I am absolutely gobsmacked that we’ve made it to nine years of blogging here at Zen. It’s been an adventure! I never imagined when I first began writing in this little corner of the internet how much joy blogging would bring me, but it’s allowed me to connect with people all over the world, and have some brilliant and interesting conversations with some wonderfully smart and thoughtful people.

In nine years of blogging, we’ve seen:

  • Almost 1,110 posts
  • More than 58,000 page views (WOW!)
  • Visitors from almost 200 countries and six of the seven continents

I’m looking forward to connecting with even more of you in the future, and continuing to deepen the conversations that we’ve had here on Zen.

So what has 9 years in legal blogging taught me? I wanted to share with you 9 lessons about the legal industry that I’ve picked up over the last 13+ years.

  • Speak up. When blogs were first introduced, I was reading a number of them in the legal industry, but didn’t think I had anything to contribute myself. I didn’t think I had a voice, or anything to say. Obviously, I changed my mind about that. But wherever you are in your career, find a platform that you’re comfortable with and intrigues you, and use it to find your voice, even if you’re not sure you have one yet. Use it to ask questions, connect with people, respond to others, and you’ll learn along the way.
  • Don’t be the smartest person in the room. As that quote goes, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. That’s been so true for me. When I’m surrounded when intelligent, passionate people, I’m learning, the fire inside me is ignited, and my own ideas and passion are given wings. Whether that’s an ACTUAL room, or just the “room” that you’re in online, always keep looking to engage with people both inside and outside of the industry that are on the cutting edge of the topics you want to know more about, and the topics you should know more about.
  • Do more listening than talking. If you’re a long-time follower, you already know I’m an introvert, so it can be natural for me to listen in unfamiliar situations (my better friends may be confused by this, because I can also be a talker). By doing more listening than talking, asking more questions than offering answers, you’ll learn more about the person that you’re talking to, and how you can help them. This can especially serve you well when you’re working with a client or potential client, because you may uncover something that’s a pain point for them the longer you let them speak, and the more probing questions you ask. This is relevant in blogging too, because while you may have a lot to offer in your writing, your writing will be made better by reading what others have to say, both in blogs and other platforms. Engage with those smarter people wherever you can, share their stuff, and grow.
  • The next best thing may be right in front of you. In an exciting and changing world, we can sometimes want to throw everything away and start fresh (and I’ll get to that in a second). But it can be important to pause and look at what’s in front of you, to see what the value is. We’re always striving for the next big project, but what about the projects we’re already working on? Does it make sense for me to throw myself into Snapchat when I’ve built a strong community here on Zen and through LinkedIn, and that’s where the bulk of my audience is? No. But I should always be evaluating what my audience wants within that channel, and ensuring that I’m delivering value in my communications, and in my work – sometimes that means that it continues as it is, and sometimes it means making big changes. Which brings me to…
  • Always be open to change. Finding value in your current strategy and tools doesn’t mean you aren’t open to change. The legal industry is changing particularly rapidly (for us) at the moment, and we have to adapt. But we have to adapt strategically. It’s not about buying the shiny new thing off the shelf – it’s about looking at what our needs are, what our clients’ needs are, and what problems we need to solve, and then finding the solutions (be they technological, personnel, or otherwise) and implementing them. It also means that whether we implement a new tool or not, we need to know what they are – not necessarily all of the nitty gritty details, but at least to be able to have an intelligent conversation around them so that we can evaluate whether they’re right for us. (That applies to the delivery of services as much as the delivery of messaging)
  • Sharing works. In an industry that tends to (seem to) thrive on silos, it’s tempting to put our noses to the grindstones and not pick them up for anything. Particularly if your firm rewards an eat what you kill mentality, it feels like there’s no reason to share clients, share work, share referral sources with anyone. But sharing works. Blogging and networking have been an especially good teacher of this for me – when I am generous with what I know, when I offer a forum for others to share what they know, when I connect people, all of those things eventually benefit me in some way. So while everyone has a voice, make sure that yours isn’t the only voice you’re listening to and connecting with others. We’re all better when we collaborate – as they say, a “rising tide lifts all boats.”
  • Keep learning & stay engaged. Blogging has amplified my desire to continue learning and engaging within the legal industry, which has added such richness to not only my blogging experience, but also my career. I enjoy taking opportunities to try different conference topics so that I’m able to share them here, test out new technologies and tools, and take the risk of engaging with thought leaders for the benefit of readers, as well as my clients. Using every opportunity to broaden your knowledge, not just of the immediate subject you’re focused on, but some of the newer ideas out there, can make your writing more dynamic, drive passion back into your work, and connect  you with your audience. I’ve found some of the best ways to do this can often come from a simple conversation with a friend or colleague in the industry on a unique topic – you don’t have to be sitting in front of a presentation to learn.
  • Draw from your audience. You know I love to draw it back to the audience whenever I can, and this matters whether you’re writing a blog post, or working with a client – what does the other person want or need most that you can provide for them? As long as the message or the work is always focused on that – rinse, and repeat – you will find ways to be successful.
  • Take time to reflect. I’m a fan of progress, but I also like to look back to see where we’ve come from too. It helps me to consider whether there are some ideas that I may want to try again (sometimes, we were trying to implement a good idea, but at the wrong time), and to appreciate the group effort that it’s taken to drive success. We’ve been reflecting a lot this year already, because the ILN is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year (that’s diamonds, in case anyone is planning to send a gift…), and so I’m feeling especially sentimental about what a tremendous gift working together with our members, those in the legal blogging community and the wider industry has been.

So happy 9 years to all of you! Thanks to those of you who have been here since the beginning of this journey, and those of you who have joined us along the way. I look forward to many more posts!