Reflections on Reflections
Update on Who’s That GAL contest

Coming Out?

Susan Cartier Liebel at Build A Solo Practice has just posted on my decision to go public and cease being anonymous.

Susan has made a plea for GAL to stay anonymous. Reading her post certainly gives me pause. Here is some interesting commentary concerning the GAL Blog and my status as an anonymous blogger through the years.

"From the time GAL announced he was going to disrobe, I thought, "he is destroying his ' everyone would kill for this type of branding' brand." He established such a name, built such a following and though it was primarily the quality of his content, there was that intangible something more. He allowed us to see him as the booming voice reverberating through the Emerald City. I'm sad. I don't want the curtain pulled exposing just another lawyer, however talented. That's why I have always hated MTV. When I hear a song on the radio I want my imagination to take over and let it paint the picture it wants to paint. MTV told me how I am supposed to envision the song. I refuse to watch MTV."

"GAL, you are giving up something unique for your personal reasons. Maybe you have bigger plans we are not privvy to. But since your blog has nothing to do with getting clients, can't you leave us to enjoy it the way it is?"

Susan. I don’t know if I could give you a full answer in the context of a single blogpost. When I first started my blog, there was a very negative stigma to being anonymous. The discussion at the time was that bloggers need to be accountable and the only way for bloggers to be accountable was if the reader knew who was speaking. I remember at the time feeling a little put off by this logic. But over time, I understood that being anonymous had both positive and negative features.

While there were a lot of reasons for being anonymous, I think in retrospect that one of them might have been that I knew I was going to be innovating across billing practices, technology and legal service delivery. I certainly knew how myopic my old firm was. They think everything has to do with them. In reality, none of what I was doing had to do with them. They are like 90% of the legal market. Many clients prefer their method and style of practice.

But the decisions that I was making had nothing to do with them. I have been practicing for something like 17 years. I have worked for many law firms. More importantly, I have practiced across from hundreds of law firms. My experience is based on being a participant and observer of legal services for virtually my whole life. My dad is an attorney. My older brother is an attorney. Did I really want my old firm reading along and thinking I was talking about them?

I suppose you could say that I was anonymous because I wanted them out of my life. I had moved on. My message was one for all attorneys across the entire United States and beyond. I hope to inspire (as I have) law firms across the United States and beyond. While it would be nice if law firms in my own hometown embraced innovation and alternative billing, I realize that what happens here is far less important than what happens on an industry level.

Until clients start demanding alternatives to the traditional hourly billing model, innovation will never come to legal services and professionalism will never be restored as an ideal. Until other law firms start popping up across the United States offering alternatives, clients will be unaware that alternatives exist. Until the market starts demanding law firms like mine, it will be impossible to change or impact legal services in general.

Shortly after I quit, this blog became about a range of issues that had nothing to do with any specific law firm or attorney. This is because I was dealing with issues that applied across the board. But because the "charm" of this blog has been my willingness to be open about things happening each day in my practice, my old firm became the subject of certain posts where they inserted themselves into my life.

After the last lawsuit settled, I was confident that there would be no further issues between myself and my own firm. I also realize that with a lot of the national press that I was getting personally by name, people were guessing who I really was. I also realized that the best example of what I was doing on the ground could be illustrated much more easily if I was not anonymous. There has been so many times where I wanted to link to my client billing letter or a section of blog, which innovatively drives traffic. But I couldn’t.

But I do admit that I was concerned that perhaps I would be less open and frank about what was happening if I lost my anonymity. My decision to go public was based, in part, on my conviction that I would not allow the fact that I was no longer anonymous to impact the way I went about blogging or the information I bided.

You are absolutely right. The moment this blog stops being about what’s happening in my life day to day, I will lose the bond that I have with my readership. Like the other issues that have cropped up from time to time with my old law firm, this one will pass. My old firm is a whisper. This blog shouts from the top of mountain.

So many bloggers do what I do here and sign their name to each post each day. The openness of the Internet and the first amendment allow for open and honest discourse about issues. Sometimes people look good. Sometimes people look bad. Sometimes I look good. Sometimes I look bad.

Thank you for insights and comments. I wish I had some grand plan at the time that I left my firm and today that I could share with you to provide more insight. The truth is, I am simply floating downstream, meandering from bank to bank, and doing my best to change the way law is practiced one blogpost at a time.


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