Well This Is Certainly Long Overdue

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Hello, everyone! Yes, it is me. Really. I am alive.

It’s hard to believe it’s already the end of January and I haven’t done a post since last year. In fact, you haven’t heard from me since last April!

The good news is, everything is OK. As a matter of fact, it has been great. Business has been booming here at In Brief Legal Writing Services… and that means I’ve been busy. Very busy. And that keeps me out of trouble… allegedly.

The bad news is that I have been so busy doing legal content writing (and other assignments) for my clients that I haven’t had time to keep up with my own website. I know, I know. It’s not good at all.

New year, new personal and professional goals

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

But, it’s a new year, so of course I’ve set new goals — for myself and for my business. That means a lot of exciting things will be happening here at In Brief Legal Writing Services. Hopefully! No. Make that, definitely! In no specific order, here’s what I’ve got planned for 2019 and beyond:

  1. Greater engagement with clients and prospective clients;
  2. New and better website (upgrades);
  3. Regular blog posts and more interaction with you guys (I promise);
  4. Growth, growth and more growth;
  5. Having plenty of fun along the way.

In terms of content, I still plan on writing about my passions — namely animal and criminal law. In other words, I will continue to keep you apprised of all of the latest developments that may be of interest to all of the “pet parents” out there. As things stand right now, I plan on doing at least a couple of posts per week, and I expect you guys to hold me accountable if I don’t.

Having said all of that, I’m also counting on you guys to let me know what you think about these posts. If you like them, please let me know. If you don’t like them, that’s okay, too. Be honest about what you want to see, what you don’t want to see, and why. I am open to suggestions.

New year, same mascot!

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat.

One thing that hasn’t changed — and I’m hoping that it won’t change anytime soon — is that my best buddy, Eli the cat, is still the mascot here at In Brief Legal Writing Services. I’m happy to say he is still his happy, relatively healthy and feisty self. Of course, he is also a year older, having turned 13 on January 1 (his official unofficial birthday), but he is also as handsome as ever, so I’m sure I’ll be using lots of cute pictures with these posts.

And on that note, I’d better run. Until next time…

 

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Bad news for ‘professional’ bloggers

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As a blogger, I’m one in a million. Or perhaps a billion.

Back in 2013, I started a personal blog in order to promote my memoir, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey. Two years later, I launched my business, In Brief Legal Writing Services, and created this site in order to establish a digital (virtual presence). I also started this blog in order to promote it.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

As it stands, I’m glad I did. I happen to enjoy writing about the law, animal advocacy and related issues.

Having said that, I never harbored any illusions about getting thousands of hits or attracting tons of readers. Writing a blog that generates that sort of interest requires expertise that I simply don’t have, money I don’t want to spend (for SEO classes and so forth) and time that I can’t afford to waste. After all, I am busy working for a living…

Which brings me to my point. Finally.

Not too long ago, a New York court dealt a big blow to “professional bloggers.” Specifically, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department of the State of New York ruled that a freelance writer and blogger is not eligible for unemployment benefits.

As forbes.com reports, “the case involved Gregory Mitchell, a freelance writer, who entered into a contract in 2010 with The Nation to author regular blog posts for the company’s website.”

Everything was fine for a few years. But as we all know, nothing lasts forever. And in 2014, management at The Nation decided not to renew Mitchell’s contract. That’s when he applied for unemployment benefits.

At first, state officials tasked with determining who is eligible for said benefits sided with Mitchell, saying that he was actually an employee. Representatives for The Nation disagreed and pursued an appeal.

Needless to say, a legal battle ensued with the outcome hinging on a key issue. Was Mitchell an employee in the legal sense, or an independent contractor?

With the shift in the economy since the Great Recession, making the distinction has become even more difficult. As a result, the government and courts have established specific criteria to differentiate between traditional and “gig economy” workers.

These are include varying forms of control and the relationship between the “employer” and “employee.”

Based on its assessment using these criteria, the court determined that Mitchell is actually an independent contractor. In New York, independent contractors “are not covered under the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Law.” In other words, they cannot claim unemployment benefits.

As the attorney that represented The Nation in the case told forbes.com, “This case takes a major step in clarifying how rules developed to deal with traditional employment relationships apply to the rapidly changing world of modern journalism and its reliance on bloggers and other more casual employment relationships.”

For now, that seems to be the end of the story… at least in this case. But as the “gig economy” continues to grow, the question remains whether other courts will follow New York’s lead… or not.

Comment moderation or censorship?

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It’s been a year since I founded In Brief Legal Writing Services and 10 months since I launched this site.

Based on some advice I got in the WordPress class I took in preparation for launching inbrieflegalwriting.com last fall, I initially decided not to allow readers to comment on my blog posts. At the time, I thought it would make my life easier. I have since realized that was a mistake.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Or was it?

