As I recently announced here, in January I joined LexBlog as its publisher and editor-in-chief. Later today, I am heading to New Orleans for the annual meeting of the Legal Marketing Association, where we will be making an announcement that I am excited about — and that you get to read here first.

At LexBlog, we are preparing to launch a global news and commentary network based on content from legal blogs. Today, we are announcing that we are opening participation in the network to any legal blogger, without cost and without regard to whether the blog is hosted on the LexBlog platform.

This means that anyone who is blogging about the law will be able to extend the blog’s reach to wider audiences and be part of a first-of-its-kind legal news network. The developing network already includes blogs from more than half the AmLaw 100 as well as from a diverse array of practitioners, professors, law students and others.

Content published through the network receives additional exposure through publication to the Fastcase legal research service and through bar association publishing portals.

Any legitimate legal blog with an RSS feed qualifies to be included. To add your blog, go to lexblog.com/join and complete the brief membership form.

In a statement we’ll be putting out, Kevin O’Keefe, LexBlog’s founder and CEO, says:

Bloggers are the citizen journalists of law, reporting and commenting on news across jurisdictions and practice areas. Our goal is to build a comprehensive network that is inclusive of all legal blogs, in order to provide the greatest breadth and depth of coverage.

Our ultimate goal is to make the LexBlog network valuable for both publishers and readers of legal blogs. For publishers, we want to help them extend their reach to a global audience. For readers, we want to offer as wide a range of content as possible, but curated to make it useful a reader’s specific interests.

LexBlog was founded in 2003 to empower lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate their business relationships through blogging, Today, its platform is home to more than 15,000 legal bloggers and over half of the nearly 1,000 blogs published by the 200 largest U.S. firms.

 

Recently I announced that I would be joining LexBlog as publisher and editor-in-chief. I started Jan. 1 and I am proud to unveil our first publication — Legalweek Monitor, a first-of-its-kind publication devoted to publishing gavel-to-gavel coverage of ALM’s Legalweek conference, which begins Jan. 29 in New York City.

Legalweek is actually multiple conferences, including the well-known tech conference Legaltech, as well as LegalCIOLegalMarketing, the Business of Law Forum, and the Legal Diversity & Talent Management Forum. There are also three standalone workshops devoted to artificial intelligence, in-house leadership and solo practice.

What we hope to do with Legalweek Monitor is serve as a one-stop source for anyone interested in keeping up with developments throughout Legalweek, whether you are attending in person or following from afar. Our plan is to curate and aggregate:

  • Blog posts about or related to the conference. If you are a blogger covering any aspect of the conference, let us know and we’ll include your post.
  • Bylined articles from attendees and exhibitors related to the conference.
  • Press releases from the conference. If you have news to announce, send it our way and we’ll include your release in full.
  • Original coverage from members of the LexBlog team and from outside contributors.
  • Video and media, including interviews direct from the conference.

We would love to have you contribute. If you are writing or broadcasting from the show or about the show, let us know — we’ll be happy to publish, republish or link to your content.

How can you reach us? Easy, email us at monitor@lexblog.com.

Let me know your thoughts.

Most of my legal career has been spent with at least one foot in legal publishing, media and journalism. I have been an editor, publisher, editorial director, magazine writer, blogger and podcaster. I’ve worked for ALM, Lawyers Weekly and Dolan Media, and contributed to Above the Law, the ABA Journal, Law Practice magazine and dozens of other publications, blogs and websites.

But I’ve been worried about the state of legal media. The traditional media on which we’ve relied is evaporating. As news staffs shrink and publications disappear, coverage of key issues is reduced or nonexistent. Whatever shrinking coverage remains is increasingly getting locked behind paywalls. Newer forms of legal publishing are emerging, but their primary focus is on pay to play – on getting law firms and vendors to pay them to be covered by them or to have their articles published.

However, there is one area of legal publishing in which coverage and analysis is increasing, in which key legal developments are regularly tracked, and where all of the content is free, no subscriptions required. It is a medium in which leading lawyers, academics, technologists, law librarians, consultants, vendors and other legal professionals are regularly contributing their insights and knowledge. It is, without doubt, the most vibrant area of legal publishing that exists.

I’m talking, of course, about blogging.

Name a legal topic. Name an aspect of practice. Name a jurisdiction. Someone is sure to be blogging about it. Whatever you want or need to keep up with in your own work, chances are good someone is blogging about it. Probably several someones.

That said, there has been one obstacle to consuming all this content. It is not easily found, intelligently aggregated or professionally curated.

