After graduation, he cut his teeth representing plaintiffs as a solicitor in Ireland. Later, he returned to his native Wisconsin and worked as a trial lawyer representing injury victims and families, local businesses, and banks. Initially, he practiced at a firm, but in 1993 he hung his own shingle outside a Victorian home he’d restored.
Sometime in the early 1990s, while watching a Green Bay Packers game, he saw a commercial that advertised a company’s website. “I asked a young person who worked for me, ‘What is a website?’”
That night, he recalls, “I took the phone off the hook in the kitchen and typed ‘key word: law’ into AOL. I found message boards with thousands of people asking legal questions. I quickly realized that a law firm could use the Internet for marketing. I thought, ‘Even if I get disbarred for helping people, I’ll do it.’ I drafted a short disclaimer and answered people’s questions in two or three paragraphs. Everyone loved it. I got fan mail, people thanking me.”
Soon after, O’Keefe launched Prairielaw.com, an online community for consumers and small business owners. “It took a lot of time and I didn’t make a lot of money, but I was getting work locally” as a result.
In 2001, O’Keefe sold Prairielaw.com to LexisNexis. Then he read about the blogging platform Typepad and decided to explore the then new frontier of blogging. “One of my goals was to write better and to share my ideas.” A few years later, he launched LexBlog, which provides custom social media solutions and strategies for lawyers. “I thought I had a gift for helping lawyers use the Internet,” he explains. “It’s about relationships, not search engine optimization.”
From Seattle, where he’d moved to be in a technology center, O’Keefe built LexBlog, now a 6,000-subscriber international network devoted to online marketing for lawyers, by networking with college alumni and “thinking big,” a philosophy he adopted after reading Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s book. Recognized as one of the first attorneys to embrace legal blogging, he regularly gives keynote presentations on the subject.
O’Keefe is certain that he couldn’t have succeeded in the tech world or the blogosphere without his law degree. “It’s one of best degrees in the world you can get. It opens up to you ways to critically look at things. I’ve got five kids and I would be proud of any of them for going to law school.”