Interviews with Past and Present Writers in Residence

With great enthusiasm, we introduce you to the Ms. JD Writers in Residence Interview Project! We hope you find the advice, thoughts, and insights shared by some past and present Writers in Residence to be helpful to you as you contemplate whether you'd like to join the law blogging community. This Project is also meant to serve as a helpful resource to current "blawgers".

If after reading these interviews you'd like to learn more about the Ms. JD Writers in Residence Program, please feel free to send your inquiry to wir@ms-jd.org. 

I hope you all enjoy reading the following interviews, and I thank my fellow Writers in Residence who contributed to this conversation!

Best,

Juliana Siconolfi, 2014 Writers in Residence Program Director 

 

Christina Calloway

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

I had been following Ms. JD for a while and had the privilege of receiving the Public Interest scholarship which opened my eyes to writing for Ms. JD.  I had always received great and insightful information from the blogs on the site and I believed I had another perspective to offer.   I also was inspired to write a law blog because it gave me an outlet outside of professional writing to pursue personal pursuits of writing.

2.     What is your writing process?

My writing process begins with an inspiration or idea usually obtained through just living life (having conversations with friends, frustrations, a song, or legal issue on a TV show, etc.).  I keep a notepad with me to write down the many ideas and inspirations I'm exposed to throughout my day.  I then filter through those abstract inspirations and ideas to come up with a good topic to expand upon.  I'm a little unconventional in this day and age because I also like to handwrite things I want to write about.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Law blogging has definitely been rewarding personally because writing is something that I love to do and writing about everyday things that may involve a legal/law connection was of interest to me so it doesn't feel like work.  Law blogging has been rewarding professionally because I am able to show writing samples and utilize the prestige of Ms. JD for other writing opportunities and professional opportunities.  I could definitely more to fully engage in the blogging world which is something I believe all bloggers learn along the way.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

The legal profession benefits from law blogs in many ways; one of the biggest is that more legal perspectives are presented and the general public is able to access and learn more about the legal profession, attorneys, and the law.  Attorneys get a "bad rap" sometimes and blogging allows others outside of the legal profession to learn how to help themselves with legal issues and not be so afraid of those practicing.   Blogging offers different legal perspectives which ultimately helps those considering the practice of the law and going through all phases to becoming a practicing attorney.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

I think the best thing you can do is write well.  Blogging is not an exact science but you do need to  know how to write succinctly to catch the reader's eye.  Especially when writing about the legal profession or related topics (just as with your professional writing) you have to make sure to research topics and proofread!  Even just blogging can lead to other opportunities so you want to put present your best.

Christina Calloway, Esq. is an attorney with the Georgia Department of Public Safety, in which she is responsible for general legal matters, state administrative hearings, and transactional matters related to the Department's statutory authority.  Prior to joining the Georgia Department of Public Safety, she worked for the Georgia Department of Labor as an Administrative Hearing Officer.  Outside of her position with the Department, she also provides legal counsel and assistance to small businesses and creative individuals with legal matters including labor and employment and intellectual property.  She is an active member of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and the State Bar of Georgia's Young Lawyers Division.  She is a graduate of Georgia Southern University earning a BA in English and a Masters in Public Administration and a graduate of the Howard University of School of Law.

 

Kellie Wingate Campbell

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog? 

When I became the first female prosecutor in a rural county (first by appointment of the Governor and then following an election), I found myself without a close mentor to navigate some rough terrain. I came face-to-face with issues that led me to study both leadership and gender bias in an effort to improve my response to a variety of challenges. My blogs grew out of that experience and research.

2.     What is your writing process?

When I encounter a challenge or a topic of interest to me as a woman lawyer, I find that others in similar circumstances benefit from the 'share'. I wish my writing process was more consistent. As it is, I write from the heart when time allows, which isn't often. As a 2013 writer-in-residence with Ms. JD, I often took a personal experience and related it to challenges faced by women in the law, a very different approach from the writing process I employed to produce a statewide legal journal article on a specific statutory topic.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Blogging gave me an outlet during a challenging time in my career and continues to give me a creative outlet. Beyond what it does for me, it is rewarding to hear from someone else once in awhile that a thought or an inspiration I shared in a blog helped them in some way.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

I see so many types of law blogs: humorous, educational, inspirational and more. I enjoy the variety and I think many lawyers benefit from hearing and learning from their colleagues. I've heard that the primary audience for law blogs is lawyers even when we think we are writing for the public! That tells you that lawyers are looking to their colleagues for advice more often than we think.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

Find your voice, whether you write or not. When you find your passion, you find your voice, and from this positive motivation will come good things. 

Kellie is a twenty-five year veteran of the legal profession currently in private practice.

