Today, LexMonitor published an interview of me by Lisa Kennelly. For those of you-not-in-the-know, LexMonitor is run by super-law-blog-expert Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog which offers the best services in the universe for frustrated lawyers who feel the need to blog after working a-100-hour-week. The interviewer, Lisa Kennelly – a Harvard graduate! – asked me some questions about my new blog.
if I come back in another life, it will be a Harvard Graduate living in Seattle, a kick-ass city by any definition.
P.S. LexBlog is the best.
Here is the article unedited:
Jim Walker has always been ahead of the curve.
The Miami cruise law attorney has had a web presence since 1996, when he created his very first web site. A former defense attorney, he switched sides in 1999 and became an advocate for cruise ship passengers, years before the majority of Miami lawyers started marketing themselves as "cruise line lawyers."
And his blog, Cruise Law News? It only came into being after he had been hooked on Twitter – @CruiseLaw for several months and realized he needed a forum to write in more than 140 characters.
Each component of his online presence serves a different but equally valuable purpose.
"Most of my competitors are where I was ten years ago," Jim says, "creating ego sites that say they are fantastic without providing any useful information to the consumer and without even attempting to establish a dialog with the public. The Internet now requires an interactive exchange. So I am trying to use my blog to provide the most current and relevant information in my specialized field of law."
We caught up with Jim for this LexBlog Q&A to learn more about his online persona and how he uses his blog to beat the mainstream media to breaking news.
Lisa Kennelly: Why did you decide to start a blog?
Jim Walker: I became a blogger after becoming addicted to Twitter earlier this year.
In February, I watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The gallery was filled with people twittering away on their Blackberries and iPhones, sending out their own spin on the President’s speech. CNN covered the story and added their own perspective via Twitter. A few days later I registered @CruiseLaw. In March, I started “tweeting.”
I became hooked. A dozen times a day, I tweeted my perspective about crimes on cruise ships, bad shipboard medical care, mysterious disappearances of passengers, and even attacks against cruise ships by pirates! Stuff so unbelievable that I couldn’t make it up. To my surprise, a large number of people in the cruise industry began following me – mostly cruise line manager types, travel agents, and PR people who disagree with anything negative I mentioned about cruising. In the process, a dialogue developed with people on the other-side-of-the-fence so to speak. I enjoyed it.
I also found a lot of kindred spirits who share my concerns about the negative environmental impact of cruising – things like cruise ship wastewater discharges, and air emissions of cruise ships which burn bunker fuels. The carbon footprint of the cruise industry is incredible. A lot of “green travelers” like to read my tweets and I like to follow them too.
As you know, “tweeting” is just micro-blogging. My addiction grew beyond the 140 character limit of Twitter. I ran across Kevin’s blog and began following Kevin as well as LexBlog and LexMonitor on Twitter. And this led me to blogging. The LexBlog format fit my plans perfectly.
I wrote a blog post about the experience – Cruise Law Meets Twitter.
Lisa Kennelly: What has been most rewarding about blogging?
Jim Walker: I blog about breaking “cruise news.” I was the only one in the U.S. who reported on the armed robbery of 11 cruise passengers in the Bahamas in October. I explained the legal liability of cruise lines who sell shore excursions but don’t warn their guests about high crime rate in ports of call. Last month, an additional 18 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the Bahamas after the cruise lines failed to warn the passengers about the first attack. I found a YouTube video of one of the passengers who had just been robbed, and posted the video and photographs on my blog. I broke two stories before any newspaper knew what happened! Soon “Cruise Law News” was being cited in major newspapers as the source of news.
Experiences like this are exciting and rewarding. We warn the public of dangers that the cruise lines like to keep secret. I embed my perspective into the news I write about. I am not a journalist. I am an advocate. And I enjoy reporting on news events with my own unique perspective.
Lisa Kennelly: What has been most challenging?
Jim Walker: There is not enough time to blog, practice law and have a real life. I have a full trial practice with 100 injured clients at any time. I have a family, two growing boys and a spouse (who is also my law partner) plus four dogs. I started my blog a little over three months ago and I have written 100 articles. My articles are too long, too. I can’t help it – I come from a family of story tellers. I feel sometimes like I am making a closing argument and I can’t stop myself. I struggle getting to the point.
Lisa Kennelly: What has the response been to your blog from clients, other attorneys, or anyone else?
Jim Walker: It has been fantastic so far. My blog has 10 times the traffic of my website, CruiseLaw.com, which I started over ten years ago. My biggest disappointment is that few people post comments. I like people to voice their own views, particularly if they disagree with me.
Lisa Kennelly: You and your firm have had a web presence at CruiseLaw.com for an impressive 10 years now. How has the way you use the Internet changed since then.
Jim Walker: I actually created my first web site, called Walker-Law.com, in 1996. I was a defense lawyer. My site was very egocentric. I used my own name in the domain and advertised that I was great at defending cruise lines. But I found that passengers across the U.S. began e-mailing me asking me to sue one of the cruise lines here in Miami because they had been injured or raped. They found my site through the old search engines and didn’t care who I was or even that I defended cruise lines! In 1999, I switched sides and created CruiseLaw.com myself using a Windows FrontPage program. It is amateurish but effective. 100% of the cases we handle are against cruise lines and six of our clients have testified before Congress on cruise safety issues. I have not updated the CruiseLaw site for ten years (but have a much-needed new design coming out the first of next year).
Now every lawyer in Miami calls themselves a cruise line lawyer. Attorneys I have never heard of are are paying for click-throughs on Google. Most of my competitors are where I was ten years ago. Creating ego sites that say they are fantastic without providing any useful information to the consumer and without even attempting to establish a dialogue with the public. The Internet now requires an interactive exchange. So I am trying to use my blog to provide the most current and relevant information in my specialized field of law.
Lisa Kennelly: How do you use your website, your blog, and your Twitter account, both together or individually, to market yourself and your firm?
Jim Walker: My website is like an online resume. Not much real information is on it. Just a description of who we are and what we do. The real marketing now comes from my blog. I still mini-blog on Twitter. I link to the other people who are shaping the daily debate on cruise issues. When I finish my blog, I post a link on Twitter. There are usually a hundred people who will quickly read it to see what I am rambling about. I take a lot of photos of our clients and cruise ships that I sue and post them on my Flickr page.
Whenever another cruise passenger goes overboard, people know where to find me.