Covering the legal world one post at a time

Mark Herrmann ’79
Courtesy Mark Herrmann
Mark Herrmann ’79 is a longtime lawyer and accomplished writer, and in the past decade he has also become an established law blogger. He currently works as a lawyer for a corporation in London and is a weekly contributor to Above the Law, a widely read legal news blog with a million unique visitors each month. In October, Herrmann spoke with PAW about his background in law and writing, what prompted him to start blogging, and how blogs are affecting the legal world.

Traditional legal writing

“I’ve been interested in writing, but as a lawyer [I’d written] about legal subjects. … In the traditional media, I’ve published four books and 10 or 12 scholarly articles in law reviews — 50-page articles with a lot of citations in the footnotes — and probably another 60 or 70 other articles that are not scholarly … one in the Wall Street Journal, one in The New York Times, many in National Law Journal, Litigation Magazine, and others. So I had done much of that before I started blogging.”

Internet boom

“I wrote a book in 2006 called The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law. Peter Lattman from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog contacted me about it … and we decided to see what kind of an influence on the sales of that book the Wall Street Journal Law Blog was going to have. [Before he published their review] Curmudgeon was something like No. 50,000 in the Amazon ranking of most popular books. Twenty-four hours later … we were in the top 500 books on Amazon. I realized as a result that if I was not online as a lawyer, I was missing a trick.

“So I started, within a few months, when I was a practicing lawyer at a law firm, writing for the Drug and Device Law Blog. It made a lot of sense then, because somebody could hire you because they saw what you wrote online and were impressed. At a minimum it forced you to read a lot of cases, and it caused many people who were strangers to you to send you interesting cases, or tidbits, or advances in the law — so you sort of became the center of the universe of your little field. But then I left the law firm, and I quit Drug and Device Law Blog. … I went in-house and did not do any blogging at all for most of a year. Then, [about six years ago] the people at Above the Law decided they wanted a columnist, and I started writing for them.”

New media in an old-school profession

“Among [legal] academics, there is some resistance to blogging. Many of the traditionalists say that in a blog post you are not developing an idea far enough to make it worthwhile … whereas a different generation of people are saying, ‘Yes, but you can influence things quickly.’

“At the Drug and Device Law Blog we proposed an idea that we thought would make sense, and a year later saw the FDA enact it into law. And they said, ‘We first read about this at the Drug and Device Law Blog.’ So you can have an influence, and I think younger people are doing it. … Law firms are very traditional, but now, you’ll find surveys online about how many of the hundred largest law firms are now blogging, and those numbers have increased dramatically over the last five or 10 years.”

Interview conducted and condensed by Juliette Hackett ’17