 

Valarie Hogan

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

 I decided to write a blog because I felt that I was doing something that a lot of lawyers think about (switching from a big law firm to a non-profit), and I thought it might be helpful for people to share my experience. I also had a personal blog for a couple of years and really enjoyed writing about my experiences.

2.     What is your writing process?

It depends on what I'm writing, but I generally keep a running list of ideas on my phone. If I can't come up with anything in the moment, I'll use the list to inspire me. Otherwise, I tend to schedule time to write and then figure out what is the most relevant thing in the moment. 

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

I've developed relationships with some great people through Ms. JD. I've also written personal essays on other sites and really found a passion for writing that I didn't know I had. 

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

Every lawyers' experience of legal practice is different and it's important to share those experiences with other lawyers and law students. I think many people think that being a lawyer only means one thing when there are literally a thousand different ways to practice law. I think it's beneficial to everyone in the profession to see how varied and diverse the practice can be.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

I think the most important thing is to just start writing and sharing. Ms. JD's program is great, but it 's so easy now to start a blog and share your experience that I think you should just do it. Talk to your friends about the things that are bothering them or use issues you've faced to inspire you. I firmly believe that you only get better through doing so start and all the rest will follow.

 

Onika K. Williams

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

Being discouraged after the first-year in law school ultimately inspired me to write a law blog.  I had a difficult first year.  I had a hard time figuring out how I learned and retained information in the "final-grade-is-your-course-grade" environment.  However, after I figured out how I learned in that environment, my grades improved vastly.  I also found that there were other ways to show employers (and myself!) that I was worthy of consideration - by illustrating my writing ability.  For example, while I did not grade on to law review, I did write on to law review.  I went on to publish a student Note.  I obtained a competitive internship as a rising 3L that provided me with ample opportunities to improve my legal writing.  I also obtained federal a clerkship, where I wrote first drafts of legal opinions.  I eventually realized that I did not fit into the mold of the "perfect law student" and that I needed to stop beating myself up about it.  I knew what I was good at (legal writing) and found ways to showcase my abilities and skills.  I wanted other students to realize there was nothing wrong with be "fabulously average" and to be proud of their accomplishments!

2.     What is your writing process?

Regardless of what I am writing, I always make sure I understand the assignment and what my deadline is before beginning any type of research or writing.  After I am sure that I understand the assignment, I come up with a writing schedule and figure out how much time I am going to allocate to research, drafting, rewriting/editing.  Next, I review any possible examples of that type of writing (e.g., a law review article, office memorandum, magazine article).  After I have an idea of what a polished finished product looks like, I quickly envision what my final product will look like.  I then do a ton of research.  Ideally, I will know what sources I am using for each part of my piece.  Depending on the assignment, this process can take anywhere from a few hours (a short memo) to months (a law review article).  After I have completed enough research to possibly write a complete draft, I begin to write.  To leave myself ample time to go back and do more research if necessary, I always try to create room in my writing timeline to return to the researching part of my process.  After I complete a first draft, I let my writing "marinate."  So, I step away from the piece for a few hours to a few days.  I then return to the piece to rewrite/edit it with "fresh eyes."  Lastly, I use a website (www.readthewords.com) or the speaking function in Adobe to have the computer read to me my document.  This allows me to literally "hear" my piece.  During this process, I make any last edits.  After reading over the piece and finding no mistakes (to my knowledge), then I submit the piece.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Legal blogging has allowed me to add a different type of writing to my "writing ability" toolbox.  As lawyers, we can get trapped in using legalese or unnecessary latin phrases.  I like for my writing to be clear and concise.  If possible, I aim to make my writing readable and understandable to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.  Legal blogging permits me to discuss conceptually difficult issues with a wide audience.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

Law blogs make legal information, happenings, and developments readily available to public.  In my opinion, these types of blogs are important because they illustrate how or why a certain ruling or law, that may seem far-removed or unimportant, impacts our everyday lives.  Additionally, law blogs provide legal practitioners the opportunity publish in a real-time manner that traditional publications, such as paper law journals, may not permit. 

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

My one piece of advice is to treat legal blogging the way you would treat any other type of legal publication.  Put forth your best efforts to make sure your piece is organized, well-researched, and supported.  Remember that when potential employers or fellow employees search for your name, your legal blogging may appear in their search results.  You want to ensure that any piece of writing that has your name on it accurately represents your abilities.

 

Kristin Holland

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

I wanted to do something new, outside my comfort zone, and be of service to the legal community. 

2.     What is your writing process?

I brainstorm ideas and then research the ones that need facts and citations.  For the others I try to be honest, even if it's painful, because I think that truth and honesty are what matters to me when I read a blog. 

