This is the next post in my “Blogging Basics For Lawyers” series. In this post I’ll be discussing the fundamental steps of legal blogging when joining the blogosphere. The first important step in attorney blogging is finding a focus. This is an important first step in the process of blogging because starting without a plan often proves to be as successful as going to trial without having conducted any investigation. The first step of finding your blogging focus is to understand what can happen if you don’t stick to a plan. Next you will need to define a goal for your blog. Finally, it will be important to understand that successful blogging requires you to step outside the box of traditional attorney thinking.
Let me start out by saying that when I started blogging on behalf of my former law firm I actually did so without much of a plan. As a result I struggled to find topics to write about and my posts were infrequent at best. When I did post it proved to be a time-consuming affair and, being a busy attorney, my thoughts were “I don’t have time” for blogging. It wasn’t long, however, before I found my groove and my blog became a critical part of both my law firm’s SEO strategy and source of new business in and of itself. I quickly realized that blogging wasn’t difficult and time consuming; I had simply gone about it incorrectly. So for attorneys who feel that blogging isn’t practical – IT IS!
Legal blogs written without planning are destined to fail before the first post is written
The first step for an attorney joining the blogosphere is to understand the problems which arise if you don’t start out with a focus. Starting a legal blog, without planning how to proceed, results in having an overly broad topic list. This leads to a minimal return for your effort and “blogger burnout.” The best way to avoid these problems is to simply prevent them from happening in the first place.
An overly broad law blog is doomed from the start unless you’re already a celebrity attorney that others wish to follow. Writing about a wide variety of topics means that, since you must devote time to several subjects, you wind up with very little content in each individual topic. This “Jack of all trades but master of none” approach leaves you with a blog that has little appeal; people, after all, go to specific websites because those sites contain specific types of information. If a potential family law client comes across your site then they don’t want to have to sort through your non-family law related posts to get to the content that interests them.
I often come across real world examples of legal blogs that are overbroad. I recently was presented with an example where a family law practitioner blogged about family law but also included “local legal news” as an ongoing subject. Devoting time to blogging about legal news means less time is spent discussing family law. Less time discussing family law means fewer family posts and, in turn, reduced relevancy to its readers in regards to the family law discussion for which the blog was started. Also, a wider topic set means that this author is simply picking more subjects for which he must compete against other blogs but that he won’t have the time necessary to complete adequately. Less traffic, fewer phone calls, and less blog interaction will be the result.
The lack of return that comes from an overly broad blog will lead to burnout. First, keeping up with a variety of topics is both time consuming and inefficient. Second, the reduced blog traffic, post interaction, and new clients that result from being overly broad will leave you wondering “why am I doing this” like I did before I found my groove. Finding a focus is key to your future success.
Defining a goal for your law blog is the first step in giving it focus
There are two primary reasons for which an attorney would blog. The first is to get more clients and the second is to establish him or herself as an expert in a field (for this article I am focusing on the former). Defining a goal puts you ahead in the game against the many lawyers who start a blog simply because they feel they need one (and there are quite a few).
If your goal is to get more clients than it is important you write to that audience by focusing on common and real world situations that apply to would be retainers. While this may sound like a no-brainer, you would be surprised. I came across the following while researching this article:
- A personal injury blog discussing “what jurors should understand in low property damage accidents.”
- A general practitioner who devoted a post to a general discussion of the hearsay rule.
- A family law attorney who devoted a post to a recent celebrity divorce with no analysis of any legal issues.
None of these examples are speaking to real world situations faced by someone wishing to speak to an attorney. Appropriate posts, instead, could consist of topics such as:
- Why one should retain a personal injury attorney even if they have minimal property damage.
- Discussion of legal developments in a celebrity divorce that can be compared to real world examples with a “this could happen to you” discussion.
Unlike the previous examples, these posts are written for the target audience – potential clients! A future post in this series will discuss sources for blogging content that relates to your clients. This brings us to the next important point. Successful law blogging means thinking outside of the normal attorney mindset.
Successful law bloggers consider the layperson’s perspective
Attorneys often struggle with blogging because they approach it in the same way they practice law. Potential clients aren’t reading your blog because they care about the policy behind a particular law or because they want a broad abstract discussion on a particular topic. Nor do they need the point “driven home.” They are reading your blog because they want to see a discussion about a situation similar to the one that they or a loved one are facing. As soon as you move beyond that scope you are moving into subject matter irrelevant to your reader. While easier said than done, it is important that you remember you are writing for laypeople and not Judges. For example, if you’re a family law practitioner then don’t write a long article about how child relocation law works as a general matter. Write a concise article discussing a recent child relocation situation you dealt with and keep the discussion confined to how the law applied to the facts of your case. As attorney Jeffery Lapin puts it “Lawyers need to think like marketers when posting.”
What are some examples you’ve seen of attorney blogs lacking focus or failing to consider their audience? Feel free to chime in on the comment form below.