Keith Lee is an attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, where he practices estate planning, IP, and business law (including litigation). He’s perhaps best known for starting the law blog Associate’s Mind. One of the most popular legal blogs in the country, Associate’s Mind has been linked to by the Wall Street Journal, among other well known media outlets. Associate’s Mind was selected as one of the “Blawg 100″ by the ABA Journal for 2011.
1. Why did you start Associate’s Mind? What were your main goals, and have you achieved them?
I started Associate’s Mind mostly because I had looked around online for a website or blog that offered what I was looking for: professional development, research, business, psychology, etc for law students/new lawyers. I couldn’t find one, so I figured I might as well start one myself. I was also cognizant of the fact that new lawyers have to differentiate themselves now more than ever. So I started Associate’s Mind as a way to make myself stand out from the crowd.
My main goal was not to make a fool of myself! I had zero expectations for Associate’s Mind really, so the fact that anyone other than my family reads it is an achievement! That it has led to relationships with lawyers across the country, speaking engagements, book deals, being mentioned in places like the NYT, WSJ, etc. is hard to believe sometimes.
2. Did you do all of the set up for your WordPress site (hosted on BlueHost)? And what challenges did you face in setting up your blog?
I handle all of the technical backend for Associate’s Mind. Disclosure: I am a huge nerd. I first got online back in the late 80s as a kid with a 286 & a 9600 baud modem dialing into local BBSs. I started my first blog (hand coded html) back in 2001. Thankfully it’s no longer on line. So setting up WordPress was fairly straightforward for me. For lawyers who are not so tech savvy, I’d suggest they just go with a www.wordpress.com hosted blog. It’s about as easy as can be to get started with a new blog. Don’t worry about the technology, focus on your writing.
3. Your New Legal Blogger Guide (PDF) is a great downloadable resource that you make available on your blog. What are the main lessons that new law bloggers should take away from your Guide?
Thanks! I wrote it after a few months into blogging because it was the type of thing I was looking for when I started, but there wasn’t anything else out there. I’d say lawyers new to blogging should focus on the following:
- Honesty/Integrity. Always be straightforward about who you are (school, bar admission, etc.) and what you’re about. Never do anything deceptive.
- Have an opinion. If all you are going to publish is wishy-washy thoughts and neutral tripe, don’t bother. Say something that informs people and that matters.
- Build relationships. Good bloggers reach out and post about other lawyers, comment on other lawyer’s blogs, and generally interact with the online legal community. Don’t expect people to come to you, nor should you expect to be greeted with open arms. It takes time to build relationships.
- Don’t worry about the technology. Forget SEO, social media, etc. Focus on consistently producing good writing. That’s the cake, everything else is icing.
- Having a blog is a lot of work. Lots of people get started and blog for a couple months and then fizzle out. It takes time, energy, and persistence to keep a blog going. You have to want to write. If you don’t want to write, don’t start a blog.
4. Has your blog helped your professional development, and if so how?
I can easily say that I would not have the opportunities and relationships I have without having started Associate’s Mind. Also, the discipline of churning out posts on a regular basis has made my writing (legal or otherwise) much better.
5. You have a new book coming out called The Marble and The Sculptor. Tell us a little bit about why you wrote the book, and what you hope it accomplishes.
Similarly as to why I started Associate’s Mind, I didn’t feel as though there was a book available to law students/new lawyers that addresses the current state of the legal market. Yes, there have been numerous books written about becoming a new lawyer, but almost all of them are dated. Anything written before 2009 has little relevance. The lawyer job market, and the legal industry as a whole, is in upheaval.
That problem is compounded by the fact that law schools teach students how to think like lawyers, but not how to practice like lawyers. They have been miserable at properly preparing their graduates to function as useful attorneys after graduation. In the past, law firms and clients were the ones left footing the bill to train new lawyers – but no longer. Now law firms and clients expect new lawyers to be able to hit the ground running. Especially considering that with the oversupply of lawyers available, it is easier than ever for law firms to pick up experienced lawyers for low rates. As such, many new lawyers are left without guidance or direction.
In the past three years I have detailed my own growing pains at Associate’s Mind and offered a transparent look at my own transition from law student to new lawyer. With The Marble and The Sculptor, I present a detailed, inside view of the path I have taken in effort to become a successful attorney. Not that it’s all worked – I am certainly a work in progress. Yet The Marble and The Sculptor should hopefully provide law students/new lawyers a blueprint from which they can craft their own path to becoming a great attorney. Even if it only helps one law student or new lawyer achieve their career goals, I’ll consider it an unmitigated success.