Vol. 81, No. 9, September
Law Blogs: The Great Equalizer
A "new" tool advances an
"old" marketing method.
More lawyers now are using law blogs to enhance their
reputations, showcase their expertise, and bring in business the
old-fashioned way - by fostering discussion within a
network of potential clients.
by Kevin O'Keefe
ith four new law blogs launching
each day, blogs may be the fastest
growing client-development tool being used by American lawyers.
such growth does not arise from advancing technologies, but from the
the principles of blogging are rooted in longstanding law firm
Long before lawyer advertising, yellow page ads, and law firm
existed, lawyers obtained clients the "old fashioned" way. We
did a good job
for clients. We kept up to speed on the law. We developed niche practice
for which we became known. We networked with business associates and
members so as to showcase our passion, skill, and expertise. Clients
word of mouth.
Law blogs are taking lawyers back to the future. Lawyers who use
blogs are simply blending new technology with tried and proven
"Situated properly, a professional blog can build an
lawyer's profile and work as a more casual lead-in tool for the firm's
which is geared more toward services, expertise, and experience,"
Steve Matthews, a Vancouver-based Internet legal marketing expert.
words, get to know the lawyer in question, and then decide if that
What sets blogs apart from Web sites is that blogs are a
stream: They constantly change and grow based on the online
place concerning specific realms of the law. Although information about
and his or her practice should be included on a blog, such content takes
backseat to something more important: the ongoing discussion that
are engaged in.
Bloggers publish posts on their blogs in response to
what they've heard (or read) elsewhere. They'll also post comments on
other blogs. They share their
insights, agree or disagree with other bloggers, make a point, and do
all the other things
that took place in town hall forums a few hundred years ago. Blogs allow
briefly comment on a ruling, cite something they read in another
lawyer's blog, or simply
provide a concise interpretation of the law for readers.
Blogging allows lawyers to be seen by potential clients as more
professionals sitting in an office surrounded by awards and
certificates; as time goes by, they
will become known as leaders in their field - people who know what
they're talking about
and are willing to enter into the discussion with other opinion leaders.
Plus, since blogs are easier to update than Web sites, lawyers
who blog have the
ability to comment on an issue almost immediately after it happens. In
the same way a
reporter who breaks a story is respected in the journalism field,
lawyers who are quick
to chime in with news or commentary will be seen by readers as on top of
And those are the lawyers prospective clients will contact
"I get multiple calls per week off my blogs," says
Jamie Spencer, a Texas-based
criminal defense lawyer who publishes the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer
and Austin DWI Lawyer (http://dwi.austindefense.com)
"I've probably been averaging a couple of clients a week off them.
And almost all of them
say the same thing, and that is, `You had more information on your blog
than anybody else
had on their Web site.'"
The reason, he thinks, is simple: Most static Web sites are
written not by lawyers
but by marketers who focus more on the attorney than the client. All of
the degrees a
lawyer has acquired, the seminars attended, and the books read or
written are of little
consequence to someone faced with a legal issue. People want information
about what they're up against first, and information about a lawyer
"With blogging, by being able to break it down and write
three-, four-, eight-,
10-paragraph articles about what happens to people who get arrested in
world, you're talking about the client, you're not talking about
says. "That's what the client wants to see. They don't really care
where you went to
law school. They want to know, `What's going to happen to me, and what
can I do to
minimize the damage?'"
Kevin O'Keefe is president of LexBlog Inc., a
service that builds blogs for lawyers. He was a trial lawyer for 17
years and practiced in
rural Wisconsin. He will speak about the benefits of blogging at the
Solo & Small Firm Practice Conference, Oct. 23-25, in Wisconsin
Dells. Email O'Keefe at Kevin@lexblog.com or visit Kevin.lexblog.com to join his
Linking in and out of a blog - either by citing someone else's work
readers to a blog you enjoy - is another important characteristic of
blogging. While traditional Web sites may have links, they often
appear awkward and
unnecessary, and it is much harder to encourage readers to click them.
