase and just tell them, “I want your blog”. In my new process, of which I have cut down dramatically, I can get through more than 20 emails in an hour. In the past, my record was 18 in an entire day’s worth of work. Match this with sorting 100+ websites a day, I can get through a ton of blogs. Honestly, it makes me feel like I’m sorting legos sometimes and I really like sorting. This whole change was not just, “fix your email”, but a whole series of small changes. Now we can dive into nerdom together.

The process, in its entirety, is fairly complicated with many small moving parts. Here is only some of the major steps: I look at the master list of contacted blogs. I pick one that is blank. I look over the website. I try to find author, size of the firm, contact info, style, and about 15+ other small things. If I get the sense that the website is already on LexBlog, I look for our logo, search on our contributors list, check hubspot, and look in our blog dashboard. Most of the time, I don’t have to dive that deep, but only every so often. If a blog does not meet our standard, I click the “r” button that highlights the row red and click from a dropdown as to why I chose to mark it red. If the blog is from a larger firm, has 5+ authors, multiple blogs, etc., I mark the row yellow for “let’s come back to this”.  If the blog is not red or yellow, I mark it blue meaning, “I call dibs!”. The blue blogs are mine. I’m going to email them and they will be my responsibility. I then get to finally email them.

You  can imagine why I’m able to max out sorting at 100/hour. This is of course assuming that I don’t have anything else going on. That is only one small part to the whole system. Emailing is its own process, responding to calls/emails, adding the memberships (seriously takes the longest time), checking hubspot, double checking other’s sheet work, and the extra work that I add for myself is really a ton. I would like to get through the master list as soon as possible and that’s why I keep trying to improve the process. At the 1st of December, I was happy to get through 10-20 blogs a day with emailing 5 bloggers. I was happy to get anyone responding. Now, the process is still a bit of a clunky Volkswagen beetle, but is able to keep pace at the Indy 500. I know the process can be faster.

This whole thought of “lead theory” and the correlation to the LexBlog method, as I am coining it now, was spurred by a documentary I watched multiple times every year in high school. I was a runner and my coach was none other than Pat Tyson. If you’ve worn Nikes, he is one of the guys to thank. In cross country, Tyson would show documentaries and movies all the time. Billy Mills was one of my favorite. When Billy talked about going just “snap his fingers” faster, I would be filled with a drive to do better. By the way: Billy Mills interview can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfLLNksZmoY. If you watched it, you could understand why focusing on just one small instant can change the outcome of an entire race. It also makes sense why this interview reminded me of manufacturing theories. In the case of my work at LexBlog, small instances define everything that I do.

So, if you made it this far into the post, I hope that you glean one thing: change one small thing at a time. Find the small things that work. For the things that don’t, see if you can’t make them just a snap faster. The picture is the first bite of a well deserved donut.

Recently, I broke the passenger side mirror on my inherited luxury car. As frustrating as that is, I should have known better. Seattle loves to define their parking spaces. They love to put signs that say “Electric Cars Only”, “Expecting Mother’s Only”, “Compact”, “Reserved for customers of…”, “Reserved for monthly customers”, and of course “Handicap”. I’ve learned that my full-size sedan just doesn’t belong and I’m constantly aware of its size. So, after living here for almost a year, it was about time that I ran into something. That something was my garage door. My garage should have a sign that reads, “You’re seriously going to try and park that?”. The situation was more complicated than a simple oopsie-daisy, but whatever. The point I want to make with this post is simple. We love defining our parking spaces. Sometimes we try to fit cars into spaces where the car just doesn’t belong. Other times, our car seems to fit perfectly, but in reality that spot is reserved for someone else.

I have been going through blog after blog and website after website. For a while in this process I would quickly read a blog post or two and determine the quality. Now, I scan a website looking for certain markers. Are they already on LexBlog? Is this is larger law firm? Do they have multiple authors? Do they have an email somewhere? The entire time I am looking at the quality and rhetoric of the design. At this point, I can tell the difference between Squarespace, Justia, Wix, and LexBlog designs. These designs offer a nice little space for content to park. Just by the design, most of the time, I can determine the quality of a blog before I even start reading. It’s like looking at a compact parking sign and guessing that a compact car will park there.

