By Robert Algeri, Founder
The internet has changed and continues to change the business landscape for law professionals. Just as how email—originally dismissed as novelty—has become indispensable in the everyday life of a lawyer, forward-thinking lawyers are finding blogging to be a powerful means by which they can exponentially increase their business-development opportunities.
Blogging enables lawyers to publicly demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in a particular area of law by regularly writing and posting short articles. Although this will not yield results overnight, the cumulative benefits of a well-written blog are clear:
Blogging creates the opportunity for a different class of attorneys to become effective rainmakers. Those who don’t naturally sell themselves have found great success in blogging, where expertise is at a premium. Blogs enable attorneys to bring in new business by educating rather than selling.
When done correctly, blogging can be a highly effective means of building reputation and driving new business. Below we detail 20 tips on law blogging to help ensure success:
Select a narrow niche
Central to getting started with your law blog is deciding what subject to focus your blog on. The goal with your blog is to present yourself as THE definitive expert on a very narrow niche—ideally an untapped one. In your real-world practice, you may have clients that fall outside of this realm; however, to establish expertise online, it is critical to remain on-topic within a very focused niche of law that you can “own” by regularly creating original and compelling content.
Keep the name simple
Straightforward is the best route when naming your blog and selecting a web address. While some lawyers have succeeded with creative web addresses for their blogs, opting to go with a straightforward name and web address has benefits, including:
- Allowing readers to instantly recognize the topic of discussion on your blog
- Improving your blog’s standings in Google search results
Some examples of effective blog names/addresses include:
Yes, quality content is of paramount importance with a blog. However, your readers are also human, and even those with the best intentions will still judge a book by its cover. No matter how profound your blog posts may be, if they are presented in a visually lackluster manner, you will miss out on potentially valuable readers.
The first few seconds that a new visitor spends on your blog are critical. During this extremely brief time, they are assessing whether your blog is worthy of further attention. A good first impression—through professional design—helps establish a sense of credibility to your blog and will maximize the likelihood that your new visitor will spend some time there.
Offer unique insight and commentary
The best law blogs offer unique insight and original commentary. Though this requires considerable effort—especially compared to the easier route some lawyers take by simply reposting news developments in their field—it creates a far more compelling reason for readers to bookmark or subscribe to your blog.
For much the same reason why editorial pages are consistently among the most-read pages of a newspaper, people like to hear the original thoughts of someone they regard as a credible voice—and to be able to respond to those thoughts. By providing original commentary and allowing your readers to post their own thoughts in the comments section, you leverage the full interactive potential of blogging.
Below are links to some bloggers who focus on providing their own unique insights and best practices:
And here are some blogs that look sharp at first glance but whose content consists largely of generic news developments in their niche subject, which hardly inspires regular readership: (Note: We do NOT recommend the approaches used here.)
Make it personable
In conjunction with originality, personality is a cornerstone of every successful blog. Providing original content is half the battle; the other half is to win over your readership with a sense of personality that shines through. After all, you want your blog to brand you as someone your prospective client will enjoy working with. The particular approach you opt for with regard to tone is up to your personal preference:
Some take a highly personable and casual approach:
Others strive for more of a middle ground:
Regardless of which approach you select, the key is to communicate some character along with your valuable insights and factual information. Avoid writing blog posts that read like something pulled straight out of a reference book; the most profound blog won’t achieve critical mass if it isn’t enjoyable to read.
Keep it short (But not too short)
There are no fixed rules on how long or short a blog posting should be, though they should generally skew toward shorter:
- Short enough that your reader doesn’t tire of reading
- Long enough to clearly communicate your point
- Short enough that there should be no sentences that can be deleted without affecting the gist of your posting
Sometimes a posting needs to be long:
Other times, a posting is short:
Either way, the writer in each of the above examples provides only what is necessary to communicate his point and deliver a compelling post. Also, each writer goes beyond simply stating the facts and makes an effort to point out the interesting ramifications of the scenario or legal proceeding in question.
Engage yourself with the greater blogging community
An excellent way to insert yourself into the greater conversation among bloggers and attract new readers is to write a blog post in reaction to something you’ve read on another law blog. While you should strive for entirely original content in a significant portion of your blog postings, reacting to other bloggers is a tactical means to raise awareness of your blog among those bloggers you’d like to be associated with.