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

I really like that this program forced me to write a series of blog posts.  I think they could be better and I've gone back and fixed typos or changed wording here and there, but overall I'm really happy to have a modest body of blog-work to my name on a topic that is very important to me.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

The internet is the first stop for self-help.  I think that blogs eliminate isolation and exceptionalism -- the idea that I am the only one who is dealing with this, or no one understands me.  They are great places to get advice when you feel you don't have that luxury where you work.  They advance the voices of women who are often intimidated in the workplace.   

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

Just do it!  You won't regret it.  Also, it's not as scary as you think. 

 

Katherine Larkin-Wong

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

For me, it was all about staying involved with Ms. JD.  After attending the Chicago conference, I was completely hooked on the organization and wanted to get more involved.  The Writers in Residence Program was a natural fit for me to get more involved. 

2.     What is your writing process?

I did a lot of interviews for my blog so I started with an outline of a few general questions that I knew I wanted to address with everyone.  I conducted all of my interviews by phone, asking people for no more than an hour of their time.  I'd start from the general questions and then listen to what they said.  When they said something particularly interesting, I'd follow up with new questions.  I'd turn my notes from the interview into a blog post and then send it to the interviewee to review and edit.  (Often the interviewee would find that something they said didn't read as well as they had hoped so I liked to give my interviewees the opportunity to update their writing.)  I'd post the blog and then be sure to send it to my most recent interviewee as well as all of my past interviewees so that they could see that I was still blogging! 

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

I learned to put myself out there by asking for interviews.  The worst thing someone could say was no and then I was right back where I had been before.  My Ms. JD blog also got me featured in Forbes Woman and branded as an "expert" in networking and self promotion.  I used the blog as an excuse to get to know mentors at my firm and people I saw on panels that I thought were incredibly cool.  In short, the blog became its own networking tool for me. 

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

Blogs are a great way of disseminating information, starting conversations, and creating connections.  I love to comment on other people's blogs as a way of telling them that someone out there is reading and enjoying what they say.  In this global world, technology is incredibly valuable for connecting people across geographies and time.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

Write about something you're passionate about.  The rest will follow.  Oh, and if you're serious about this for building a personal brand, learn a little bit about Search Engine Optimization and blog titles.  You'll be glad you did.

 

Ashley Ahlbrand

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

I’ve written for more than one law blog at this point, and my articles tend to fall into one of two categories: legal research instruction and experiences in law librarianship.  I blog about legal research because, as a law librarian, education is my primary objective, and a law blog seemed like a great avenue for getting my thoughts and advice out there on legal research tips and tools.  This is a skill that can often be overlooked, because we’ve all had to do research at one point or another, but specialized research, like legal research, is another game altogether, and it has to be taught.  I blog about law librarianship because it’s a profession that doesn’t get a lot of advertising, and in an age where alternative careers for your JD continue to trend, I want people to know about this career path and to have the opportunity to hear what a career in law librarianship can look like.

2.     What is your writing process?

I’m a big brainstormer!  I have lists of ideas everywhere – on my laptop, phone, iPad, work computer – that strike me while I’m reading an article, prepping for a class, or doing research for someone else.  Sometimes I’ll try to plan out which ideas I want to write about ahead of time, but often I use my lists as a grab-bag: I know I’m ready to write a new post, so I look through my lists to see what I feel like tackling that week/month.  At that point, the writing process varies based on the subject of the post: if I’m sharing an anecdote from my job, that’s easy enough to write up; if I’m sharing tips on a particular type of research, I’ll spend some time reading articles and surveys of practitioners to get an idea of what the research deficiencies are and how to solve them; and if I’m reviewing a new research tool I want to share, I take some time to explore the tool and play around, so I have an idea of its full functionality.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

It’s certainly rewarding when people give you feedback on your writing.  You put a lot of effort into your posts, but you don’t necessarily know whether they’ve had an impact on anyone; so it’s great to hear from readers that have benefited from your work.  I also find it personally rewarding to blog.  When I blog about experiences in the profession, I have a chance for self-reflection.  I often find, for instance, that experiences that seemed awful or stressful at the time turn out to have been rewarding and worthwhile in some way.  This kind of writing also allows me to think through problems I’ve been working on, and maybe benefit someone else who’s been experiencing the same situation.   