While I welcome audience participation, moderating reader comments is not something I particularly enjoy. For one thing, it is time-consuming, and as a small business owner, time is a luxury I don’t always have. Secondly, because I firmly believe in freedom of speech, it creates a moral dilemma.

On one hand, the ability to moderate the comments made in this forum is essential. After all, this is a business site. My personal and professional reputation is at stake.

So make no mistake about it. Foul language and views expressed in anything less than a civil and professional manner simply cannot and will not be tolerated. If you use inappropriate language, engage in name-calling or any other vitriol so often found on the Internet these days, your comment will be relegated to the trash bin without a second thought. In fact, that is exactly what happened to a comment someone made earlier this week.

I won’t name the individual who felt compelled to leave a crude, sick, twisted and vicious comment in response to an old post, Don’t You Dare Feel Sorry for Brock Turner. However, I will say that the gist of the response was that Turner’s victim deserved to be sexually assaulted behind a dumpster.

Well here’s a newsflash: No one deserves to be sexually assaulted and left behind a dumpster. No one.

But getting back to the topic at hand, everyone is entitled to their opinion. And since this is the United States of America, everyone is allowed to express it. As a rule, I frown on any kind of censorship and welcome differing views. I encourage you — my readers — to engage in fierce debate with me and with each other. All I ask is that you remember that this is a professional forum and comment accordingly.

To paraphrase the old saying, “If you don’t have anything constructive to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Blogging for a good cause

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It’s official.

If all goes according to plan, the first entry for our brand new blog, Paws for Thought, will appear on Adopt-a-Dog’s website March 31. Of course, a lot could happen to delay or even derail the project between now and then. Then again, there’s always the chance that everything will go smoothly. Personally, nothing would make me happier.

Coming to the Rescue

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

For those of you who haven’t heard of the organization, I can tell you that it’s one of the most awesome non-profit organizations for which I have ever had the pleasure of volunteering. Based in Armonk, N.Y., its mission is to rescue, provide shelter and then and find “forever homes” for dogs of all ages and breeds.

Doing so is more than a full-time job for the staff at Adopt-a-Dog. It is a labor of love.

The happiness and well-being of each dog that comes to the shelter is paramount, so each one is carefully evaluated upon arrival. With assessments in hand, the staff then ensures that each dog’s needs are fully addressed. Among other things, that means making sure that all of the dogs get proper medical care and those that have behavioral issues get to work with a trainer. All of the dogs get to participate in “enrichment activities” with volunteers and staff.

Prospective adopters had lots of dogs to choose from at the annual Puttin on the Dog show in Greenwich last fall. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
Pick me! An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at Puttin’ on the Dog in Greenwich. September 2015. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Anyone interested in adopting a dog is also thoroughly “vetted” before they can bring their new friend home. The process usually begins when someone comes to an event or visits the adoptions page on the organization’s website to see if there are any dogs they’d like to meet. Sometimes they phone the shelter to see if any puppies are available or if they are interested in a specific breed. In any case, they must fill out an application and make an appointment to come to the shelter in order to meet the dog(s).

As part of the application process, prospective adopters must provide references, all of which are checked. In some cases — usually when the applicant has another pet — staff will conduct home visits before the adoption is finalized.

Help Wanted

If you ask anyone at Adopt-a-Dog, they’ll quickly admit that well-trained volunteers are key to the shelter’s success. While most volunteers help out at the shelter itself, a lot also lend a hand at special events. Some, like me, volunteer in multiple capacities. I do administrative office tasks at the shelter once per week, and do reference checks at adoption events when needed. I also photograph special events like the annual Howl and Prowl costume contest and Puttin’ on the Dog show here in Greenwich. Now I’ll also be doing some Pro Bono blogging.

One way or another it all adds up to a lot of hard work. But it’s also a blast, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How cool is this?

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It’s almost enough to restore my faith in humanity. Of course almost is the key word in that sentence.

But all kidding aside, I rarely find articles I enjoy, much less agree with, in The New York Times. So imagine my surprise when my almost-daily search for blog fodder turned up an utterly cool, totally heartwarming story there earlier this month.

Written by Winnie Hu, the February 7 story was about the pet food pantries popping up in New York City and surrounding suburbs. Thanks to them, a lot of people who are often forced to choose between buying food for themselves or their pets are no longer confronted by that agonizing decision. People who were once forced to surrender — or worse yet abandon — their pet because they couldn’t afford to feed it now know there is a place to get canned food or kibble for their dog or cat.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

I am sure there are plenty of skeptics — and critics — like the man quoted in Hu’s article. I won’t waste my breath on them. They just don’t get it — and they probably never will … unless they spend some time volunteering at an animal shelter, or at least visiting one. Perhaps if they heard the cries of a dog newly separated from the only owner it has ever known, or seen the look on the owner’s face after he or she has left their dog or cat at a shelter, they would finally understand.