Reacting to another person’s blog post involves:
- Linking to the other blog post
- Including an excerpt or two, ideally differentiated visually from your own text
- Writing a couple sentences of your own thoughts and comments with regard to the other blog posting
Many bloggers use a trackback feature that will automatically alert them whenever one of their pages is being linked to. More often than not, if you write a reactionary blog post and provide a link to the original posting that you are commenting on, the blogger will come visit your blog to see the context in which they are being presented. If they like what they see, there is a chance that they will become a reader and even better, they may add you to their list of favorite blogs—a ubiquitous feature on blogs.
Quality information is a top priority
Visit a blog with poor content, and you’ll likely never return. Visit a blog that has the exact information you’re looking for, and you’re likely to make a note of it.
If you encounter writer’s block and just can’t muster up a blog posting, it is better to not write anything than post an uninteresting and uninspiring blog entry. Of course, don’t let a skipped blog post or two turn into an extended hiatus.
Occasionally we come across lawyers who use their blog to talk about their personal life or office happenings. While this perhaps may interest some readers, it generally detracts from a blog’s informational value.
In other cases, we’ve happened upon lawyers who are ostensibly blogging about the law but in reality are doing anything but. For instance, on this blog about cruise ship law, blog.lipcon.com, many of the postings are news articles reporting on an injury or death aboard a cruise ship, which, at best, are tangential to the supposed subject matter of the blog, cruise ship law.
Use headlines that entice and summarize
Blog headlines should be treated like newspaper article headlines. In addition to attracting attention, they need to accurately capture the subject of the blog posting so that readers can determine whether the posting is worth reading.
A well-written headline will clearly identify the topic of discussion while being interesting enough in its own right to attract readers’ attention.
One topic per post
Speak only to the topic summarized by your headline. Any extraneous thoughts can be saved for another day’s blog post.
On the internet, people forage for bits of information on a specific topic—and blogs should be structured accordingly to meet these expectations. Readers choose whether to read a blog posting based on the relevancy of the headline to their information needs and interests.
Break down complex topics into multiple posts
A great way to blog about a complex subject, and engage readers so that they return for more, is to write a series of blog posts on the same topic. For instance, suppose you write a blog about trusts and estates. You decide to write a primer on succession planning, a fairly complex topic. Instead of writing one blog post, you can spread out your succession-planning primer over several posts—similar to chapters within a book. Each post will constitute an installment, and you might even consider adding a teaser at the conclusion of each post to preview what can be expected in the next post.
Using the succession-planning-primer example, you might have a series of posts titled:
- Succession Planning: Developing the Plan
- Succession Planning: Valuation Methods
- Succession Planning: Buy-Sell Agreements
- Succession Planning: Funding the Agreement
- Succession Planning: Estate Planning Issues
Scheduling a half hour per week to blog
Scheduling just 30 minutes into your weekly schedule is enough to give momentum to your blog. If you’re tight on time, consider using this method to generate a quick and meaningful post:
- Step 1: Find an interesting bit of news that has happened recently in your niche. Then, begin your blog post by writing a 2-3 sentence summary.
- Step 2: Write an additional 2-3 sentences of commentary discussing the impact of this development on the people or businesses in your market.
All too often, lawyers get busy and forget to post anything for weeks and months at a time. Consistently updating a blog is critical for building and maintaining a regular audience.
Promote your blog via social media
Posting regularly to your blog is only half the battle. The “build it and they will come” mantra won’t necessarily work here. Once you’ve started posting to your blog, rather than sit around and wait for people to stumble on it, you’ll want to spread the word:
- LinkedIn – Update your status every time you post something to your blog, and be sure to include a link back to the blog post
- Twitter – Tweet the headline and shortened URL of your latest blog post
- Submit to law blog directories like Blawg.org and Justia Blawg Search
- Post meaningful comments on other lawyers’ blogs and include a link to yours
Commenting is key
The comments section of a blog post provides an excellent opportunity to better engage your readers and make full use of the interactive nature of blogging. Oftentimes the best blogs feature posts where a lively dialogue occurs in the comments section between the blogger and reader, as well as among readers.