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

One of the topics I like to research is scholarly communication – how scholars produce and disseminate their scholarship.  The most common method we think of is the traditional, such as publishing a book or a journal article; but today there are so many formal and informal methods of getting your work out there, including blogs and social media.  Traditional publication methods take months to complete, sometimes resulting in your research being a little outdated by the end, so these informal channels allow you to disseminate and share your ideas more quickly, letting you become a more active member of the conversation.  I think the profession benefits from law blogs because they allow us to have a more active conversation of topics affecting the industry right now, rather than reflecting on topics that affected the industry several months ago, when the article was originally written.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

Have a plan.  You don’t have to have a rigid schedule of what to blog about when, but it takes a lot of time to compose a good blog post, and to keep your blog active, you have to publish fairly regularly, so being organized is key.  Have a purpose.  Because of the time-intensiveness of blogging, you don’t want to do it because you think you should.  Do it because you have a passion to be a part of the conversation.  Have discretion.  Think about what it means to blog, and who might read it.  The writing style for blogging tends to be somewhere in between formal journal writing and Facebook posts.  If you’re hunting for a job, keep in mind that your potential employer might see what you’re writing, and make a judgment about whether you’re hire-able based partially on that.  This can be good or bad – good if you’re writing something professional and thoughtful, bad if it’s unprofessional or sloppy.  There are many great articles and blogs out there about blogging for lawyers.  One book that you might helpful is Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers, by Ernie Svenson, published by the ABA Law Practice Management Section.  As the title suggests, it’s a quick read and chockfull of practical advice and ethical considerations of blogging in the legal profession.  But most of all, I’d advise people to go for it!  If you have a passion for a particular topic and want to share it with others and engage in the professional conversation, join us!  I, for one, have found it be a very enriching and worthwhile experience.

Ashley Ahlbrand is the Educational Technology Librarian at Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana.  In addition to contributing to several blogs on teaching legal research, law school educational technology, and law librarianship, she has her own blogs on her experiences as a new law librarian and tips and tricks for legal research.

 

Cameron Rhudy

1.  What inspired you to write a law blog?

Generally legal writing is kind of dry and boring, but law blog writing is more approachable and fun for both the writer and the reader. I was inspired to write a law blog because I wanted to explore some ideas I had about practicing law and creativity, but I didn’t want it to be too academic or structured.

2.  What is your writing process?

My writing process starts with paper and a pen, usually at a local coffee shop. I can’t start on the computer right away, I need more freedom to move on the page. And there is something very daunting about that blinking cursor on a blank computer screen. I typically start brainstorming on paper and write down as many things as I can that have occurred to me over the recent weeks or ideas that have been sparked by something I have read or heard. Once I have picked a topic, I start developing a good introduction paragraph and then figure out the rest of the article from there.  My initial notes are hard to follow. There is usually a lot of crossing out and arrows drawn here and there. Only after I have settled on my main topic and have a good messy set of fragmented paragraphs do I switch to the computer. I usually struggle a bit longer on the computer until finally the path seems to clear a bit and the article seems to come together.  For the last several days I revise, rearrange sentences, and fix typos.

3.  How has law blogging been personally or professionally rewarding?

Blogging has been personally rewarding because I have met some really interesting people along the way and it has allowed me to merge some of my seemingly unrelated interests into one space. Blogging has been professionally rewarding because it has helped me see how I have grown as an attorney and see the places where I could improve. Being a Ms. JD Writer in Residence has helped me push beyond my comfort zone and has helped me expand my writing skills.

4. How does the legal profession benefit from law blogs?

I believe that law blogs benefit the legal profession because they allow us to see the profession from a variety of perspectives. Law blogs also provide a forum for attorneys and law students to learn from each other, which makes our profession feel more connected. Being a lawyer can be challenging and, at times, isolating, so it is nice to read what other attorneys beyond our own offices have to say.

5.  What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

My advice is to give it a try even if you think you are not ready or have not blogged before. You might be surprised by what happens.

I recently read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. It made me laugh, but it is also full of some really solid nuggets of writing wisdom. Sometimes my writing process is a bit of a struggle, and this book made me realize that the struggle is perfectly normal. 

Cameron is an attorney in Sacramento, California serving creative and social enterprises and is a fellow with the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Before starting her own law practice, she was a legislative lawyer at the Office of Legislative Counsel. When she is not working or writing, she is hanging out with her husband and two adorable dogs, or geeking out over all things letterpress.

 

Brenda Hernandez

1.  WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE A LAW BLOG?

I was inspired to write a law blog because I had read many blogs but had not yet found any that had my point of view. As someone who has not taken the traditional law path, I thought it was important for others to know how versatile the law degree can be. 

2.     What is your writing process?

My process is to start by writing ideas and chunks of text by hand. I then take all those notes and type them up. I then let it sit for about a day before I come back with a fresh set of eyes to edit. I also, often have my partner give it a read before I publish. He is an amazing blogger and always offers great feedback.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Blogging has been personally and professionally rewarding because it's been great to receive feedback from readers I have never met. If I can help one person make the right career choice or change someone's perception of what a lawyer is, I have done my job.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

The legal profession benefits from law blogs because there are still so many stereotypes around lawyers. Blogs give people the chance to share their stories in their own voice.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

I think my one piece of advice is to DO IT! I think people get nervous about other others reading their writing, once I let go of the nerves it was so fun. Trust your voice.