Maybe then they would finally realize what those of us who love our pets have always known; that there is something animals give freely regardless of their caregiver’s race, religion, gender identity, sexual preference or socioeconomic standing. It’s something that people don’t give unconditionally and it’s something all the money in the world can’t buy. It’s something called love … and that’s something to think about.

Consider the source

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Recently, I announced my plans to lead by example. Specifically, I said that I planned on doing three blog posts per week. And so far I’ve managed to do just that.

Yes, yes. I know. It’s only been a week. But you’ve got to give me props. At least I’m off to a good start. And no, I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.

Of course that’s not to say that it isn’t an ambitious plan. And like any such idea, it’s got its drawbacks. For one thing, you may be thinking penning three posts per week is fairly time-consuming. For another, you may be wondering how and where on earth I will come up with enough ideas for that many posts.

First thing’s first. Those of you familiar with the art and science of blogging already know that posts can be scheduled in advance. So doing the writing is simply a matter of setting a few hours aside during the week. For example, this particular post won’t appear until Monday afternoon. But I’m actually writing it on Sunday.

Coming up with original ideas for the posts is seemingly a far more daunting challenge. But there’s a trick to that, too. Instead of spending hours scouring the Internet for ideas, I’ve set up alerts so I receive e-mail notifications about matters of interest. With them in hand, I can easily find fodder for thrice-weekly blogs.

“…it’s a bit ironic for someone with my background.”

Needless to say, international, national, regional and local news stories will likely provide most of the inspiration for these posts. And if you think about it, that’s a bit ironic for someone with my background. Once upon a time, the articles with my byline at the top could have been the basis for another blogger’s posts. Now I’m turning to my successors for help.

Ironic, yes. But hardly surprising. For years, TV and radio news anchors, sports talk radio hosts and their counterparts in politics looked to newspapers for  information to serve as the basis for their own programs. They called it “show-prep.”

Today, they turn to the Internet, where information is much more readily available, but by no means any more accurate. There on any given day, at any given time, they can still find a few decent news stories, many of which are written by reporters who work long hours for what amounts to less than minimum wage under the constant threat that their livelihood will disappear entirely.

It’s a possibility I lived with throughout my 21-year newspaper career. But the truth is, the print media hasn’t died. It has just adapted.

 

 

The key to success

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In my seemingly endless quest for knowledge, I’ve just started another continuing education class. This one is all about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

I am sure you already know what that is. Or at least you’ve probably heard about it. If you haven’t, it isn’t all that hard to understand. It’s just a fancy bunch of techno-babble having to do with the ways that search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and so-forth find and rank new and existing websites.

SEO blog illustrationOnce you know how the search engines work, then you can learn how to use that to your advantage. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be learning all about keywords and key phrases and other such things. And when all is said and done, I’ll know the “secrets” to achieving top rankings on the most important search engines – without resorting to anything underhanded or sneaky. Or that’s the plan, anyway.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m doing all of this after I’ve already built and launched my website. The answer is simple. I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for you. After all, a website that’s easy to find will help any attorney attract clients. A website that’s packed with exciting and engaging content will do the same.

Of course, I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. I saved that for last. The best part is that I’ll be doing all the heavy lifting. And you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

 

Leading by example

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“… I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.”

Now it’s officially official. Or something like that.

I launched inbrieflegalwriting.com on December 7. So now In Brief Legal Writing Services is finally open for business. So it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

This venture began based on the idea that most attorneys are way to busy with the daily demands of their jobs to keep up with the demands of the digital world. It’s perfectly understandable. Whether you are running your own practice, working as an associate in a small firm or a partner in a large one, your clients are your first priority. Meeting their needs is paramount.

Of course you’ve probably heard that updating your website and blogging on a regular basis is the most effective way to keep your current clients informed and engaged. You’ve probably heard that it’s a great way to attract new ones, too. Even so, putting this advice into practice is probably the furthest thing from your mind.

That’s where I can help. When you drop the ball, I can pick it up and run with it. You probably don’t have time to do one new post per week much less three. But I do. You might not have the time to put the news about your latest accomplishments on your website. But I can do that, too.

I can also lead by example. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Starting next week, you’ll be able to find three new posts per week right here. Initially you’ll gain insight into my experiences as a burgeoning entrepreneur. As time goes on, I’ll provide effective writing techniques; share some of my favorite reading material; and share my opinions on timely legal issues, current events and more.

In the meantime, I’m always here to help. But I need yours, too. Please vote in the following poll to help me learn how I can best meet your needs.