In the interest of disclosure, I’d have to admit that I probably would have never thought to attend the first ever Blogher conference on women and blogging but for the invitation of our fearless law.com affiliate leader, Lisa Stone. As another woman admitted in the closing remarks, I’ve never attended an all woman’s event or joined a woman’s bar association or taken Women’s studies classes in college or law school. Truth be told, I don’t really have that many female friends (though having three sisters compensates for that) and though I’m a mom, I’m not very capable at organizing playgroups or involving myself in the PTA. But the Blogher conference intrigued me, so I went, had a blast and now, like my fellow bloghers, I’m back to share some of my thoughts, what I’ve learned and what I plan to do (solo readers, listen, there’s practice tips mixed in here, I promise!!).
1) Where are the women law bloggers, I pondered with Kathleen Krawlowec of the substance-rich blog, The UCL Practitioner. We took a brief survey, coming up with Denise Howell (who’ll be forever immortalized for coining the term “blawg”), Cathy Kirkman (whom I met at the conference), the frequently overlooked Janell Grenier and also Article III Groupie (who describes herself as female) of the entertaining Underneath Their Robes, also Ruth Edlund, The Dark Godess of Replevin. Are there other female law bloggers still out there – and does it matter?
2) Potential clients follow the money, I learned from comments at this panel, Women Who Want to Build and Fund Things. At least two participants said that they hired their specific attorneys because they believed that the attorneys would have access to venture capital, angel investors and other funding sources. The lesson for lawyers? Spend time with people who have funding, either rich people looking to give it away, foundations seeking worthwhile investment or venture and investment banking firms. Perhaps you won’t get business from them, but your contacts with them will make you attractive to clients who’ll hire you not just for your legal skill in negotiating contracts or drafting NDA’s, but also for your ability to help get them funding.
3) You never know who you might meet. Because my area of specialty (energy regulation) is so specialized, I’d assumed that at blogher, I wouldn’t meet anyone remotely connected to my field. Wrong! My co-panelist, Toby Bloomberg (Diva Marketing Blog), told me about someone who’ll soon be starting an energy related blog. Adina Levin of Save Muni Wireless works on municipal wireless (analagous to municipalization of electric utility systems that I’ve handled in the past) and also ran a successful blog based campaign to save municipal wireless in Texas which gave me some ideas for my newly formed trade association. I met Amy Gahran, a journalist who covers energy related issues.
The lesson here? You can meet people worth networking with anywhere. It’s more a function of the type of people involved than the type of event. I’ve attended numerous conferences and bar functions on energy law and never came away with a single business card because so few people even wanted to talk about their practice area or mine. By contrast, the reason that I was able to make connections with the women I’ve listed is because they had either publicly shared their ideas or approached me to let me know what we had in common. From now on, when I decide what conferences I want to attend, I’ll give equal weight to the types of people who’ll attend as well as the substance of the conference itself.
4) For once, throw ROI out the window! ROI – return on investment. Previously, I’d heard this phrase only in the context of obscure energy rate cases, but now it’s the buzz word of marketers. What’s the ROI on a website or a weblog or the yellow pages? Or, if you don’t know your ROI, you can’t succeed in practice. I agree, ROI is important, but not always. When I made the decision to attend Blogher, I threw ROI out the window; I decided to go because I’d been invited and because it seemed interesting and important. And I’ve come away with a headful of new ideas, a sense of awe at the dynamic and exciting ways that women are using Blogs and a feeling that I’m part of a larger community outside of the law. Blogher was just the kind of reprieve that I needed to get myself inspired again about new ideas for my practice.
Why not try it? Next time, you see a conference that appeals to you for whatever reason – be it a course on handling pro se divorces or an entrepreneur discussing how he built an internet empire – sign up purely for interest and curiousity, without any concern for the direct return to your practice. I guarantee that you’ll come away with far more than you bargained for.
5) Tag – now solos are it! I learned more about Technorati — the rankings (and if they matter) and tags. I’d like to create a “solo practice” or “small firm practice” tag that all solo and small firm lawyers can use in posts and which would aggregate the many diverse posts on solo practice in one place. Also, I’m hoping that it will serve as a way to get solo sites more exposure. I’ll be starting that campaign by the end of the week and will explain more about how it works. Let me know what you think. In the meantime, I’ve tagged this post “blogher” as indicated below.