I have lately found discussions and debates about the use of blogs for lawyer or law firm marketing to be, well, boring. Thanks to a recent mention of a pair of articles on the use of blogs for lawyer marketing written by Jerry Lawson, Brenda Howard, Tom Mighell, Ernest Svenson and me in 2003 (here and here). I'm beginning to understand why.
I realize that I have been saying and hearing much of the same discussion of blogs for marketing for several years. It's no surprise that I've started to find it boring.
On the other hand, the use of RSS feeds for lawyer / law firm marketing purposes interests me greatly. But, blogging is blogging at this point. You either have gotten it or you haven't.
To be fair, I have some history in this Internet for lawyers stuff. I was a member of the class of 1995 of lawyers with websites. I wrote a couple of the seminal articles on the use of websites by lawyers and law firms. The 30+ Internet Roundtable columns on LLRX.com I co-wrote with Jerry Lawson and Brenda Lawson (along with the occasional guest author) remain, to me, the best materials written on law firm web pages and Internet marketing. I've also been blogging and writing about blogging for a couple of years.
That said, please feel free to ignore my advice and reach your own conclusions. The Internet is a free country, after all.
I decided to put together an FAQ (list of "Frequently Asked Questions") about the use of blogs in legal marketing in 2005.
1. What should be mandatory reading for any lawyer or law firm considering starting a blog?
Jerry Lawson's quote from the article mentioned earlier:
Blogs have enormous potential, but its important to keep the phenomenon in perspective. I think were going to see another instance of the 80/20 Rule. It will probably shake out something like this: About 80% of all lawyer web logs will fail. The remaining 20% will have greater or lesser degrees of success, mostly modest. One per cent or so, maybe less, will be extremely successful. However, some of that 1% will be so successful that they will make their owners very, very glad they got into the blogging game.
2. What is the best indicator of likely success in blogging?
A history of meeting regular deadlines while producing a high quality newsletter.
3. What is the best thing to do if I want to start a blog or improve an existing blog and do it myself?
For many years, if you wanted to learn how to have a great website, you simply needed to study what Greg Siskind was doing at VisaLaw.com. There was no mystery. The issue was always whether you could execute.
For blogs, you simply need to study what Marty Schwimmer is doing at The Trademark Blog, which recently celebrated its third birthday. Note that Marty is now in his fourth year of blogging, while there are still law firms treating blogging as a "new" phenomenon and sending out alerts and press releases.
Everything you need to know about creating a successful practice-oriented blog can be learned by studying what Marty is doing at The Trademark Blog. The question is whether you can execute as well as Marty has and whether you have Marty's talent.
4. What is the best thing to do if I want to start a blog or improve an existing blog and don't want to do it all myself?
Hire Marty Schwimmer, Kevin O'Keefe, Dennis Kennedy, Matt Homann, Caroline Elefant, one or more of the Between Lawyers bloggers, or another of the bloggers who has been doing this for a while and who has a track record of success. Heck, hire several of them at once. And, I mean hire them and pay them well don't pick their brains over lunch or ask for free advice by email. There aren't that many people who have had blawgs that were successful over the long-term. I'm horrified by what passes for advice about blogging for lawyers from people who haven't maintained blogs of their own, but see blogs as the latest and greatest marketing tool.
Look for what people do best. Kevin O'Keefe is great for someone starting a blog and for those looking to improve existing blogs. I prefer to work with people focusing on RSS strategies and improving existing blogs, rather than with people starting out a new blog.
5. Is there a moral obligation for lawyers to blog?
I can't reach that conclusion, but I do feel that there may be a moral obligation not to clutter up the blawgosphere by launching another law firm blog with a lot of fanfare and then letting it fade away into neglect and oblivion over the course of a few months.
6. Anything else?
Prove that you have a good subject and that you can maintain a blog by preparing thirty posts before you launch your blog.
7. Anything else besides that?
Take a portfolio approach to marketing your practice. Blogging will only be one part of a marketing strategy and usually just a small part. However, if you are going to try blogging, you should try to do it successfully rather than half-heartedly.
8. Are you trying to say that blogging is hard work with no guarantee of success in the classic sense of generation of business and increasing revenues?
Yup. You didnt really think that it would be different from anything else, did you?
9. Are you suggesting that there may be other, better measures of the "success" of blogging and that the focus on blogs as marketing tools may be misplaced and/or overstated?
Yes, I am.
10. Do you recommend that lawyers and law firms do blogs that are like your blog?
Oh, heavens, no. I always recommend that a classic lawyer blog be modeled on the approach of the Trademark Blog or the time-tested principles of VisaLaw.com. My blog has nothing whatsoever to do with marketing my legal practice it's not a model to use for that purpose at all. Be wary of the advice of anyone who suggests that it is.
Well, that should resolve all of the outstanding questions about the use of blogs for lawyer marketing. Next subject, please.
Please note the category I've used for this post. Comments are now open.