I have seen a multitude of unnamed author posts, all with the same font, color schemes, no date, SEO scripted, and ends with “If you or a loved one needs (fill in type of law) then call (Law firm) for your Free Consultation and one of our expert attorneys will assist you.. Blah.. blah”. Side note, “Free Consultation” is a buzz term that most people have become wise to the real meaning. I digress. My point is that these posts were most likely written by someone other than an attorney to drive some form of traffic. These types of posts will almost certainly have the exact same design. In fact, last week I found exactly that. I found two websites by two different lawyers in the exact same design, same homepage image, and the same style of blog posts. I have considered emailing each of them to let them know they have a doppelganger. It’s like seeing two identical pickups with the same gun rack and camo cover at Cabela’s. No one is surprised to see them and no one cares to give them more attention than they deserve.

The process continues. I filter through the websites and have been holding a list off to the side of bloggers I intend to email. I don’t waste my time reading blogs that I can’t email and in return, the last hour of my day is stacked with great reads. If a pulled website turns out to be terrible, I throw it back. Otherwise, I email the ones I have. I enjoy it.

Every so often I get a surprise. I get a surprise so shocking, I feel that I need to email the blogger right there on the spot. Like seeing a Lamborghini and wanting to take your picture with it. I’m not that kind of guy by the way. However, when I come across a blog of that quality and calibre that I feel compelled to let them know, I feel genuine excitement. I came across a blog exactly like that last week. A DUI attorney in Arizona posted in December about the death of a pregnant woman and the pictures her widower took of her. The blogger was upset and rightly so, but the post added one thing that many posts seem to forget: humanity. The attorney, also known as the blogger, became real. Their content fit into the parking spot reserved for quality blogs even though their website used some parking spot reserved for terrible blogging.

I have felt exceedingly lucky since I read that post. That’s what good writing does, it moves the reader. Sometimes it moves the reader to feel, think, or act, but in any case, there is an effect on the reader. I feel lucky that it was only my mirror and not a life.

Before I publish this post I wanted to make one last point for the bloggers out there. Don’t park your content in a reserved space. Your great blog deserves to be on a great design. You might have to park it a way away from the front door, but trust me, more people will notice the Ferrari sitting out by itself than Geo at the front.

I have 2 jobs that are vastly different, but quickly becoming quite similar. My main job, as many of you may guess, is at LexBlog as a Publishing Team Member. My other job is a Lead Outreach Specialist for an after-school program (aka the “Academy”)  that tailors to “enhancement”, not tutoring. I took both so I could explore what I want out of a career even though I could have a full-time job somewhere else. I really love working at LexBlog and enjoy the Academy as well. I have begun to see real changes in both. While they are vastly different jobs, they are becoming very similar as time goes on.

At LexBlog, my job started off pretty straightforward where I would try to find all the law blogs and make a sizable contact list. At my outreach position my job started by talking to potential students and their parents. Both in my mind were vastly different and required a different set of skills to perform each. After a few months at both, they are becoming the same job, but with different clients and different targets.

I want to clarify a point. I believe heavily in transparency and discuss openly my jobs to both of my employers. I find that we all have more to learn with an open dialogue; especially considering that both companies are experimenting.

So, the changes this last month is what is making these positions interesting. In December, LexBlog altered my position a bit and, instead of compiling a comprehensive list, I would reach out to quality blogs personally. I told my other job about the fun I’m having and some of the interesting topics covered. In response, my secondary job gave me a small promotion. Instead of reaching out constantly, the afterschool program wants me to compile a list of potential events the could set-up a booth. However, this is position created just for me. None of the other regions in the country are attempting this change.

This is oddly creating a scenario where what is good for one company is becoming good for the other with me at the center of both. I have taken my varied background and have applied it to both jobs. I’m good at finding things and can be very good at communication. However, I’ve never had a job that required me to do both. The data design and use from LexBlog is coming in handy for the Academy. I also see similarities in the questions being asked by lawyers and parents. Lawyers want to protect/grow their firms like parents want to protect/grow their kids. I’m learning to respond to attorneys with the experience I’m getting from the Academy. They are not the same company, but learning is learning.

I’m not sure what to call this interstitial space between data compiling and outreach. However, I get the same feeling, this same striving for something different, from both. While companies are pushing to take humans out of the equation, like self checkout lines or drone delivery, the general populace has become wise to robot sales. I don’t mean the buying and selling of robots, but the automation of one-size-fits-all marketing approaches. I’ve written about this before on this blog. The position reflects a non-pressure sales approach that reflects the current climate.