Enabling your readers to provide their own insights and thoughts in response to your post offers advantages including:
- Giving readers an additional incentive to become part of your regular audience
- Increasing the likelihood that search engines will display your blog post in the search results, because the text in the comments section is treated as additional original content on your website
Below are some tips to facilitate commenting on your blog:
- A call-to-action: It may seem overly simple, but asking a question along the lines of “What are your thoughts?” in your blog post will inevitably lead to more of your readers leaving comments. As is often the case, even when the option is provided, people tend not to take advantage of it unless asked to do so.
- Interact with readers’ comments: Reward your readers by responding to thoughtful comments. Oftentimes readers will add insight that you may not have even thought of. Responding—even if it’s with something as simple as “John, that’s a great point you make”—shows that you value your readers’ time, which will increase the likelihood that they will leave comments in the future.
- Be strategically open-ended: There are times when it can be beneficial for your blog post to not address a topic to exhaustion. Longer blog posts are less likely to be read in their entirety, and readers often like to chime in and comment because they’re adding a salient point that the blogger’s post did not address.
Optimizing for Google
A blog that is highly ranked on Google (and other search engines) will attract more business prospects, journalists and other visitors. While blogs tend to be search engine friendly by default, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of being found:
- Encouraging links
Good blog posts will be shared, and this often involves another blogger’s including a link to your blog post on their own blog. Links from others to your blog have a positive effect on your search engine ranking, since the search engines factor in the number of incoming links to a webpage when determining relevancy. Commenting on other people’s blog posts can also help in this process, as the bloggers you are commenting on may link back to your blog.
- Thinking about keywords
When writing your blog posts, it is also important to use the same terminology that is being used by the audience you would like to attract to your blog. While search engines have gotten better at associating synonymous phrasing, it is best to use the phrasing that is being Google searched by your prospects. For example, you may want to use colloquial terminology in lieu of more accurate legal terminology if that is what your target audience is using.
Don’t drop off the face of the earth
Sometimes you acquire new clients or a new project comes up, and adding new posts to your blog becomes a secondary concern. However, it is essential that you always carve out some time for blog posts—15 minutes here and there is all it takes to maintain your blog!
There have been numerous bloggers who put in much time and effort to set up and run their blog for several months, only to allow it to languish through a lack of new posts.
Sadly, the audience that they created during those first few months eventually abandons the blog for lack of updates, and the occasional new posts that do appear on the blog fall upon deaf ears.
For instance www.orangebookblog.com, a blog focused on patent law as it applies to FDA decisions, appears to have built up a readership at one point, as evidenced by readers’ consistently posting comments in the past. Unfortunately the lawyer started blogging extremely infrequently—along the lines of once every couple months—which appears to have resulted in a drop off in the number of comments and, we can assume, the number of readers.
Check for broken links
Sometimes you’ll want to highlight webpages or articles on other sites that you think may be of interest to your audience. Unfortunately the internet is a dynamic environment, and a page that may have been there yesterday may no longer be there today. As a courtesy to your blog’s readers, you’ll want to periodically check for broken links.
Fortunately, this process is made easier by widgets that can be periodically run via your blog’s back-end to check for any broken links.
Avoid the hard sell
Your blog is not an opportunity to drive a hard sell. The goal of a blog is to educate, not to sell. Attempts to build a sense of expertise and trust will fall flat the moment the reader stumbles upon any sort of marketing speak. Your knowledge on the subject matters you blog about will speak to your credentials; flowery language and sales pitches should be limited to the firm website itself.
That said, it’s important to provide readily accessible contact information and a basic “about me” page. Readers who have been following your blog may wish to speak with you about a specific situation that you might be able to assist with.
Patience! Expecting too much, too soon...
Blogging is a long-term process with long-term goals. No one becomes crowned an expert overnight, and readers aren’t immediately going to flock to your blog and start calling you with business inquiries. Consistency and persistence are the key to success with blogging.
While it may be tempting to quickly populate your new blog with posts, take the time to develop thoughtful and interesting posts. Blogging is largely about curating the best bits from an excess of information—something that requires time and thought.
Keep posting quality content, and eventually your blog will reach a critical size and capture a large enough audience that you will indeed start noticing the fruits of law blogging.
And last, enjoy!
Look at the blog as a fun diversion from your everyday, not another chore. As we’ve mentioned before, what matters most to the effectiveness of your blog is quality content, which includes expressing a unique and engaging personality through your writing.