Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Legal blogs in Australia

My thanks to Legal Eagle's Fifteen Minutes of Fame for drawing my attention to an interesting article by Liz Porter in Melbourne's Sunday Age, 14 October 2007.

In a previous story (28 September) I reported on the growth of blogging in the US. I have been watching the same process here.

According to Liz Porter, Australian firm Freehills has embraced the US practice of using blogs to raise its corporate profile, launching two blogs by Australian lawyers in its Singapore office. I have no reason to doubt this, but I think that Freehills may have something to learn since I have been unable to find the blogs.

In addition to professional blogs, Liz notes that some younger lawyers are using blogs as therapy, writing anonymous "secret life of a law firm" web diaries about luxuriously appointed "billable hour" hellholes, where workaholic senior partners drive junior associates through 18-hour working days.

According to Liz, Melbourne's own "Anonymous Lawyer" is Trixie Allan, author of "Lawyertrix — adventures of a (disenchanted) lawyer". Also 28, she is a junior solicitor in a "BCF" — big city firm — who began her blawg as "therapy" during a rough patch at work. She now posts instalments in her work/life story up to three times a week.

I had actually missed this blog, and read it with a degree of amusement. I can understand why some of her readers might find entertainment in try to guess the firm!

Now Liz notes that Trixie's bosses know nothing of her blogging activities. Mm. She also suggests that Trixie's partners may well share the views of law firm Baker & Mackenzie, whose management warned in a 2006 newsletter that "the democratic nature of the blog is a big risk factor for corporate users" and suggested a policy requiring firms to come up with an outline of "who is entitled to blog".

Liz's story also explained to me why the only other local "anonymous lawyer" blawg, Junior Lawyers Union, had stopped posting. Apparently the lawyer in questions had quit his law firm.

I will miss JLU. Like Lawyertrix, it also looked at the quality of working life for young lawyers. Its stories, including its focus on depression, provided the case study material that I used in my depression series.

Liz also quotes "Legal Eagle", the author of the post I mentioned at the start of this story. A Melbourne lawyer and academic, LE's Legal Soapbox is one of my personal favourites.

LE is reported as saying that "Anonymous Lawyer"-style expose blogs will always be rare because blogging is so dangerous for junior associates. Liz also records LE as saying:

"Most of the blawgs I know are written by academics, law students, judges associates or barristers," she says. "If you work in a large law firm, there's not enough time to indulge in blogging. Billable hours mean that you have to account for every six minutes and billing targets mean you spend all your time working. And young solicitors would be too afraid of being found out and sacked. The Melbourne legal community is so small, and everyone knows one another."

In all, Liz has written an interesting and entertaining article well worth reading.

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