Statements from both companies that make me believe there is something going on in our world:

“This is not for everyone. We are not making an email blast or writing a script”

“Give a more personal approach”

“Focus on one thing at a time”

“Tell us if there are any issues or improvements” (This one is huge)

“What do you think?”

“We look good when you look good”

Really, as I think more about it, I’ve never been treated like a human this much at a job, let alone two jobs. It is a bit jarring. However, I’m going to continue to try my best at both and learn to appreciate this type of treatment. Both companies, I want to see flourish. So, I will continue to keep an open dialogue. Maybe we will all benefit from this unique exchange.

I had a moment of déjà vu yesterday. I went to a law blog and read through the first post wishing their readers “Happy Veterans Day”. Right now it’s a week before Christmas. I thought “meh, I’ll come back to this one in a bit”. I opened the next blog on my list and started reading the first post wishing me another “Happy Veterans Day”. Honestly, I thought I was in a time loop like Bill Murray. Okay, well maybe there was a mistake, and I moved on. I opened the next blog on my list and started reading the first post wishing me, in fact, another “Happy Veterans Day”. At this point, I realized what was going on. Each blog was connected to a single firm, was named similarly, and was designed exactly the same.

I’m new to SEO practices. I will admit that fact outright. However, I know sales. I know sales enough to know I’m a terrible salesman, but still better than most people. I wasn’t hired to be a salesman, even though my emails to people sometimes sound that way. I’m grateful for that, but my point I want to make is simple. Numbers don’t lie, but people do.

I come across tons of law blogs that are terrible SEO driven monsters that, if a real person spent 10 seconds reading, would agree wholeheartedly. I wondered if these types of blogs were worth it and began to do some research. Come to find out, I work at a great company. I’m not trying to brown-nose; honestly, I don’t care enough. What I did find was that LexBlog believes what I believe and that’s the power of human connection.

My parents were Realtors and I lived very comfy in my country club lifestyle that they provided me. Neither had a college education. Heck, my mother didn’t get her GED until her 30’s. They taught me that people made business and that human connection was more important than anything. They would take clients out to lunch, drive all over to meet people, and send cards/gifts for holidays. They took care of people and didn’t ask for anything in return. There was even a case where my mother made a woman dinners for several weeks, after which, the woman sold her house through a different realtor (I believe because they were family). My mother wasn’t upset by this at all. She didn’t help the woman for a potential sale. They were in the business of helping people and in return people sent them business.

I used this mentality of human connection to sell watches years ago. Traditional watches are still around and people wear them for all sorts of reasons. In the few years I fixed and sold them, I never cared to be a salesman and I wasn’t. However, dawning that attitude of wanting to help people and make connections, real connections, made me one of the top salesman of that old watch company. I even remember several instances of customers breaking down emotionally. Those customers were grateful for being treated like human beings.

SEO takes the human out of sales and attempts to put humanity into an algorithm. Businesses that rely purely on SEO practices tend to measure success linearly in order to fit into the self profitizing formula. Humanity is not a formula. Now, I’m not saying that data isn’t important. Ignoring data is just plain silly, but when it comes down to relying on quantitative, qualitative, and anecdotal evidences for success, don’t think that quantitative is everything. Quantitative is all numbers. From my understanding, SEO is all numbers. SEO practices ask how many clicks can I get to my website? How many users have visited today? I know that roughly 80% of the internet is robots. So my question, why would I care how many visitors are generating hits on my website? I guess I would care if they were buying whatever it was I was selling.

To reiterate my point: human connection is something very powerful. If you as a blogger or as a business owner rely purely on numbers, you’ll miss the bigger picture of what success really means. You’ll find yourself just doing donuts in the parking lot. You feel yourself moving, but you’re not going anywhere.

My colleagues will recognize the picture from a different post on a different blog of mine. Considering that my readership consists of my supportive coworkers and a few supportive friends, the image I imagine, should be met with “really, you couldn’t find a different picture?”. The razzing that I’m expecting is well deserved. While I’m a person that holds the belief that there is nothing-new-under-the-sun, I definitely believe that bloggers should take a healthy jab at originality. Let me save you time and sum up what I’m about to say: a blog consisting purely of reposts is lazy, insulting, and terrible.

