Taking Care of Business: Blawging for business

Issue March/April 2018 By John O. Cunningham

Lawyers who want a cost-effective means of promoting their expertise should consider publishing their own legal blogs. There are now many free or low-cost tools to help lawyers launch their blogs, and many practitioners have already garnered large followings through the blogosphere.

Attorneys who like to write should also consider the following:
1. A well-visited blog with regularly refreshed content will turn up higher in search rankings than static websites, and if linked to a site, can boost its ranking. 
2. Surveys have shown that 90 percent of print and electronic news reporters scout the blogosphere for quotable experts and information.
3. Many prospective clients find legal blogs when looking for legal information pertinent to their concerns, and more than half of corporate in-house lawyers read one or more legal blogs.
4. Blog posts have the potential for viral dissemination.
5. Blogs offer a chance for lawyers to display their communications skills, relevant expertise, and understanding of what is most important to prospective clients and referral sources.
Some lawyers get stuck on what to write, but blog fodder is abundant. Trial briefs, speeches, client alerts, newspapers, trade magazines, and popular blogs all provide material that is potentially intriguing to readers who are potential clients, thought leaders, social media followers and media members.

The types of blog posts that lawyers can write are limited only by their imaginations. Some popular kinds of posts include: 
• List articles, which often have titles such as “Seven Keys to Victory,” or “Five Factors in Negligence,” listing steps, elements or factors pertinent to a subject of interest.
• Timely news analyses, which provide expert commentary on news events from a legal perspective.
• Analyses of big legal developments, such as recent verdicts, legislation or regulations.
• Anniversary stories, looking back on the legal implications of a historical event upon its anniversary.
• Forward-looking predictions of legal issues or concerns associated with developing technologies, such as drones, driverless cars or evolving social media platforms.
• Editorial opinion pieces that provide commentary on a court decision, statute or regulation.
• Pieces that offer practical tips for preventing legal troubles, or taking advantage of opportunities created by changes in law.  

No matter what the topic is, the keys to publishing a post that will be frequently read, favorited and forwarded are as follows:
1. Make sure the content is relevant, meaningful and preferably useful to the target audience of your blog.
2. Adjust the length of every blog post to fit the relative complexity of its main subject, and break up longer posts with subheds, bullets, numbered steps or other means of creating digestible chunks of information.
3. Keep in mind that readers want lawyers to demystify things rather than complicating them, so a good legal blogger should follow the mantra of Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” 
4. Publish content promptly in proximate time to its relevance. Nobody wants to read about a court ruling months after it has happened, and few people will read your post after already reading several others on the same subject.
5. Provide links to related stories and pertinent authorities so that more readers will flock to the blog and more publishers are likely to link back to it.
6. Publish regularly, at least once a week, because nobody wants to bookmark or favorite a publication that comes out irregularly only when the publisher feels like it.
7. Write a headline that screams out “Read Me,” and follow it with a killer lead sentence that drags the reader into the story. Open with a knockout punch and don’t “build a case” as if writing a legal brief.
8. Include some relevant graphs, charts or pictorials if you have them. Studies show that pictorial information improves the chances of viral dissemination.
9. Write in plain English or at least decode the legalese for readers who are not lawyers. The target audience should be far broader than just the members of the local bar.
10. Reach definite conclusions and give readers “straight talk” without any hedging. Readers say they hate it when lawyers put disclaimers on everything, and hedge by saying, “On the one hand, this, and on the other hand, that.”

Perhaps the most important advice I can offer to lawyer-bloggers is to have fun and write about topics within your expertise that are of passionate interest. Think of yourself as a publisher with a global digital megaphone who gets to decide what is covered and what is important to say. If you tackle the task of blogging with enthusiasm and energy born from your natural interests, it will energize both you and your writing.

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