Brenda Hernandez is a law school diversity professional. She is the Outreach Coordinator for Hollaback! Boston. She is also a Co-Director for The Boston Doula Project. You can read all about her feminism, pop culture musings, and her upcoming Latino Jewish feminist wedding at BoricuaFeminist.com.

 

Hua Wang

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

My love of writing began in college, when I was a columnist for the school newspaper.  I enjoyed receiving comments (whether positive or negative and from both friends and strangers) about my opinions in my columns.  I have continued to write for various publications, including MIT Entrepreneurship Review and The Glass Hammer.  A law blog allows me to reach out to the legal community and is a fun sideline opportunity.

2.     What is your writing process?

As a writer and blogger, I often get press passes to attend conferences, galas, and festivals.  I attend these events in order to meet interesting and innovative people as well as gain exposure to new ideas.  I come away from these experiences with a theme that I want to develop in my writing, and, through the creative process, I sometimes end up with a final product that might be different from what I originally planned.  

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Law blogging has become a type of networking for me.  I do it not because I want cultivate contacts, but it's turned into that over the years.  Growing up in an immigrant family, I didn't have the privilege and opportunity of having family connections.  I have used writing as a way to make my own connections and reach out to influential people.  

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

Law blogs offer personal and professional growth.  

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

Successful and dynamic people love to hear from students.  It's amazing to me how many students fail to recognize the tremendous networking opportunities available to them while they are in school.  I read the Wall Street Journal daily.  I believe in being on top of the news in order to be on top of my game.  

Hua Wang is currently a hedge funds lawyer at K&L Gates (and formerly a private equity lawyer at Proskauer).  She was a Global Scholar at the Kauffman Foundation and founder of a clean energy startup.  Hua graduated from Northwestern University School of Law and Duke University.  Prior to attending law school, Hua was an investment banking analyst at Lehman Brothers and a strategy consultant at Accenture.

 

Keita Rose-Atkinson

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog? 

I was encouraged to apply by a fellow WIR and member of the Ms. JD Board of Directors, Carla Laroche. Until she suggested it, I didn't really think my journey would be of much interest to people outside my immediate circle of family and friends. 

2.     What is your writing process?

I write with the knowledge that my first attempt to get something down won't be my last. I start with a free write about interesting topics that I have in mind or something that happened over the past month, but I almost always go through at least two edits to get both the substance and the grammar/format to where I'm happy with it. I guess the beginning of my writing process is essentially an idea dump, and the rest is pulling those ideas together and then cleaning up the resulting product.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Writing has always been cathartic for me; law blogging allows me to get the personal and professional aspects of my career journey out of my head and on to paper where it is easier to analyze, think about, and make decisions, if necessary. It gives me the opportunity to be reflective about the professional path I've taken, which is really important since it can be easy to plod along without thinking about what we want our future (long and short term) to look like.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

There is such a wealth of information that is out there in the legal profession, especially in terms of professional growth. However, much of that information comes from other legal professionals; law blogs help break down the barriers that can prevent us from sharing that information with each other. Particularly for women and individuals from underrepresented groups, law blogs represent a place where you can tap into knowledge about how to build your career and what to look out for when your own personal network may not give you access to that type of information.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

If you're interested, go for it! Don't screen yourself out before you even apply or try to start. Ms. JD has a lot of resources that I didn't really know about until I became a Writer in Residence so the experience of blogging was not as difficult as I initially envisioned. The support is already there, but it doesn't hurt to look at the blogs and articles that already exist to get an idea of what others are doing and how you can improve your own writing.

 

Bianca Gay

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog? 

I wanted to share my story because there aren't many people who look like me (a quirky, nerdy, Haitian girl) writing about the good, bad, or ugly of their experiences in law school and beyond.  I want to contribute to the diversity of the legal arena.  Also, I'm a first generation kid, so I had to figure this all out on my own, so I want to help others avoid the mistakes I made.  Despite the occasional depressing post, what I hope my readers will get out of BEEatitudes is perseverance, the determination to succeed no matter the odds, and the importance of supporting and empowering other women.

2.     What is your writing process? 

I just write what comes to mind then triple (sometimes quadruple) check it for grammatical errors.  

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?  

Personally, it's great because it lets me make a contribution to the world of law- and it's sometimes therapeutic (way cheaper than therapy).  Professionally, it's been pretty interesting.  I've had various organizations and employers contact me as a result of writing for Ms. JD. And I finally have something that pops up when you Google me smile

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs? 

