This is a “Paralegal success story.” The plot line: how I used skills and experience to create a unique product that benefits my new profession as a legal services provider, and reached close to 100,000 people in one year.
When I spoke recently at a college Career Prep Day, I used the “5Ws” of journalism to paint a picture of Paralegal SCOPE Magazine’s journey so far. I gave them the Who, What, Where, When and How of SCOPE’s impact on the profession. I pointed out that the one question I have never been asked is: “Why?” Why did I create this online magazine?
No one has ever asked, because it is so obvious: If I didn’t do it, someone else would. And if it was done badly – if the first paralegal news magazine in Canada was little more than a poorly written newsletter full of self-congratulatory puff pieces – I would never forgive myself.
SCOPE went live in April 2013 and was an instant success. Clearly, SCOPE is what Ontario’s 6,000 licensed paralegals, students, legislators, regulators and instructors had been waiting for: reliable news, information and features about the profession. One source for all things paralegal.
That Was My Idea!
There are two kinds of people: those who say, “Look what I did,” and those who say, “I wish I had done that.”
By the time SCOPE went live, I had lived for more than a year with the idea of an online paralegal news and information magazine nagging at my mind. A real magazine, with original news and features, based on the news sense and writing skill I have honed over decades in media. For months, I had taken baby step after baby step, still haunted by images of failure and defeat.
Finally, I asked myself, which would be worse: to try, and fail; or always to think, “I wish I had tried”? Hearing from, or about, others who “always wanted to do a paralegal magazine” bolsters my conviction that I made the right choice.
So, You Just Click a Button, Right?
To some, my online magazine looks like the easiest thing in the world. But most, in particular folks with backgrounds in communication, publishing and media, recognize and appreciate the effort taken to get all those pesky, devilish details just right.
As one mentor tells me from time to time: If this were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Given my reporting and writing background, it is easier for me than it would be for some, to keep the content relevant, accurate and robust. Covering events, conducting interviews, writing summaries, editing contributions, locating images, designing pages, writing heads and subheads, keeping up with news releases and court decisions, contacting writers, posting articles, responding to queries and comments… these are second-nature for me.
Publish or Perish – But Get it Right!
It would be much simpler to cut and paste from others’ work, to click a “share” button, retweet some clever paragraph, or to take someone else’s work and pretend that I wrote it, as too many “legal bloggers” do. But SCOPE is not a blog. It is not a newsletter. It is not a Facebook Page or LinkedIn group. It is an online magazine, with original, credible content and a pedigree. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
High standards and old-fashioned hard work have paid off. Readers in the thousands rely on SCOPE each month. They come seeking legislative updates and context, regulatory news, product reviews, case summaries, practice advice and so much more. An average of more than 400 people read SCOPE each and every day.
SCOPE is recommended reading in several paralegal schools. It is listed in the Law Society of Upper Canada’s news clippings service. SCOPE articles are shared across Canada and around the world, via social media.
When legal professionals anywhere in the world have a question about legal issues within the scope of practice, or about non-lawyer legal services regulation, or access to justice in Canada, they reach SCOPE.
You Can Read the Difference Quality Makes
I apply journalistic standards to paralegal news writing. I insist on quality and relevance over low-denominator popularity. SCOPE is the professional magazine that Canadian paralegals deserve; the news and information they were starved for; the unbiased and unvarnished truth, presented professionally, without fear or favour.
This remains a scary concept for some in my profession. No media had covered paralegals routinely. Lawyers’ magazines sometimes mentioned us, usually in an unpleasant light. A couple of paralegals paid a public relations company to produce advertorials about them, which went ignored by serious media outlets.
So, when into this gap SCOPE reached, it caused a certain “shock and awe.” Those who had grown comfortable working in private are still coming to terms with having a legitimate news source keeping an eye on them. Helping paralegals learn more about media relations – what is and is not news, how to write a media release, what different types of publicity are, and so on – is an unexpected challenge, but one which I am pleased to tackle head-on.
Quenching a Thirst for Knowledge
I’ve been gratified by the enduring popularity of the basic legal content at SCOPE. The growing collection of links to case law, legal definitions, case summaries and commentaries are among the most-often clicked links. SCOPE content is being added to the national database of free legal information (CanLII), so these numbers will climb.
Statistics speak to a profession deeply committed to providing competent services. Among the 540 articles, SCOPE’s most-often viewed content includes:
- Commissioner of Oaths Change – “By Virtue of Office”
- Scope of Practice, Governance, Competency Issues
- Paralegal Standing Committee Election Information
- Changes to Legislation, Regulations
- Case Law – Legal Summaries, Commentaries, Application
- Book Reviews, Quizzes
- “About” SCOPE and Why I created It
- Resources, Events, Webinars, Training
- Practice Management Tips & Advice
- SCOPE Contributors’ Information, Websites
What lies ahead? What new, hard lessons will I have learned, this time next year?
Having cleared its first full year, I intend to take SCOPE even further over the next 12 months. SCOPE’s “face” – the layout and style – may change, but the quality never will. This is what legal services professionals deserve.
Doing my best is the only way I know how to be.