First, I want to clarify something. A site that dedicates itself itself to pulling posts from various blogs is an aggregation site. A blog aggregation site is different than a blog. I’m concerned with blogs that perform the function similar to aggregation sites, but are still blogs. When a reader goes to an aggregation site, they do so with either a topic in mind or they wish to browse different blogs. Blogs consist of posts written and published by bloggers aka authors. A reader going to a blog site does so to read the specific content published by the blogger. It’s like wanting to read your favorite author as opposed to browsing an anthology. Both aggregation site and blogs have distinct purposes as mediums, but both rely heavily on the content being published.

I’ve come across several blogs that looked promising. The title was catchy, the post titles interesting, but low and behold, the posts were just copy/pasted. The worst reposting sites don’t use the blogging tools correctly and end up copy/paste into an italicized block quote. It looks just yucky and is one way to make sure no one comes back to your blog.

One of the more sad reposts are for law professors. I see the author is a law professor at XYZ University and I expect that the posts are going to be rich in thought. Then I begin to read and quickly find that all of their posts were taken from someone else! They will even have a one-line post with a link to some random publication. Say something! Please, give me your insight! I can find and read publications any time. I grew up in the generation that has always had the internet. What I don’t have is an expert based opinion shrouded in personal experience about that publication. The fact is: if your not adding to the discussion, you’re being irresponsibly lazy.

The reason why I have such a high horse on the subject of repost blogs is simple. Repost blogs are insulting. While it is fine to assume some lack of knowledge of your readers, repost blogs assume your readers are plain dumb. Defining terms is customary in academia and, from my limited understanding, the law is the same. So, please, define terms, explicate, tell your readers what’s-what, but don’t just hand them materials and hope for the best. If a friend hands me a book, I get from the gesture that they want me to read it. If I ask that friend, “why are you handing me this?” and they blankly stare at me, what am I suppose to think? You’d find the experience jarring and discomforting. As a repost blogger, this is what you are doing. You’re handing a blog over expecting your readers to be interested based solely on title alone.

At this point, my high horse has become the dead one I’m beating. Simply put, bloggers are writers. Writer’s struggle with writing from time to time, hence the common colloquialism ‘writer’s block’. In the case of a repost claiming writing woes, you as a writer are ignoring the principle rule of inspiration: first, write about what you know. A repost blogger obviously can find material, sources, etc. Why not put in a bit of effort and write a few sentences about the post? If it is a publication in a professional journal, is it any good? If it is a post that starts “with permission from the author”, why not say how much you enjoyed it or tell us what about the post made you want to repost it? Lastly, if you’re a blogger that is just looking for ad revenue from people clicking on your site, shame.

I would like to see more lawyers chiming in on topics that I’m only just now learning about. I read a post that is interesting and I want to know if there is another side or if the law is different in different states. Consequently, that’s not the case. However, it would be just neat to see a series of blogs that respond to one another creating a meaningful discussion that adds to the knowledge base of a given topic.

Recently, as in yesterday, my position at LexBlog has taken a radical turn. Mostly, my job has consisted of mindlessly scrounging for websites without the slightest inclination into the quality of the presented blogs. I was desperate to add anything and everything to The List without very many concerns. It was a very cool process that let my geeky how-is-this-going-to-look mind run while completing a major task. However, that has all changed.

After looking at thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of blogs, my job is now to read, mark, and decide what to do with each and every blog. I have become the first line of gatekeepers that decide whether or not a blog should be allowed to enter the kingdom of LexBlog. This job has become one of the coolest jobs on my varied resume.

I remember hearing years ago about jobs at major publishing companies. The students/recent college grads have large bins filled with books and manuscripts that they read and either throw away or send up the ladder. The bin was a hodgepodge of papers, letters, and other various materials in which authors placed their novels.  A book could be written on a roll of toilet paper, but if it was good, the gatekeeper would send it up. My job has mirrored this process quite well.

The process has slowed down considerably. Where I could easily scan and sift 10k+ websites a day, I can only email about 20-25 bloggers in the same amount of time. I get to read some amazing blogs. I have read stories of murder, slight, fraud, compassion, advocacy, intrigue, and so much more. The drama of life is reflected in these blogs and they don’t fail to entertain or inform. I have found that there are certain characteristics about law blogs that seems absent from other blog realms.

Law blogs ask: “What do we do with this?”. A story has an arc, also known as a state of change. The main character always goes through a series of events that have consequences. However, a good law blog will ask “So what? What do we do with this information?”. It’s not enough to just read the paper about a murderer on death row pleading innocence. I read a blog about the ethical complication about the murderer ignoring the lawyers legal advice that could save the client from death (still life in prison, but at least alive).