I think blogs help the legal profession simply by sharing the stories because everyone's story is different, and not everyone's story is being told.  Doing so creates a community of inclusion and broadens the perception of what people think lawyers do or what we look like.  Also, there are people who might not have access to certain opportunities (such as summer associateships, internships, or the ability to attend law school at all) within the legal profession who are able to get a glimpse of this world through reading a blog.  And there are certain areas of the law that others might not even know exist (I didn't know Fashion Law was a thing until I read a blog about it by a JD) if not for law blogs.  And, in our increasingly busy, social media obsessed world, reading blogs are the way that some of us keep abreast of new developments in the law, employment opportunities, and the like.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend? 

I would strongly encourage a law student or lawyer to write because everyone's story matters and deserves to be told. Not to sound all Oprah-y but it strengthens the legal experience and humanizes lawyers a little bit more than what society might think about us.

Juliana Siconolfi

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

I love writing in a way which incorporates elements of traditional academic writing with those of a more creative style. Blogging is a venue where that kind of writing is acceptable, and even welcome. After attending the 2012 Ms. JD Conference, my interest in "blawging" increased exponentially, particularly after meeting and learning more about some of the innovative work done by Alison Monahan and Lee Burgess (who are also former Ms. JD Writers in Residence!).

2.     What is your writing process?

Oh, how I wish this were a one-sentence answer! But then again, I think my process is very "me", and it works for me, too. I write down thoughts on everything from Post-It notes to one of my many notebooks (in addition to being "professionalism-obsessed", I am stationary-obsessed!) to my Smartphone's "Notes" section, and then generally transfer those notes over to a computer document. I keep research files, too. My motivation to write usually comes from "hot" topics that interest me. I tend to get laser-focused as I draft a piece, and then I like to leave it alone for a while in order to gain additional perspective on it. I have a tendency to spend a lot of time editing, for better or worse (it's been both, in my experience). I always publish pieces which I hope may be of help to others.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

Through my law blogging, I have met incredibly smart, talented, and thoughtful people who have become professional contacts and even friends. I have grown a great deal as a writer. Law blogging has helped me identify the direction in which I wish to take my career, and which issues I most want to advocate for and discuss.

Perhaps most valuable to my career, I have let go of some fear -- of technology, of imperfection, of being misperceived or judged. I agree with those who believe that letting go of this kind of fear can lead to great professional success and personal contentment... I even blogged about it during my time as a Ms. JD Writer in Residence! 

Most of all, it means a lot to me to think that in at least a small way, I have made a positive contribution to important national and international discourse.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

I think that law blogs allow for a more diverse, engaging, and consistent conversation about important issues. I also think law blogs make the legal profession more tangible to many who are outside of it...and often, to those inside of it, too!

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

I've referenced this piece of advice I've been given before, and it is worth mentioning again: "If you wait to do something until it’s perfect, it will be too late." I'm not always successful in following that advice, but I believe wholly in it and try to avoid the perfectionist trap.

I do think it is worth noting that avoiding perfectionism is not the same as failing to put your best foot forward. Therefore, I would suggest the following:

1) Believe in what you say. You may change your mind about something down the road or wish you had said something differently, but if you believed it when you wrote it, I think it will make for fewer regrets.

2) Be thoughtful. This suggestion applies to everything from editing to tone. Before you post, think about things like: Do I see typos? Did I address this issue in a way that seems appropriate to me? Might I "sound" different than I intended? Is there a way to remedy the potential for a miscommunication?

Somehow, I've (sort of) convinced myself this is all just one piece of advice! My thanks again to all of the past and present Writers in Residence who participated in this project!

Juliana Siconolfi is the 2014 Ms. JD Writers in Residence Program Director and a 2013 Ms. JD Writer in Residence. She is a Professorial Lecturer in Law with The George Washington University Law School, where she teaches law students participating in the Field Placement Program. Previously, she worked with the Program as a Visiting Associate Professor of Clinical Law & Friedman Fellow. Her research interests include hot topics in legal education and the legal profession; all things professionalism; issues regarding women's equality; positive psychology in the workplace; and diversity in the fashion and beauty industries. She is an active participant in the public interest community, and a strong advocate for the arts and arts education. She can be found on Twitter @JulesSiconolfi.

 

Rachel Kulhavy

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

I love to write, I love to write, I love to write. I followed Ms. JD for several years during law school and after graduation. It's a great website if you’re seeking advice from other female attorneys & law students. When I got a chance to submit for the Writers in Residence program, I jumped.

