I’ve spent years thinking that it is presumptuous to declare yourself a “pro” at anything, and that instead it is up to others to identify and announce your expertise. So I sat back quietly, waiting for someone to call me up and tell me how much they want me to give a presentation about all these things that I know. THIS IS NOT HOW THE WORLD WORKS. People don’t know what you know unless you tell them. Declaring yourself a “pro” at anything of course must be preceded by a lot of elbow grease, patience, and really gaining the expertise in your claimed area. Then you tell people what you know about by writing about it, and helping people out whenever you can when they have a question of your area, and writing some more, and reaching out to the world and offering your expertise. I’ve had to put my squeamishness over being presumptuous aside. You won’t be recognized as an expert until you are an expert, and you show the world that you are an expert.
I’m a pro in two things:
1. Allegheny County local civil procedure. I rock the socks off this county’s local practice (bookmark this page because you will never see that phrase again). My first 3 years in practice were spent at a small firm. This was simultaneously the most stressful experience in the history of the universe, and also the absolute best thing for my career and comfort/familiarity with local practice. When you work for a small firm, you are thrown RIGHT into the fire. It’s not “sink or swim” because sinking is not an option. Even though you are just barely a lawyer, you still are a lawyer, and you are representing people and their rights and interests. Failure is not an option. So you figure things out, sometimes you do things right, rarely do things turn out to be actually wrong, and almost all the time you get by with doing things not-quite-right-but-close-enough-that-it-gets-the-job-done-and-everything-turns-out-ok.
I’m lucky to practice in a county that is incredibly forgiving with local practice. If something is not-quite-right, the court will still hear it. And after thousands of hours of getting it almost-right, you start getting it actually right more and more often, and you go from wading in a fog to actually knowing how to do stuff. And that’s where I am now. I know how to do stuff.
2. Blogging and law (but not Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog). Holy cow, I’ve been blogging nearly eight years now. And I’ve gone from a blogging college student to a blogging law student to a blogging lawyer. And now my practice also incorporates the intersection between law and social media. That intersection is staggeringly broad. It’s like saying “I am an expert in the internet.” It is so broad it is virtually meaningless. My expertise is more specifically in defamation issues and discovery issues (i.e. when and in what circumstances can your social media content get dragged into a lawsuit). I’m working on an article/presentation about social media defamation issues right now that I’m really excited about, details to come as it progresses!!