Blogging to build your practice
Law firms across Canada are exploring a variety of ways to boost their web site traffic. One of the ways they are doing this is through blogs. Blogs are growing at an exponential rate, with one new blog created every second; 80,000 new blogs created daily, and the number of blogs is doubling every five months.
Lawyers can use this growing online communication channel to build their practice. Blogging, also known as “personal Web-based publishing”, connects lawyers to their audience by sharing their opinions and experiences without being screened, edited, or ignored by editors of journals or law reviews. Also, blogging is a good way to let your web visitors know you're up to date on current events - for example, blogging about "toy recalls" if you practice products liability law would be a good way to gain the attention of potential clients in a lawsuit.
What is a blog?
“Blog” is short for “Web log”; legal blogs are sometimes called “blawgs.” A blog is a web site where individuals record their thoughts and opinions, like a journal. However, instead of trying to maintain the privacy of a personal journal, blogs are intended to share thoughts publicly.
Unlike personal journals, blogs include comments from others and links to other web resources. Therefore, most blogs are public and searchable on the internet. Blogs have the following characteristics:
- A blog is a simple web site with entries posted in reverse chronological order
- A blog uses automated publishing tools to present information in an attractive format
- Most of the content on a blog is created by a single person, expressing a distinct personality
- Blog content is updated frequently - weekly, daily, or however often you wish to write
- Blogs may be distributed to subscribers via e-mail or RSS (Really Simple Syndication), an easy, low cost method of delivering online information
- Blogs link to other blogs and sites, acknowledging that they're part of a larger community, usually with a common interest
- Popular blogs have thousands of readers
The benefits of blogs for lawyers (Blawgs)
"Blawgs" provide a great opportunity for lawyers to increase their web site traffic as they can boost search engine ranking results. Blogs can also help lawyers establish themselves as experts in particular areas of the law. Because information accumulates over time on a blog, starting early and contributing regularly on a specific topic will help an attorney be recognized as an expert.
Blogging in niche practice areas has many benefits:
- Over time, your blawg will accumulate a large body of information about a specific area of law.
- Other attorneys and potential clients will read your blog, recognize your expertise, and spread the word.
- Search engine rankings are based, in part, on regularly updated information on a subject matter using the same keywords.
- When you publish regularly updated content in your areas of practice, you become the “go-to” person in that field.
In addition to establishing expertise in niche areas, blawgs also provide an opportunity for an attorney or law firm to enhance credibility, expand web presence, and ultimately, expand business.
Tips for writing your legal blog
If you are interested in publishing a legal blog, you may not know where to start. Here are five tips to fire up your writing and get your blog started:
- Make it Matter
Your focus should be on your audience. Blog content should be appropriate for the audience you wish to attract, depending upon your goal. Don’t write blog content for your peers if your goal is to gain more clients. Write about things that you care about and that will matter to your readers – clients, potential clients, and other lawyers. If you don’t care, who will? Putting your own interests and thoughts into the words you publish goes a long way toward encouraging your readers to make return visits.
- Link it
One key difference between a blog and an article in a print magazine or newsletter is your ability to link to other information. Provide your reader with more information that gives background on your post – for instance, if you’re commenting on tort reform in your state, link to a news article on the subject. At the same time, don’t over-link. Choose only links that you find interesting or that add value to your posting. If you’re commenting on another person’s article or writing, linking is also a nice way to give credit to that person.
- Show your personality
Attorneys are often known for overly formal writing, thanks to the style and format of the legal brief. Let your blog be a place where you can let your real voice come out. Keep your posts direct and thoughtful, whether you are sharing a single thought or writing a lengthy article. A blog is a format where you don’t need to get through an editor to have your voice heard; so enjoy it and leave out the legalese!
- Watch your words
A blog is the perfect place to say what you think…up to a point. Your words can build your professional credibility or they can damage your reputation. Remember that everything you post will be accessible to other lawyers, clients, friends, your kids, and people all over the world. Always ask yourself if you’re comfortable with friends, colleagues, co-counsel, referring attorneys, or potential clients reading what you have written. If in doubt, leave it out. For improving search engine rankings, repeat keywords, phrases, and use synonyms specific to your topic.
- Update regularly
A blog is a good way to provide up-to-date information. If you post regularly, you offer your audience a reason to return to your site regularly. Try to update at least weekly, if not more often. Your posts can be brief thoughts or longer viewpoints. Short on time? Write a short piece and follow up on it with greater detail when you have time.
Ethical considerations and lawyer blogging
Since blogs represent a new communication medium, few state ethics opinions or case law provide distinct guidelines for content or disclaimers. The current debate is similar to early discussions regarding e-mail and Web sites, which focused on regulating and defining limits on commercial speech. Commercial e-mail and web sites eventually fell under state regulations; blogs created for the purpose of soliciting business might face similar restrictions.
Blogs tend to have variable uses, unlike most law firms’ web sites, which generally function as marketing tools. Some attorneys’ blawgs may actively court new clients, while others serve to broadcast personal viewpoints, interests, or political views. Where lawyers use blogs as a forum to discuss issues in their areas of expertise rather than offer explicit advertising, ethical regulations may not apply. However, lawyers may be prudent to follow existing guidelines applying to web sites and other electronic media. Until distinct guidelines are defined, caution is the best policy.