GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2006
Become an Authority: Get Published
In attempting to establish a reputation as a premier attorney in any given field, nothing speaks greater and is valued more than actual experience. But a lawyer can speed the process of recognition by seeking opportunities to share knowledge. One of the most effective and least expensive means of promoting yourself and your practice is to get published. Few have the time to write law review articles, textbooks, or even a John Grisham novel, but there are many other opportunities that will not only get your name out, but also contribute to the community in general.
Most communities have several newspapers or weeklies that are always looking for subject-matter experts to write an article of current interest; these publications also might be willing to take your articles as filler to educate the public about a particular area of the law. During the Terri Schiavo right to live/die matter, the nation was captivated by a discussion over who had the right to make the decision of declining or maintaining medical life-support interventions for a person who was solely dependent on such systems and unable to personally communicate her true wishes. During this time, experts in many different areas of the law battled in opinion columns debating the issue. An initial submission on a topic such as this may lead to a weekly article and even a small stipend for your efforts, as well as free publicity.
Writing an article for your state bar journal, although often requiring more time in research and writing, lets you introduce yourself to members of the legal community in other areas of your state and establish yourself as an attorney with specialized knowledge. It provides a service to the members of the bar by giving them a starting point in their own research, and it may lead to referrals or even job offers down the road. Your time spent formulating an in-depth analysis will also “sharpen the saw” in a particular area of the law. This investment of time and energy can pay off tenfold, not only getting your name known within the bar, but establishing you in the legal community as a leader, scholar, and expert.
The first step, of course, is choosing the publication. A newspaper will likely look for more general information, whereas a bar journal will look for more detailed analysis (with footnotes). The next step will be making contact. Most newspapers list an e-mail address and phone number of an appropriate editor who fields offers to contribute.
If you are a little more tech savvy, then you may be interested in the latest fad of writing, which does not require the prior approval of a publication’s editor: the blog (or blawg, as some legal versions have now been termed). With the advent of the Internet, many firms built web pages that allow potential clients (and adversaries) to peruse and be persuaded to employ their services. A blawg is merely an online journal, usually updated daily or even several times a day, discussing the latest legal trends, along with links to other websites of news articles of relevance. Some attorneys, such as appellate guru Howard Bashman (http://howappealing.law.com), have achieved nationwide recognition as authorities in a given area through their blogging.
The first article is often the most difficult to get published, but once you have achieved your “byline,” the opportunities often increase. After finding opportunities to write, you may find yourself being consulted by other attorneys and asked to speak on the topic at seminars, in classrooms, or even in the media. In addition, many hard-copy periodicals will also publish your article on the Internet; you can then insert a link to this article on your own website or blog, or mention it in a newsletter sent to clientele. Taking the time to write an article in your local paper, state bar journal, or even on a blog not only leads to free publicity, additional referrals, and recognition in your local community, but it also provides a service to other attorneys and to the public at large.
Robert Don Gifford is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Reno, Nevada, and an Army Reserve Judge Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.