The more links in and out of
a blog a lawyer provides, the bigger the lawyer's reputation on the
Web (and as a
result, the higher the blog climbs in search engines like Google).
"Lawyers need to understand that links are the currency of
the Web, and that blogs
are not just a publication opportunity. If they were, why wouldn't you
just convert all
your newsletters into blog software? It doesn't work," says
Matthews. "It's only when
blog authors engage the social side of blogging, and begin to link out
to other bloggers -
who eventually reciprocate - that blogs begin to have a dominant effect
on the search
Blogging the Right Way
Lawyers need to establish a niche for their blog, present a
professional look, and
perfect the art of effective blogging. Otherwise the return on their
investment of time
and expense will be minimal.
Focus on a Niche
Amy Gahran, a Colorado-based media consultant who runs a blog at
explains how jumping into blogging without doing your homework can be
Before you start blogging, figure out who is talking about the
issue you'll be
focusing on, she says. Then, begin reading their blogs and the blogs
they link to so you
can get an understanding of the major players in the field. Follow what
talking about, comment on their posts
anything you can to enter
into the discussion.
"It doesn't matter if you don't have your own blog yet - or
even if you don't
have much of an online presence. The point is to start right now to
constructive, helpful, credible reputation among your core
communities," Gahran writes. "If these
people get to know you first as `one of them,' they'll be more likely to
and talking to you when you launch your own venue."
Establishing and sticking to a niche focus is key. A niche means
without it, you're just a lawyer with a voice. If you haven't noticed,
many people do not
and they dislike even more the ones who use their
However, when lawyers who are reliable and trusted authorities
in a niche have
something to say, people listen. Better yet, they cite what the lawyer
blogged in their
own blog, a news piece (if they're reporters), or an email.
"We have 2,500 to 3,000 people per month reading [our]
blog, friend and foe
alike," says William J. Ward, managing partner at Carlin & Ward
P.C. and author of the New
Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog (www.njeminentdomain.com).
"Many of our adversaries monitor
our blog, and we are watching them watching us. Newspapers track our
blog and frequently
call me for comments on cases that do not even involve our office."
The more niche-oriented the content, the better your blog is
going to work as a
marketing tool. The niche for the blog can even be more focused than
your area of
practice. Think of your blog as a magazine published on one area of
practice, among others in
which you perform work.
Kristie Prinz, a California intellectual property lawyer who
California Biotech Law Blog (www.californiabiotechlaw.com),
has seen the value of such focused
writing: After less than a year of blogging, it helped push her blog to
the top of the
Northern California biotech community.
"I think the fact that my blog is unique has helped set me
apart more than
anything else," she says. "When I started and when I came up
with the idea for a biotech
blog, there were really no biotech blogs out there whatsoever. There's a
few now, but
there's still not that many."
Design and User Interface
Just as you dress professionally when you go to court or meet
prospective clients in
your office, you should give your blog a professional appearance.
- a brief title that is descriptive of the niche on which your
blog will focus;
- an indication of who is publishing the blog (be specific: Is it
your firm? You as
a lawyer representing the firm? You acting independently?);
- content archived by categories, not by date;
- clear "subscribe" options for both RSS (real simple
syndication) and email users;
- a full-text search that allows users to quickly locate relevant
- separate, but linked, pages containing information about you and
and providing your complete contact information including phone and
email. This is
important for establishing instant credibility for reporters and
others who may cite your blog.
Darren Rowse, corporate blog consultant and founder of
how good blog design gives you credibility.
"First impressions count and in a world where there are
millions of people
pitching themselves on virtually any topic you can think of you need to
how you'll stand out from the crowd and pre-sent yourself in a way that
readers into your blog," he writes. "Experience, expertise,
longevity are great at building
credibility once a reader makes a decision to actually explore your blog
but there are a
few crucial seconds that happen before this decision is made and blog
design can play a
big part and communicate a lot."
The Art of Blogging
Blogging is an art - and nobody's perfect their first time giving it
a go. But while
it may seem like unfamiliar territory for lawyers still cautious about
learning the art of blogging is a lot like learning to ride a bike: Once
you've got the
basics, it only gets easier.