I read another blog about a lady forced to carry her 70 lb service dog in a crate into her condo, stairs included. She sued the condo association and the decision is still up in the air, but what a decision! Could you imagine hearing about a neighbor that was required to carry their dog in a crate while near the property? Some would say “that’s a sad story”. A lawyer would ask, “So, what should we do about this information?”

As I continue to explore all the neat and nifty blogs out there, I hope that each blogger knows my authenticity. I like them; therefore, they will hear from me. My only hope is that they can see the gatekeeper waving them in. Otherwise, they will continue to try and climb over the wall for readers to view them.

I’ve been at LexBlog for several weeks now and it has been more interesting than stressful. I have a simple job really. I have only been given one task: find all the blogs from all the attorneys in the United States. This seems like a daunting task, but for someone like me, it’s a massive logic puzzle, a game of Sudoku. I pride myself in finding things, anything really. It is a skill I have built over a decade of curiosity and education. So, you can see why I would jump at the chance to put my searching skills to the test. I would be asking myself “What is acceptable redundancy?”

In the last several weeks I have started and restarted “the master search” multiple times. My master search sheet, of which there are 3, has gone under building and rebuilding. It the first instance I focused on law practices by state. According to the Martindale database there are 386 law practices. That may just be how they narrow “practice” down, but there are definitely more. A search on Martindale for Alabama attorneys returns 54,339 practice areas with a total of 19,222 attorneys. My first problem was finding enough attorneys in a given practice. There may be more attorneys practicing child custody cases, but fewer child protection. For an outsider to law like myself, it feels like splitting hairs. The second problem was many attorneys are apart of firms and those firms cover multiple practice areas. I wanted to be specific; therefore, I needed to start from the beginning.

The second iteration of the master search focused on all states simultaneously, but focusing on a single practice. Using the 386 practice areas, this would result in 19,300 separate searches for all practices over all 50 states. The issue: some practices are not a focus in some states. While that may seem obvious, a genuine lack of maritime lawyers in Oklahoma, the problem was more complicated than that. It meant that law firms may define their law practice outside the definitions of Martindale and I already had my suspicions from the first iteration. It would also mean that I would be going over the same law firms over and over. I am a hard worker, but I’m not going to double, triple, or multiply my efforts times 386, if I’m not required.

I decided to make the ultimate filtering tool and go from there. I revised my second iteration and made an excel that would color coat across all states and all law practices based on a series of duplicates. Red text equals multiple states. Green background means websites with blogs in multiple practices. I think you get the point. This meant that I could cover every search without worrying about overlap. After a few hours, I realized I would again be covering the same firms over and over again. This process still did not resolve the multiple-practices issue. Not the best idea when time is valuable. I wanted to make every search meaningful and cut down on redundancies as much as possible.

My most current master search has lead me to using the most basic and simplified search. I went to the Alabama State Bar(ASB) and discarded Martindale. According to the ASB, there are 13,552 registered attorneys. Makes me think Martindale has some cleaning up to do with their 19,222 result. I went through each attorney,  copied their law firm, and did a basic google search for each firm. It took me an afternoon to go through 1800 attorneys. I found 438 law firms (removing companies, educational entities, and government entities). 287 of those firms had websites without blogs and 154 with blogs. 103 of those with blogs have written a post in the last year. This means that the ratio of attorneys to active blogs is about 1/18. The quality ratio is much lower, but for both those of good quality and poor. Most of the blogs are fairly typical. The amount of time in this process is so far the most ideal. Each lawyer could only ever be covered once and law firms were auto sorted to remove duplicates. I would save sorting by practice for a much later date.

Estimating my time, I should finish sorting Alabama attorneys to their firms in about 35-45 hours. The firms to their website with or without blogs should take another 40-50 hours. This process has been drastically cut down, but I’m sorting the sand from the flour. It is a task that needs to be done and should be completed. Especially if Lexblog ever intends to make bread with these blogs. It may seem like a tedious task, but the reality is much different. I have found some hidden blogs. I found blogs that only a person like me could find. They are tucked away in pages lost in the depths of a website. It is a great feeling finding these treasures. Some of these small blogs are fantastic reads and the authors could really add to the cannon. I hope I can bring these blogs the attention they deserve.