2.     What is your writing process?

My inspiration always comes from a song, and then I tie a legal topic in with that song. My brain works best in abstract ways, and I can’t really start writing until I get the background tune worked out.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

It’s been personally rewarding because it’s been really fun to write a blog every month. It’s been professionally rewarding because the more fun I have, the more pleasant I am at work!

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

It allows people with different perspectives to have a voice in the legal community, and the legal community still desperately needs those unique perspectives. The law profession is so conservative, and blogs are a good way for people to express themselves outside of the office. Ms. JD’s a great blog forum because it’s a completely supportive environment.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

My one piece of advice is to submit your blog idea ASAP and write for Ms. JD!! Don’t hesitate. If you’ve got an idea, submit it. You’ll gain so much confidence from the experience. What books would I recommend? All of them. I read constantly. If you have time to read for fun, do it. If you don't have time to read for fun, do it. Read anything and everything you can. Read the Ms. JD blogs, the SCOTUS blog, read “The Notorious RBG”, read Huffington Post, read Buzzfeed, read Shakespeare, Stephen Hawking, Stephen King, or O Magazine.

Rachel Kulhavy is a resident civil engineer with the HNTB Corporation and has managed major infrastructure projects for over a decade. She is a licensed Texas professional engineer and attorney, and is a registered patent attorney with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Rachel is a volunteer clinic attorney for Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and also researches IP issues for emerging artists. Her hobbies include British cooking shows, fixing up a 1970’s house, music, and all things law.

 

Dr. Artika R. Tyner 

1.     WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE A LAW BLOG?

I am a leadership and public policy professor. I was inspired by my passion to learn more about leadership, public policy advocacy, and social justice. Blogging provides me with the opportunity to share emerging research on leadership development and explore current civil rights topics.

2.     WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?

I developed a set of standard interview questions for my Ms. JD column entitled: “Women Leading Change.” Next, I used a snowball approach to find potential interviewees by asking my network to refer names of women who are leading social change. I then contacted the interviewees and shared about my project. After each interview, I reviewed my notes and crafted a story about each interviewee related to key lessons on leadership.

3.     HOW HAS LAW BLOGGING BEEN PERSONALLY AND/OR PROFESSIONALLY REWARDING?

Law blogging has been rewarding professionally since it challenged me to write in a clear, succinct, and concise manner. I am accustomed to writing lengthier pieces like law review articles and book chapters. Through blogging, I seek to captivate my audience in about 1,500 words. I have also expanded my network by connecting with other legal professionals and educators.

4.    HOW DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL PROFESSION BENEFITS FROM LAW BLOGS?

Law blogs offer key news updates, insights, and ideas. Law blogs also serve as a tool to engage with fellow professionals who share common interests.

5.     WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO A LAW STUDENT OR LAWYER WHO IS INTERESTED IN BECOMING A MS. JD WRITER IN RESIDENCE IN THE FUTURE, OR WHO WOULD LIKE TO BLOG ELSEWHERE? ARE THERE ANY PERTINENT ARTICLES OR BOOKS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?   

Develop your marketing plan. At the MN Blogger Conference, I learned blogging is about 80% marketing and 20% writing. Your marketing plan should include cross posting your blog, sharing your blog with your social media network, and repurposing your blog for other news outlets. I would recommend reading Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (Michael Hyatt) for ideas on how to market your blogs and build your personal signature brand.

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, author, sought after speaker, and advocate for justice.  

 

Amanda Gernentz Hanson

1.     WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE A LAW BLOG?

I have been debating going to law school for years, and I finally felt motivated to start making it happen.  I thought the process would make for an interesting (and sometime humorous) blog, and I figured that other people who are in the same boat would be able to relate.

2.     WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?

Once I have an idea, I usually just write.  More often than not, I am able to find my conclusion by using this stream-of-consciousness process.  Sometimes I have to go back and edit in order to make my point.  My process isn't always the same, but it generally follows the stream-of-consciousness approach, at least at first.

3.     HOW HAS LAW BLOGGING BEEN PERSONALLY AND/OR PROFESSIONALLY REWARDING?

Law blogging has been both personally and professionally rewarding for me.  Personally, it was like writing a series on my regular blog.  I had a theme that I stuck to each month, and I enjoyed that aspect of it a lot.  It helped me grow in my writing.  Professionally, it helped me find two different legal freelance writing jobs, which has allowed me to become a professional writer - something I wasn't sure would ever happen!  I'm very content in where I am professionally now - at least until I take the LSAT and start applying to law schools!

4.    HOW DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL PROFESSION BENEFITS FROM LAW BLOGS?

Law blogs allow lawyers and non-lawyers alike to write what they know and read what other people know.  They're also an outlet for a lawyer's creative side, which is something that people don't see very often.  The legal profession is becoming more accessible because of law blogs, which is always a good thing.