That is why I am thrilled to announce that I am joining LexBlog as publisher and editor-in-chief of a new arm of the company that will make legal news, information and analysis more easily and intuitively accessible to legal professionals and the public and that will shine a light on the many bloggers who are writing all this.

For many months now, LexBlog founder Kevin O’Keefe and I have been discussing the past and future of legal publishing. We have a vision for how to help legal professionals get easier and enhanced access to valuable legal content. And we have a vision for how to help the community of legal bloggers achieve greater visibility for their writing.

I start Jan. 1. In the coming weeks and months, both here and at LexBlog’s development blog, donuts.lexblog.com, I and others on the LexBlog team will be documenting our development process and keeping you posted as we roll out a new legal media network. As we do, we’d love to hear from you about what you think and what you’d like to see. Meanwhile, stay tuned.

P.S. For those who may be wondering, my work with LexBlog will be part-time, ensuring that I have time to continue to write this blog and to continue my lobbying work on behalf of the newspaper industry in Massachusetts.

In a post here last January, How LexBlog Quietly Reinvented Itself This Year, I described how the 14-year-old LexBlog had gone through a fundamental reinvention of both its business model and its blogging platform over the past year. Now, it is taking a further step in that new direction by offering to license that platform to others in the legal field.

The open-source platform, which LexBlog calls Apple Fritter, is the design and publishing platform that powers LexBlog’s network of some 15,000 legal professionals blogging across several thousand different blogs. LexBlog will now make it available to law firms, bar associations, web development companies,
marketing and communications agencies, and other legal publishers.

The idea is to provide a self-service platform for entities that want their own managed digital design and publishing platform but that do not want to take on the cost and effort of building, hosting and maintaining such a platform. Licensees of the platform could use it to design and launch blogs, websites, microsites or magazines, using various pre-configured options and themes.

“LexBlog is as much a technology company as it is a publisher,” said LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe. “Apple Fritter is a state-of-the-art design and publishing platform that’s engineered to meet the needs of digital designers, developers and publishers in the legal industry.”

All sites deployed using Apple Fritter are maintained in LexBlog’s secure, redundant, minimal-downtime hosting environment. If desired, the sites can be included in the LexBlog Network for greater visibility.

O’Keefe founded LexBlog in 2003 to develop blogs for lawyers. For many years, it sold custom design and development of blogs, at prices to match the custom effort. But the focus of its reinvention last year was to enable it to sell blogs at much lower prices and to launch them more quickly, in order to serve a greater number of legal professionals.

“Part of what we’re going for is to make self-publishing and blogging more accessible to a smaller-firm lawyer or individual lawyer,” Joshua Lynch, LexBlog’s chief technology officer, told me last January. “At the same time, it gives us a lot of tools to help larger firms or organizations such as bar associations publish many blogs.”

Needless to say, the legal research market has long been dominated by Westlaw and LexisNexis. Even as any number of other legal research platforms have come along, what has continued to distinguish the big two are their libraries of secondary legal materials.

While it is relatively easy for a smaller legal research company to provide access to primary law such as cases and statutes, it is much more difficult and expensive to provide access to secondary content such as treatises, practice guides and expert commentary. In this sense, secondary content is the Holy Grail for any company aiming to compete in the big leagues.

Yet over the past decade, a rich body of expert commentary has developed in the form of thousands upon thousands of blog posts from lawyers who are experts in their fields across all areas of law. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the LexBlog network, where a company that started out creating blogs for lawyers is now host to a network of more than 15,000 legal bloggers regularly producing posts about virtually every legal topic.

So it makes perfect sense that Fastcase and LexBlog are today announcing a new Fastcase library of expert legal commentary, fueled by curated posts from LexBlog’s network of legal bloggers. The new library will be available at no extra cost to all Fastcase subscribers.

“We’re pushing hard to add the best secondary sources for our members,” said Fastcase CEO Ed Walters. “The LexBlog network is a platform for some of the nation’s leading experts in law to report and synthesize legal news and developments. And the collection of every day’s LexBlog posts reads like the most compelling legal newspaper in America.”

“In addition to providing new exposure to the great writers on LexBlog, we hope that our partnership with Fastcase creates incentives for bloggers to write more and better, more substantive posts about the law,” said LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe. “Every blog on our network is a powerful platform to share expertise – but all of them together, on a popular service like Fastcase, creates an even more powerful channel for law firms.”

The LexBlog content is available only in Fastcase 7. I learned of this news last night and was able to try it briefly with a couple of quick searches. I found some useful and in-depth articles about some rather esoteric topics. It is nice to be able to search across a wide range of blogs and quickly find relevant posts.

The dashboard of a demo site in LexBlog's new blogging platform.
The dashboard of a demo site in LexBlog’s new blogging platform.

