Blogging Is A Means Of Marketing For Attorneys
Even if you’ve never read a blog, it’s almost certain that you’ve at least read about blogs. Blogs made headline news in last year’s presidential election. A May 2, 2005 cover story in Business Week magazine called blogs “the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself.” And Law Practice magazine, published by the ABA Law Practice Management Section, devoted its entire July/August 2005 issue to the subject.
As much as anything can be permanent in the ephemeral world of the Internet, blogs look like they’re here to stay. This article will introduce you to blogs and discuss just a few of the uses that lawyers are finding for them.
What Is A “Blog”?
The word “blog” is short for “weblog,” or a log kept on the web. A blog is essentially a simple website that serves as an online diary or journal, with entries posted in reverse chronological order.
A blog is written (usually) by an individual and is updated frequently—weekly, sometimes daily. Most blogs allow readers to post comments or replies to what is written in the blog.
Topics run the gamut from technology to pop culture to politics. As the Business Week cover story said, “Some discuss poetry, others constitutional law.”
Because blogs avoid features such as flash, frames, and databases, which are common to most websites, they can be set up and maintained by people with little or no programming skill. Blogs are also cheap. A number of service providers offer blogging tools at monthly rates no higher than a basic cable TV subscription.
One feature that blogs do share with standard websites is hypertext links. It’s an unusual paragraph in a blog that doesn’t include at least one link. Links are the lifeblood of blogs. They link to websites and to each other, and it is the large volume of reciprocal links that enable popular blogs to rank highly in Internet search results.
Why Should A Lawyer Blog?
Why would a lawyer want to create a blog and then spend time updating it weekly or even daily? “A top benefit is the marketing potential,” said Tom Mighell, a Dallas attorney, avid blogger, and one of five members of a popular blog called Between Lawyers.
Mighell was quoted, along with his Between Lawyers colleagues, in a lively roundtable discussion in the blog-focused issue of Law Practice. “By publishing regularly updated content in your area of practice, you can become known as a ‘go-to’ person in that field,” he said. In other words, a blog can help you build your reputation with both your fellow lawyers and with the public.
One of the most appealing virtues of blogs is that they provide lawyers the opportunity to express opinions and share legal theories without them being filtered (or altogether rejected) by the editorial board of a magazine or journal.
As Business Week observed, “Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours [i.e., Business Week’s]. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art—like how to get other bloggers to link to them—they reach a huge audience.”
Who Reads Blogs?
“It’s not just lawyers speaking to other lawyers. There’s a hunger for coverage of legal issues in plain language,” said Dennis Kennedy, one of the best-known legal bloggers and another member of Between Lawyers. Kennedy spoke to Perspectives Update recently and shared his enthusiasm for the community aspect of blogging.
“Lawyer blogs talk to a broad public,” he said.
The atmosphere is collegial and non-competitive. It’s a supportive network sharing a variety of other interests. A popular blog can have hundreds, even thousands of regular readers.
Kennedy and his colleagues agree that a vital factor in successful blogging is commitment. Blogs need to be well written to be taken seriously, and they need to be updated regularly if they are to attract and maintain a steady flow of traffic. All of which takes time. But fortunately, those who stay with it don’t find blogging to be a burdensome task.
It helps that a key motivator for many bloggers is simply the enjoyment and personal satisfaction that the blogging process provides, as well as an outlet for creativity. That personal reward is essential to a process that requires a commitment for long-term success. As a result, “The quality of writing is typically very good,” said Kennedy.
Is Blogging Advertising?
Do lawyers need to be concerned about the ethics rules on lawyer marketing when they blog? Well, yes. But no more so than in any other forum in which a lawyer writes or speaks.
William Hornsby, an authority and frequent commentator on ethics in lawyer marketing, commented on this subject in the same issue of Law Practice. He observed that while the ethics opinions on blogs have yet to be written, they can be expected to follow the same principles that govern websites and email.
The prudent lawyer then should treat blogs as he or she would any information posted on a conventional website. If a blog is free speech that “does nothing to beckon business,” then the lawyer should have little to worry about.
Lawyers who use blogs to demonstrate their capacity, rather than proclaim it, may ultimately be unencumbered by the limitation of those rules governing client development.