5.     WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO A LAW STUDENT OR LAWYER WHO IS INTERESTED IN BECOMING A MS. JD WRITER IN RESIDENCE IN THE FUTURE, OR WHO WOULD LIKE TO BLOG ELSEWHERE? ARE THERE ANY PERTINENT ARTICLES OR BOOKS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?   

Write every day!  Even if it's just a journal, or even if some days are a total struggle, writing is really important to the legal profession, so you have to stick to it!  Dreading a significant portion of your job is no fun, so if you can learn to become a more consistent writer, everything will go better.  Aside from that, read other law blogs.  It will help you see what others are writing about and give you ideas for what you can write about too.  Also, pick a fairly narrow theme - it will help you stay on topic.

 

Tina Ikpa

1.     What inspired you to write a law blog?

I have always had a passion for writing, but over the course of my legal career, I let it go because I didn't think I had the time to devote to it. When I read about this opportunity, I thought it would be a way for me to dip my toes back into the water.  It also would serve as a way to force me to keep it up because I would have a monthly deadline.

2.     What is your writing process?

I usually have the idea in my head for days or weeks, but don't really sit down to write it out until a few days before the deadline.  When I had enough time, I would write a draft, send it to a friend of mine to make sure it made sense and find any glaring errors, then read over it myself one more time.  If I felt like adding gifs, too, that would come at the end.

3.     How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

It has been personally rewarding because it allowed me to fully engage in what I did every day, so that I could write about it. Writing made me look at my life and the world around me critically and from different angles.

4.    How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

I think the legal profession, just like any profession or walk of life, benefits from law blogs in that they present the opportunity to approach subjects from different perspectives.

5.     What is one piece of advice you’d give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

My advice would be to try to write from place of authenticity.  If your authentic self is funny, be funny. If your authentic self is succinct, be that.  Authentic writing is the most interesting writing.  The posts that I wrote that resonated with readers the most were those that came from my heart.  As far as other resources, I would say pay attention to the format and style of those blogs that you enjoy the most and identify what it is about them that draws you.  Figure out what from your favorite blogs and books you can incorporate into your own writing (while remaining true to yourself, of course). 
 
Tina Ikpa is a government attorney in Oklahoma, where she lives with her husband, two children, and mother-in-law. She hopes to continue writing in some form, and is looking forward to what the future has in store for her career.

 

Lauren Nevidomsky

1. What inspired you to write a law blog?

Much of the advice on the internet about law school success is some variation of the same things: Read Getting to Maybe, Outline Early, Go to Office Hours, Form a Great Study Group, Practice Hypos. Unfortunately, you can do all of those things and still not excel at law school, especially at T14 schools where pretty much all your classmates are guaranteed to have attained a Masters from an Ivy League school or worked for several years at a Consulting company before entering law school. Therefore, I wanted to write a blog that reaches out to those “average” law students, who have given law school an honest effort but still may be struggling. Yes, law school is about learning the law, “thinking like a lawyer,” and doing well in core classes. However, I also see it as a time of self-discovery and growth. I hope I have been able to give some struggling students a second wind with my law school stories, witticisms, and sarcastic comments about gunners!

2. What is your writing process?

I have been blogging for various mediums for many years and I have yet to come up with a “writing process.” I mostly write what comes to me, and hope for the best.

3. How has law blogging been personally and/or professionally rewarding?

I’ve loved the fact that I’ve gotten to poke fun at my law school experience every month. The University of Virginia School of Law is an incredible place to go to law school but it has also made me shed tears over mediocre grades, tough interviews, and awful inter-student organization interactions. Being able to reminisce and write about these things the past year has taught me that these three years are a very special time in a potential lawyer’s career and that self-reflection can go a long way to making one a more happy law student and future lawyer.

4. How do you think the legal profession benefits from law blogs?

Law blogs can bring a “rawness” factor to the legal profession. Some of my co-authors have done an amazing job talking about their real struggles as law students, recent graduates, and lawyers. That is something potential law students need to see to make an informed decision about law school. It is also something that those outside the industry can look to, to better understand the lives of lawyers. 

5. What is one piece of advice you'd give to a law student or lawyer who is interested in becoming a Ms. JD Writer in Residence in the future, or who would like to blog elsewhere? Are there any pertinent articles or books you would recommend?

If you have the itch to write, just write. The more write, the more you’ll find your voice. You don’t need to read articles or books about how to blog. They might be interesting to peruse for the marketing aspects of your posts, but writing on a law blog should be about your own experiences. Go free and tell the world what you’ve felt, experienced, and seen – I am sure you won’t regret it!

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