10/20/08

Writing Law Firm Blogs -1: Writing Legal Blawgs, The Cost in Time and Money

I write posts (short articles of 200-400 words) for law firm blogs maintained by solo practioners as well as large law firms. Sometimes I do so for byline credit and sometimes, I'm a ghostwriter.

Over and over again, I run into the same issues in conversations with my lawyer clients regarding writing legal web blogs, aka legal "blogs" or "blawgs" -- so I've decided to write a series of posts here that cover some issues that routinely pop up. (This series will appear under the label "Law Firm Blogs" in the sidebar index.)

Today, let's talk about how legal blogs/blawgs are expensive in time and money because they are.

Sure, you can set up a blog on Blogger (hey, I love Blogger) for free and have it up and running within thirty minutes. Cheap and easy.

But that's just like buying a new pair of Nikes down at the Sports Warehouse and bringing them home. That's cheap and easy, too (maybe not so cheap, granted), but it doesn't make you a runner.

Blogs need investments of both time and money to be successful. You have to write the posts. You have to communicate with others - readers, etc.

Successful blogging for law firms involves a time commitment

1. Blogs need time to build an audience. You want your legal blog / blawg to have a steady readership. This takes time -- a minimum of six months, a year is better.

2. Blogs need time to build your online reputation. Your blawg will need a series of posts that provide something of value to the reader that speaks to who you are and what your law firm can provide.

This does mean good writing. Quality writing will bring people back, badly written content will not(yes, I'm hinting at the law student - or worse yet, the Outsourcing temptation).

However, more than just good writing, legal web logs need to provide valuable information to the blog reader that proves to be dependable over time.

Each blawg post is like a brick that is building your wall on the web, a solid structure that implicitly provides the reader with proof of your dedication and your expertise.

If your law blog demonstrates that you really know your topic (say, probate law or criminal defense) and you routinely publish posts three times a week, that blawg is letting them know that you know what you're talking about and that you're dependable, too. Spotty posts don't scream busy lawyer -- they hint at procrastination, if not worse, to a reader that has found your blawg and wants to know more about a topic.

Successful blogging for law firms involves a money commitment

1. Paying someone like me to write posts for your law firm blog is an obvious direct expense for a law firm blog. Another obvious expense is hiring a marketing or design firm to create the blog for you, instead of using a free service like Blogger.

Even if you delegate the writing and the design, you'll still have another money commitment here - and it will still be there even if you simplify things by writing the blawg internally and opting for the free Blogger template.

2. You have to dedicate time every week to answering comments made to the blog posts, as well as communicating on the web with other bloggers, blogging services, etc. in order to make your blog a success. This dedication should be one to two hours a week, spread out over the week - say 15-30 minutes a day. That's an opportunity cost which will add up. 4-5 billable hours a month means 60 billable hours a year. Golly.

... no one can attend the virtual cocktail party for you

And, yes - you (or your associate, or trusted paralegal) will have to do this job. As your blog post writer, I cannot do what I like to call "attending the virtual cocktail party" for you.

A. It's important that you take the time to respond to the comments left on your blog. They're waiting to see if you do, trust me.

B. It's also important that you send a couple of emails out on a routine basis, telling people about your blog. I think this is best done within your local community.

1. One suggestion I always make is to write a reporter in the local paper about one of their big stories, giving favorable feedback, and include your blog link. ("Great story. We need to know more about this in our community. Joe Lawyer (Please feel free to check out my blog, GreatestBlawgOnEarth.blogspot.com, I'd love to hear what you think. Thanks!) )

2. Another suggestion that I make is for blog owners to take the time to surf the web, creating a list of blogs and websites with which they would like to affiliate. Then, after collecting their addresses, send out a blanket email which not only informs the blogger that you'll be placing their blog on your blawg's link list but that you would be honored if they would reciprocate by putting your blawg's link on theirs.

Why do this? Because their readers will click on their link list, and check out your site. This is very important if you are trying to network in the local area. Crosslinking like this builds traffic, and repeat readership.

Is it worth all this expense?

I think it is, and I think we'll see more and more law firm blogs or blawgs appearing over time. Why?

1. Because blogging is still a very efficient method of distinguishing yourself from the pack, which is very important in today's marketplace.

2. Blogging builds personal relationships with readers in a wide spectrum (geographically, socio-economically, etc.) in a readily available format.

3. Blogger posts, written appropriately, can zoom you to the top 5 search results in a Google Search fast, and free (no need for paid SEO, etc. here).

4. Virtual networking is easier and cheaper than traditional networking. You can work on your blog during the soccer match, while you're waiting in line at the bank, or at home, in your pajamas at three in the morning. Hard to beat that.
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