Today marks six years since Zen & The Art of Legal Networking made its debut in the legal blogging world. In some ways, it feels like it’s been longer than that, while in others, the time has just flown!
I’ve only ever marked this "blogiversary" three other times – on the second, fourth and fifth anniversaries, when I shared a sort of "state of the blog," things I had learned, and tips for blogging. Blogiversaries, like anniversaries, should be a time of reflection, so today has got me thinking about what I’ve learned in the past year, specifically six things I can share with you from Zen.
Before I jump into that, however, I’ll tell you another thing I learned today – the traditional gift for a sixth anniversary is candy! For those who know me personally, you’ll know that I have a terrible sweet tooth, so it’s a rather appropriate gift for me. Last year, for the 5th anniversary, I donated trees in honor of wood, and this year, I purchased some candy from my niece’s school fundraising efforts to help her meet her goal!
Lesson One: Blogging is NOT Dead
I’ve heard whispers in a few corners recently that blogging is dead; that no one is really doing it anymore or at least not in the same way that they used to. But I beg to differ. I still see it as a hugely valuable component of any content marketing strategy, and one of the best ways to own your content and engage with readers.
Last year, I had a couple of opportunities to listen to LexBlog’s "5 Reasons Lawyers Should Blog" webinar, and I’m still sold on every one. In case you need a refresher:
- You can’t afford invisibility
- Share your expertise exponentially
- Your future clients are googling you
- Your competition is already doing it
- Be more profitable
I’m not just saying this because I am a blogger – there are great blogs out there, with smart, well-written content that is promoting its authors while they’re out doing legal work. Blogging is where we can become corporate journalists. I’m sure that blogging with grow and change and adapt as the industry does, and I’m excited to see where we’ll be in another six years!
Lesson Two: Be Kind to One Another
This one always bears repeating because it’s something that I keep seeing. The relative anonymity that a computer screen affords us with seems to arm people with a level of confidence and self-righteousness that allows them to reach such levels of cruelty that I’ve rarely seen. Yes, there are bullies in person, but whereas in the past, kids used to be able to escape bullies at home, their bullies are now following them through their devices.
And worse, adult bullies are following us all – even people we’ve never met before. Even people who are actually pretty nice in person, but who get a bit of a thrill out of taking someone down a peg online, simply because they can.
But each of those cutting remarks is a small chip in the fabric of kindness, and it eats away at our society. You hear people ask "how did we get here?" and "why are people so angry all the time?" and that’s a big part of it. If we all asked ourselves before we posted something – even something not directed at anyone in particular:
- Is it nice?
- Is it necessary?
- Does it need to be said?
- Does it need to be said by me?
And then hit pause before tapping our message out on the keyboard, the world may just be a bit of a happier place. Social media has created a wonderful environment, full of possibility and access…but it’s also opened up a great deal of hate. It would be a shame if instead of bringing us all together that it ultimately drives everyone further apart.
This is as much true in the legal industry as it is in general – I’ve seen comments in private groups results in the unwillingness of people with genuine questions to ask them because they’re afraid of being yelled at. That’s no way to create a supportive, growing and thriving industry. It’s up to each of us to ensure that we’re doing our part.
Lesson Three: Never Wear Blinders
It’s easy to want to look at what someone else in the industry has done before in order to know what works and what doesn’t. But there are many lessons to be learned outside of the industry as well, and often in unexpected places!
Many people think of Taylor Swift as just a pop singer with a long list of ex-boyfriends, but I consider her to be a marketing genius, who is really tapped into her fans. She’s someone we can learn a lot from, actually.
Same with this commercial from Starbucks that I fell in love with.
I’ve found that while I do learn an amazing amount from the talented people in the legal industry, I’m also well-served by staying open-minded and looking outside the industry for new ideas, a fresh perspective, and different opinions.
Lesson Four: Always Be Learning
There comes a shift at a certain point in your career, when you feel like less of a newbie to the industry, and more as if you have something to offer people. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling, but I’ve found that it’s also pretty dangerous (for me), because it means that I start to forget that I can always learn something as well.
Whether I’m learning from someone with less experience or more experience, there is always something to be gained from every interaction. In 2014, I was fortunate to be amazingly open to new experiences, which meant that I got to know myself and my industry a lot better.
- At #LMA14, I was wowed by Heather Morse & Jonathan Fitzgarrald’s presentation on generational differences, and how I should be adjusting the way I work with each of my lawyers based on their generation. Some of the frustrations I’d had with certain people made complete sense to me after their session.
- I had the good fortune to be invited to attend the LMA’s P3 Conference: Pricing, Project Management and Practice Innovation. It was two days of sessions that are totally outside of the areas I normally cover day to day, but are things that my clients hold in high value. I learned a LOT, most especially how much I don’t know.
- Being asked to serve as the Technology Committee co-chair for 2015/2016 for LMA, I was able to attend the Leadership Conference in the fall, which was a wonderful experience. There were a lot of opportunities to learn about myself, and the type of leader I can be, which is way outside of my comfort zone, but got me thinking critically.
Overall, the year showed me that no matter how much I have learned, I can never stop learning – there is always more to be revealed. My greatest lesson of 2014 was to remain teachable for 2015.
Lesson Five: Be Bold
I’ve mentioned before on Zen how fortunate I am to have developed some significant friendships through social media, and none have become more important to me than the ones I share with the co-leaders of the Social Media Special Interest Group’s Leadership Committee of the LMA (we know, it’s a long name).
We work extremely well together, and have a Facebook chat going most days to talk about a number of things, including the work of our group, which mainly focuses on developing monthly webinars for the members.
Last year, we talked about what our dream webinar would look like, if we could have any presenters we wanted – and we agreed that it would be if we could get a session with Peter Shankman and Jasmine Trillos-Decarie. We were skeptical that there was any way we’d be able to make it happen, but Gail Lamarche pointed out that it wouldn’t hurt to ask, and offered to send the email herself.
Lo and behold, they agreed! And we had a fabulous session with them, one that resulted in a couple of people actually joining the organization just so they could participate. Very exciting for us! So the lesson I learned was to be bold – the worst they could have said was no, which we were already prepared for, but if we’d never tried, it never would have worked out.
You never know what can happen if you just ask!
Lesson Six: Cinnamon Buns are More Important Than You Think
One of the most important learning opportunities for me last year was Kat Cole’s keynote speech at the LMA Annual Conference. Since she says it so much better than I could paraphrase, I’ll just end with the most important thoughts I got from her presentation:
- "Trust is the foundation of all relationships, and relationships are the foundation of all businesses."
- "Small wins rule."
- "Saying ‘yes’ can be a game changer."
- "Diversify your purpose portfolio."
- "Small enough to change, big enough to matter."
- "A funny thing happens when you build a reputation for being helpful and curious – opportunities that you could never expect happen."
- "If not me, who? If not now, when?"
- "When you have an opportunity to change, don’t wait too long."
- "The people around you know what the right thing to do is long before you have the courage to make the call."
- The hotshot rule.
- "The central key is to give. That’s what builds lasting brands. There are few more powerful branding opportunities than giving of yourself."
- "Anything worth doing is a pain in the rear."
Thanks to everyone who has supported Zen through the last 6 years – here’s to many more!