John Bolch of Family Lore recently posed the question, Has Blawging Become “Establishment”?
One of the beauties of blogging is that there are (virtually) no rules as to what format a blog should take. The problem, however, is that the establishment thinks it knows best and inevitably tries to take over the medium. Before we know where we are, we have blawging mavens making their pronouncements to the minions from on high, telling us all the right and the wrong ways to do things…Then there is the content of the establishment blawg. Safe, strictly on topic. The sort of thing you could read in any legal periodical.
I didn’t respond at the time because it’s an interesting question, and I wanted to think about my answer. This blog began life in 2007, when there were relatively few family law blogs. Since then, “blawging” has boomed and blogs have become a staple feature of many firms’ websites.
However I’m not so sure that being “establishment”, or otherwise, actually matters. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and their own ways of doing things, whether these are considered “safe” or not.
For me, John’s original question prompts another:
What makes a good family law blogger?
My answer can be summed up in one word: honesty.
As a reader, as well as a blogger, I believe that honesty is a prerequisite for any good family law blogger, irrespective of that blogger’s writing style or opinion.
John knows a thing or two about honesty. He has created a fictional firm, Messrs. Venal & Grabbitt. In senior partner Edgar Venal, who is as fun to read about as he must be to write about, John gets the worst aspects of family lawyers right every time. Edgar Venal is the antithesis of what all of us should ever strive to be.
A family law blogger should be technically good, yes, but when there are so many law blogs competing for readers’ attention, I am not sure that technical competence is enough to set a blogger apart from the rest. The family law blogs I return to, time and time again, are those written by bloggers who are unafraid to give something of themselves to their posts. They are brave enough to stand up and say what they think, even when their opinions diverge from mainstream opinion. They write to the best of their beliefs and abilities, and do so with integrity.
Over at Family Lore, John pulls no punches about what he believes. I always think, “good for him” – even when we disagree!
At Pink Tape, another stalwart on my blogroll, Lucy Reed’s sunny personality comes shining through. I’ve enjoyed reading her perceptive posts for a long time and, more recently, I’ve enjoyed reading her tweets. When Lucy has a busy time with her little ones, I often think back to when Ben was little, and how I balanced my career and family life. (Some solutions were better than others: I used to do school runs in my dressing gown, and got away with it until the day Ben couldn’t get his sports kit out of the car boot…)
Over the years, I’ve found that in order to agree or disagree with other family law bloggers, I like to know enough about them to understand where they are coming from. John and Lucy are two examples of legal bloggers who let us into their lives, if just a little, so that we can appreciate their opinions are honestly expressed.
ObiterJ also writes an excellent blog, Law and Lawyers. He comments regularly on this blog, with great wisdom and insight. He is another deeply honest blogger, and when I see that he has commented, I look forward to reading his thoughts because I know they will be good.
And me? When I began to write this blog, I decided I could only be myself. I saw no point in pretending otherwise, because it would never have worked. I probably would have given up blogging long ago! I knew that not everyone would agree with my views and at the time, this seemed like a risk. Looking back though, I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it differently.
Four years on, thousands of people read this blog every month, and I am deeply grateful. This blog draws commenters who are similarly unafraid to speak their minds, and I hope that readers find the discussions as valuable as I do. As our firm’s senior partner, I am also delighted that so many of our solicitors have been keen to contribute. Hopefully I’m doing something right. So I will continue to speak out, as honestly as I can, about what concerns and interests me.
And there’s my answer, John.
Safe? I hope not!