When I just entered law school (way back in 2006), it was considered very prestigious to have one’s articles published in law journals (it still is). You were a demi-god if you had a publication in an international journal.
Online articles were completely frowned upon. You would write online only if you were really desperate and had no other option to publish.
In a world with new rules and a new game
This was before YouTube gained mass appeal, before Twitter started revolutions in countries and before Android made consuming content on mobiles the norm, before Netflix’s House of Cards beat the popularity of mainstream TV shows. The revolution of user-generated content radically transformed a lot of popular notions.
In this world, drab online articles had a new avatar that didn’t look like them at all – a highly readable, shareable and attractive way of communicating, which could enable you to publish irrespective of your degrees, qualification or connections. It was the invention of the blog. Anyone who knew their stuff or had expertise had the ability to write and communicate to an audience. Those who liked your work could read it, share it on social media and communicate effectively. If you wrote even a little bit, people could not only find you on Facebook (or LinkedIn), but they could ‘Google’ you and come across your work (most recruiters do this as a matter of habit).
How does writing blog posts compare to writing articles in ‘hard’ publications and journals?
I don’t discourage academic writing at all, but I do recommend starting out with blog posts for the following reasons:
- There is a tremendous mental block you need to get over when you have to publish something – apart from writing the article itself, you have to identify a journal, engage in repeated back-and-forth communication, comply with disparate citation standards, etc. These activities can be time consuming and is avoidable at the initial stage when you are just learning how to write. Many people are so bogged down by this that they are never able to start writing at all. Instead, publishing blog posts eases out this inertia and gets you started.
- Blogs provide an avenue to publish practically relevant content, which may not have academic value but yet be useful either for a i) professional, ii) student or ii) the common man in completing a task
- Time required for publication of blog is relatively less and an author has the opportunity to quickly collect feedback, update, write follow-on posts and improve writing skills.
- Blog posts which are shared widely get more audience than academic articles. Laymen are more likely to read blogs than articles in academic journals.
- It is easier to get feedback and even interact with your readers if you write blogs, as they are likely to reach out to you through comments, email or social media (if your blog post is even remotely interesting and delivers some value). You will even know how many people are reading your blog. For example, this blog post on how to start a microbrewery in India written Vrinda Nigam, an Amity student has got thousands of views. Look at the number of comments it has got.
- Do you know that the best law firms are encouraging their associates to spend time writing about articles because it has the ability to get the firm recognition and potentially clients as well? What do you think recruiters will say when they learn that you have real insights on such issues? In fact writing online makes it easy to share your work with recruiters – they can assess the quality of your writing and also see how much it has been read and shared. That is the ultimate social validation of expertise you can expect to show recruiters.
- Since blogs are shorter (1000 – 2000 words) it gives the write an opportunity to be specific and focus on limited issues. Learners can avoid being verbose. It is easier to understand how the writer connects with the audience when the scope is reduced to this area. Over time they can also review multiple blog posts and alter their writing style.
If you are merely interested in developing professional writing and communication skills, or writing in a way that connects with the audience, then writing blog posts regularly can be of immense value.
You don’t believe blogging can alter your career path?
Let me ask you a simple question. If you are writing for an audience, what would be the ultimate indicator of your writing – reader opinion or the size of the publisher? True, to some extent the reputation of the publisher can send signals to the reader about the article, but ultimately isn’t the quality of your work that determines whether it will be a bestseller?
You can read case studies of 3 lawyers who used blogging for professional success.
How will you use blog posts in covering letters, CV and interviews?
Once you start publishing online, your blog posts really speak about your work, and I recommend that you use them everywhere – as links of your writing in your covering letter, in your CV, as talking points in your interview and conversation starters at places where you are interning or plan to work at.
In fact, writing a great blog post itself is a journey – often, you will write based on your personal experiences of performing a specific task, hearing real problems from people or discussing an issue with a senior practitioner. Sharing this journey with recruiters will be great and it will communicate many subtle messages about your interpersonal and networking skills too (apart from your technical expertise on a particular area).
If you are interested in academic writing in future, it is still a great starting point, especially in your initial years when you are developing your research abilities.
That is why in the diploma course that NUJS conducts, we encourage writing posts that could be a part of your portfolio of work, under the guidance of mentors.
Remember, it may take you some time to realize or even appreciate this, but you need to continue writing in the meanwhile.
If you are considering writing a blog post, I’ll suggest you go through this guide. How can you assess if your post is worthy enough? Remember, the value of any blog post can be assessed if you can crisply answer the following questions:
- Which audience has it been written for? What questions does it aim to answer?
- Have you consulted or discussed the real issues with anyone in your network? (Discussion or inputs from practitioners can really help in developing a mature perspective of the topic and in covering all the obvious issues)
- Are you meaningfully adding value by writing something that is not answered by content that is already there online? (Writing from real experience, discussions or interviews with people is a great tool for achieving this.)
Does this make you want to start writing?
Abhyuday is a co-founder of iPleaders, and has conceptualized and worked on iPleaders Club, an initiative for mentoring and career counselling, accessible currently only to students of the NUJS business law diploma course. He can be reached at [email protected]