Blog Like a Hacker: Lawyer Edition.


Jekyll and Github reflect our values as a law firm: simplicity, efficiency, and open source collaboration.

Jekyll is a lightweight static website generator. It’s speed and elegance convinced me to switch my blog over from Wordpress. Wordpress is slow: when a user hits a Wordpress site, Wordpress queries a database for instructions on how to build the website, builds it, serves it, and then forgets everything. When the next visitor shows up, Wordpress starts over from scratch.1 Wordpress is the big-law of content management systems: happy to waste time by repeating mundane tasks.

Wordpress is painfully slow on Media Temple, Dreamhost, Bluehost, and even on Wordpress.com. The only fast Wordpress host I’ve used is Digital Ocean.

For a simple law blog, we recommend jekyll. Unlike Wordpress, Jekyll builds the website once, and then re-serves the same static website over and over. Without a database, Jekyll is not only faster than Wordpress, it’s more secure.

Jekyll + Github. Github can serve a Jekyll website from a repository. This takes care of version control, and also leverages Github’s wonderful CDN. Github Pages can be set up in 5 quick steps. If you already use Github, its more like 2 steps.

Jekyll + LESS. LESS is a “CSS preprocessor.” It automates repetitive grunt work by styling elements with variables. LESS also understands nested selectors, which gives me a more intuitive understanding of selector specificity. LESS is not only easier to write than CSS, it’s easier to edit. The learning curve is gentle, and the payoff is huge. For me, learning LESS felt like escaping from the front-end stone age.

Legal Philosiphy

I use Jekyll & Github for my website because they reflect my values as a lawyer. I try provide simple, elegant solutions to legal problems. I don’t waste time grinding out long contracts when short ones will do. I try to prioritize efficiency, not billable hours.

Principles that make good code can also help make good legal docs:

  • Keep it simple (KISS).
  • Don’t repeat yourself (DRY).

Tom Preston-Werner wrote the original Blog like a Hacker post, just after he wrote the Jekyll code itself (2008). The most useful guide to Jekyll is probably Creating a fast and mobile-friendly website with Jekyll from Nicolas Hery (2013). Jekyll From Scratch is also quite good. Smashing Magazine’s Build A Blog With Jekyll And GitHub Pages is another good starting point (8/2014).

  1. caching a Wordpress website is possible in theory, and should speed up page loads, but after several attempts I’ve never made it work. 

Signup for occasional Law & Tech updates. No spam.