Be aware that you're writing for a blog, not a law review,
magazine. Remember to write as you talk; blogging is a conversation, and
your blog is your
mouth. Lawyers are tempted to write a blog like they write an article
for a bar publication or
a memorandum for the court. Unfortunately, this formal writing style
doesn't work nearly
as well as a conversational tone.
Think of how you would talk with members of your target audience
at a reception
following a speech. By and large, people still would be talking about
the topic that
brought you together. But the tone obviously would be much less formal
than it was while you
were speaking from the podium.
A conversational tone alone, however, is not enough. You need to
conversations with other opinion leaders in your niche to realize the
full potential of blogging.
Think of blogging as an online Rotary meeting, where all the
Rotarians are within
your target audience, whether as opinion leaders, prospective clients,
or influencers of
prospective clients. You would not walk into a Rotary meeting and shout
updates through a bullhorn. You would engage in the conversation,
offering your insight and
commentary in the appropriate context of others' conversations.
Remember the acronym FLEE: Find the relevant Internet
Listen to the discussion. Engage in the discussion.
Empower your readers.
- Find the most influential bloggers and reporters on the niche
for which you will
- Listen to these influencers by subscribing to RSS feeds of their
news sites through the use of an RSS reader such as Google Reader.
- Engage in a dialogue with these opinion leaders and influencers by
comment on their blogs or referencing what they wrote, adding your
viewpoint in your own
- Empower your subscribers to share your blog posts in blog posts of
in news stories, and on social networking Web sites by always adding
content of value,
that is, something that advances the conversation.
The results of such effective blogging are far reaching. People
relevant Internet research, both lawyers and prospective clients, will
see your name over and
over again. You'll receive regular calls from reporters looking for
commentary from a
knowledgeable attorney (75 percent of reporters use blogs to locate
experts and gain
insights for stories, according to a recent study). Your content might
be syndicated to
periodicals, news Web sites, and newspapers as influential as the
Washington Post and New York Times. And ultimately, word
of your passion and expertise as a trusted authority in
your niche will spread by word of mouth - both on and offline.
Growth in Legal Blogging
According to a study conducted in late May by J.D. Lasica, a veteran
and blogger, 73 percent of Internet users around the world read blogs -
48 percent do so on
a weekly basis.
Traditional media outlets are rushing to make blogs a staple of
presence, and you'd be hard pressed to find a newspaper whose Web site
several blogs. Even television personalities like CNN's Anderson Cooper
and FOX's Greta
van Susteren are using blogs to keep the discussion going after their
broadcasts have ended.
With all these changes, it comes as no surprise that the legal
field has adapted
to join this new trend. The ABA Journal's Blawg Directory
currently links to more than
2,000 legal blogs in more than 100 categories. It lists five blogs
written by judges, 696
sponsored by law firms, 181 authored by law professors, and 38 published
by legal news
outlets. Blawgsearch.justia.com, another online law blog directory,
lists 2,876 blogs
in 67 categories. LexMonitor.com, a daily review of law blogs, pulls
nearly 2,500 law blogs and more than 5,000 authors.
Large law firms are blogging at a rate even greater than small
firms. More than
25 percent of the 200 largest law firms in the country publish blogs.
For the 12-month
period between November 2006 and November 2007, the number of large law
firm blogs grew by
"Easily 80 percent of my new business comes from people who
found me through my
blog," says Seattle attorney Philip Mann, who publishes the IP
"I make a point of asking new callers how they found me.
More often than not, they say they ran a Google search on `contingent
fee IP lawyers' and
I popped right up."
"The Internet and blogs are the great equalizer,"
Mann says. "No longer do the
large, established firms have a monopoly on the power to get their name
out and attract
One hundred years ago, lawyer marketing was all about entering
with opinion leaders, business associates, and the public to spread word
passion, expertise, and care and to further enhance one's reputation as
a trusted authority.
Today, it's still the same - except that the conversation has moved
You too can enter the conversation through blogging.