When lawyer Kevin O’Keefe started LexBlog in 2003, many in the legal industry thought the idea of a company devoted to nothing but lawyer blogs was crazy. After all, blogs were still a nascent technology then and relatively few lawyers even had blogs. Thirteen years later, LexBlog is going strong, with some 15,000 lawyers blogging through its platform across several thousand different blogs, publishing more than 200 posts a day.

What few realize, however, is that over the past year, the Seattle-based company underwent a fundamental reinvention of both its business model and its blogging platform. The transition has taken LexBlog from being essentially a service-based agency focused on individual projects to something more akin to a Software as a Service company focused on a core product.

Where LexBlog previously sold custom design and development of blogs, at custom prices, it now sells blogs as products, still allowing for customization in blog designs, but enabling the company to sell blogs at much lower prices and to launch them much more quickly, in order to serve a greater number of legal professionals.

“Part of what we’re going for is to make self-publishing and blogging more accessible to a smaller-firm lawyer or individual lawyer,” Joshua Lynch, LexBlog’s 28-year-old chief technology officer, told me during a recent interview. “At the same time, it gives us a lot of tools to help larger firms or organizations such as bar associations publish many blogs.”

From Projects to Product

For most of its 13 years, when LexBlog got a new customer, it would design and develop the blog’s theme from scratch. That was time consuming and expensive, requiring 50 hours or more to launch a blog. It also limited LexBlog’s ability to roll out new features and enhancements across all its customers’ blogs, since each was essentially a unique bucket of code.

LexBlog CTO Joshua Lynch
LexBlog CTO Joshua Lynch

So the company decided to channel some of that engineering time into building a multi-tenant WordPress platform that would better serve all its customers, new and existing, Lynch told me.

“Now, we can set them up with presets and themes and they can add blogs or remove blogs easily,” Lynch said. “So a client such as Fox Rothschild, with 40-something blogs, as they decide to add new blogs, it will be simple for them to do it and get launched.”

Before, a new customer would pay an up-front design fee of $5,500 and then an annual subscription starting at $3,600 and scaling up from there based on customization and features.

Now, LexBlog offers subscription pricing of $99, $199 or $305 per month (when paid annually), depending on features and support options.

This transition has also allowed LexBlog the flexibility to offer its blog platform free to law students, professors and administrators, as O’Keefe recently announced.

New blogs can now be launched in just days, Lynch said, using what LexBlog calls a guided-launch process. “A new customer has a design consultation and then we work with you to get your first posts published and customize elements of your site.”

“Our product approach to our new platform enables us to deliver the same great design our customers expect, but with more features and better mobile, search and accessibility optimizations 一 all at a fraction of the price,” Lynch said.

Integration with Fastcase

LexBlog names its development projects after the donuts sold in the shop across the street from its offices. This one was tagged Apple Fritter, and part of its blueprint is to enable integrations with other legal applications.

lexblogfastcasesearch
New Fastcase integration lets users search for cases while writing a blog post.

Most recently, LexBlog launched an integration with the legal research platform Fastcase, enabling a user, while writing a blog post, to search for a case from within WordPress and then add a citation or hyperlink to the case to the blog post.

A possible next step in this integration, Lynch said, would be for Fastcase to index those posts alongside the cases they cite, so that someone doing research in Fastcase would see blog posts about a case together with the case itself. (This sounds similar in concept to what Casetext does.)

Many of LexBlog’s legacy customers have yet to move to the Apple Fritter platform, but about a third of them have. Having focused on developing and launching the platform during 2016, Lynch says he will be more proactive in 2017 about getting customers to migrate.

“Out of the box when we launched, Apple Fritter had far more depth and features built in than we could ever do on a project-by-project basis,” Lynch said. The new platform makes it much easier, for example, to optimize blogs for accessibility and to design them to be responsive across all types of devices.

What other donuts does LexBlog have cooking? One is its Nutella project, by which LexBlog’s help center and associated resources were made accessible from directly within a blog’s administration area. This provides customers with easy access to the knowledge base and articles on blogging best practices. This year, the company will add live chat support directly within the platform.

In the grand scheme of things, Lynch said, the next step, after making it easier for lawyers to launch new blogs, is to more extensively aggregate those posts into LXBN, a LexBlog site that continuously aggregates content published on the blogs it hosts.

“With our new product and plans, we’re aiming to make self-publishing accessible to the individual lawyer, whether they’re at a small or large firm, and to help large firms and organizations publishing many blogs,” Lynch said. “Our roadmap for 2017 includes building design and launch tools for our customers to launch sites on demand with no initial fee.”

For examples of blogs using the Apple Fritter platform, see: