One of the best known and most linked-to blogs in the country is the eclectic Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground, formerly known as Notes From The (Legal) Underground.
--Helen W. Gunnarsson in “Do We Blawg and How?” (Illinois Bar Journal 5/06)
I've talked about various components of an effective leader brand. But how does all of this leader branding stuff work in real life to gain notoriety, worldwide recognition and, most importantly, paying clients? Allow me to introduce Evan Schaeffer.
--Vicki Kunkel in “How to Achieve Rock Star Status as a Lawyer” (Jolt! 6/06)
I first noticed I was becoming famous sometime last year. It was time to renew my license plates and I was standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The line wrapped around the inside of the building and out into the street. A half hour passed, then an hour. I was getting very frustrated. But then a woman wearing a Department of Motor Vehicles badge came over and told me I was standing in the wrong line. She said I was standing in the line reserved for new drivers’ licenses. I must have made a pretty surly-looking face, because right away she got all defensive. “Hey, I’m sorry you’re in the wrong line,” she said. “It’s just that I saw the documents in your hand and they’re not the right documents. Not for this line, anyway.”
In retrospect, I wish I would have thanked her. Instead, I just glared and moved over to the next line. It was even longer than the first. Standing in that line provided me with lots of time to think about what had just happened. She’d seen the documents in my hand. There was something odd about that. Why had she been looking at my documents? Why had she been looking at my hand? I didn’t think it was merely a lucky break. It was something more than that. That’s when it hit me. It was my weblog. The lady wasn’t just an anonymous bureaucrat from the Department of Motor Vehicles. She was a fan of Legal Underground. Hallelujah!
That’s how it started. For lots of people, it probably would have been enough. Setting up a weblog is one thing, but getting an actual person to read it is quite another. Believe me, it’s no easy achievement. My achievement was even more noteworthy since my first reader was pretty high up in the government. Of course, my case was only circumstantial. But why else had the woman singled me out to switch lines? As everyone knows, good looks can only get you only so far. That’s especially true if you’re a lawyer. And good looks don’t get you anywhere at the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s why I was pretty sure the woman’s attentions meant my weblog had finally taken off.
Of course, one reader didn’t mean much. Not to me, anyway. I was shooting higher. Much higher. I was going for rock star status.
In retrospect, it seems like it was all so easy. As everyone knows by now, I achieved rock star status almost overnight. But it wasn’t all fun and games. It's easy to forget all the hard work that goes into achieving rock star status. Who remembers that Britney Spears was once a Mouseketeer? Or that Professor Bainbridge used to get beat up on the playground? Or that Instapundit had to write a first post? Or that Ann Althouse was once a law professor? See what I mean? That’s how it is with me. I was once a nobody too. I think you’ll forgive me if I skip over that part of my life—all that posting and linking and watching my traffic numbers and arguing with big nobodies in comments that no one ever read—and get right to what it’s like for me today. I want to introduce you to Evan Schaeffer, the lawyer with rock star status. I’m not one to boast, but it kicks ass to be me. You haven’t lived until you’ve shown up late for an oral argument in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals or maybe the Eighth or the Ninth and all the clerks are waiting for you in front of the courthouse, chanting your name, waving banners, not caring a bit whether your hair is uncombed or whether there’s a bit of vomit left on your shirt from the night before. It’s cool, people, and it’s my life. Like I said, it kicks ass. Why would the clerks care that I’m late for oral argument? Just having me show up is enough. The judges don’t care, either. In fact, they expect it. That’s the kind of thing that rock star status gets you as a lawyer. It’s not all good, of course. Not only do I have to spend a good amount of time partying every night, but I also have to get a post or two together every morning. If you don’t have a weblog of your own, it might be hard for you to understand, but it’s a lot of work showing up to places in the morning when you have to think up something to post about first. The clerks at the federal appellate courts understand this, at least when it comes to lawyers with rock star status. So do the judges. They’re hip to the whole weblogging thing. They know what it means to be a weblogging rock star. They know that if my eyes are red from partying the night before and I decide to keep my sunglasses on when I start my argument, it’s just me being me. They understand that right after I get started, I might decide to take a little break and sit back down at counsel table for a Snickers bar. The judges even understand that in the presence of a rock star, their questions are all pretty much meaningless. “What about the defendant’s argument about pendent jurisdiction?” they might ask. I love that sort of softball question. I’ll chew a little, swallow. “Beats me,” I’ll say. If it’s a lady judge, I just might give her a wink. “You know, your Honor, maybe we should adjourn to discuss that question in your chambers.” Rock star status. It’s a wonderful thing. It still gives me a thrill the way I’ll meet those lady judges in their chambers after my argument and they’ll have their robes thrown down on the floor and their blouses unbuttoned at least halfway and they’ll be standing there with a pen wanting me to sign my name on their bare skin. I’ve even signed a few judicial derrieres, believe it or not. Even the male judges like to have an autograph. It’s the sort of thing rock star status as a lawyer will get you. It’s something money just can’t buy.
I know that not everyone loves me. Some people say I’m nothing but a one-hit wonder. Some people say I’m too old for a weblog, that at forty-two, I should have retired from weblogs long ago. Some say I’m nothing but a lawyer with too much free time and a computer on the eleventh floor of an office building—that I don’t even post from underground, in other words. I know that’s what they say, but I don’t care. It’s just sour grapes. Sour grapes from webloggers who haven’t achieved rock star status. They know who they are. They’re the ones with the crappy weblogs no one reads. They’re the ones who are always complaining about people like me and the other rock stars of the blogosphere, the Instapundits and the Althouses and the Bainbridges. Boo hoo hoo. We’re supposed to feel bad because we get all the links and all the traffic and the other weblogs get nothing? Hey, it’s not our fault. Don’t blame us if we’re great. And don’t think it’s just an accident. It’s not. Money for nothing and chicks for free? Not hardly. If we have rock star status, we have it for a reason. It’s because we’re better than the rest, we work harder than the rest, and we don’t have to beg. Not ever.
Not very often, anyway. But now that we’re at the end of this post, I should point out that despite all my bravado, there are times I lie awake in the middle of the night and wonder when it all might end. It could happen, couldn’t it? Sure it’s unlikely, but who knows? That’s why if Instapundit or Ann Althouse or Professor Bainbridge could spare a link, I sure would appreciate it. Hell, I'd even settle for a link from Howard Bashman. It’s not like I’m begging or anything. I’m asking politely as one weblogger with rock star status to four others. Believe me, if I didn’t have rock star status already, I wouldn’t even bother asking. Not that having another weblogger mention you in a post is ever a bother! It’s not. Even webloggers with rock star status love the attention of links from other weblogs. How do you think they got that way? How do you think they stay that way? So Glenn, Ann, Steve, Howard—if you’re feeling generous, how about a link? If you want, I’ll let you share my groupies. I’ll even let you borrow my limousine. No one else even needs to know.[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]