2013 Solo and Small Firm Conference

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1 Vermont Bar Association Seminar Materials 2013 Solo and Small Firm Conference 4c) Blogging for Fun and Profit May 16-17, 2013 Basin Harbor Club Vergennes, VT Faculty: Daniel P. Richardson, Esq.

2 ESSENTIALS OF CREATING A SUCCESSFUL LEGAL BLOG, 51-JUN B. B.J JUN B. B.J. 16 Boston Bar Journal May/June, 2007 Department The Profession ESSENTIALS OF CREATING A SUCCESSFUL LEGAL BLOG Andrew Updegrove a1 Copyright 2007 by Boston Bar Association; Andrew Updegrove Today, more and more lawyers are sharing their thoughts on line through blogs, both for pure enjoyment, as well as for practice development. What exactly is blogging? Originally, web logs (soon shortened to blogs ) were simple on-line diaries, and some still are. But today a blog is as likely to include reviews, opinions, or just about anything else the owner wants to share on a semi-regular basis with the world at large. Some blogs receive few, if any, visitors, while others are must reads in areas such as politics, entertainment and even law. Lawyers, of course, are no strangers to writing, and regularly contribute to the professional as well as the popular press. Writing for traditional venues is time consuming, however, making the instantaneous ability to reach the world through a blog very appealing. Still, a print article is guaranteed to reach an audience of a predictable size, while yet another blog may attract few readers at all. And there s the rub. If you are thinking about blogging simply as an adventure in self-expression, then blogging can be a lark requiring as much or as little time as you wish to spend. And getting started is simple, since you can use any of several free sites that allow you to set up a free blog in a matter of minutes. But if you hope to use a blog for practice development, then the effort must be taken more seriously: a legal blog that isn t updated regularly, isn t promoted, or fails to provide value or entertainment (providing both is even better), will never pay dividends. In this article, I ll offer a variety of practical tips on blogging that can help maximize the return on your time and effort. Getting Started The most important first step is to clearly define what you hope to achieve with your blog. The following are examples of realistic goals for a legal blog: BLOGGING FOR CREDIBILITY: A blog can showcase your expertise in areas of special competence. Moreover, once a blog starts to attract visitors from existing clients and referral sources, blogging regularly can help bolster and sustain your credibility in the relevant field. BLOGGING FOR LEGAL EDUCATION: Blog entries require topics, and new legal developments provide one of the best sources of material with high appeal to blog visitors. Maintaining a blog can therefore be a great motivator to help you keep up with the law. BLOGS AS BUSINESS GENERATORS: Attracting business from those you don t already know using *17 a blog amounts 2013 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 1

3 ESSENTIALS OF CREATING A SUCCESSFUL LEGAL BLOG, 51-JUN B. B.J. 16 to advertising, and success in advertising requires reaching a large audience in order to reap a modest return. Equally importantly, you want bloggers with large followings to link to your blog. Finally, you would like reporters to visit your site, and to quote you as often as possible, as well as link to your site. Achieving these types of results requires writing well and consistently on high-value topics. It may also require significant promotional effort. Is a blog the best tool for the job? If you have a local practice, then a blog may not be the best marketing tool to use. On the other hand, if your target market is national, then a blog can be a tremendous way to reach people that would be difficult or impossible to meet in any other time and cost-effective manner. Creating a Successful Blog The following are a few of the ways to raise the odds that you and your blog will attract a following: PICK THE RIGHT TOPICS: It s hard to attract attention if you write about a saturated topic. But if you have expertise in a narrow area, then launching a blog in that area could be very fruitful. SPECIALIZE: It s much easier to attract a following if your blog has a well-defined scope that already appeals to an existing on-line community where word can spread quickly. If you range too widely, then too few of your entries are likely to appeal to any given visitor, and she is likely to drift away. TARGET THE RIGHT AUDIENCE: If your business is likely to come largely from legal referral sources, then write for a professional audience. But if you are most likely to be hired directly, then including case citations will put off rather than attract the right visitors. PROVIDE VALUE: There is an enormous amount of material on the Web already, so it s important to provide real value to reward first-time and repeat visitors. That value can be of many types. You can cultivate a reputation for being the first to reveal new information, provide unusually insightful commentaries, or simply be very good at writing clearly and sensibly. Being entertaining or provocative can also be a plus, if you have the ability to do it well. CREATE A NETWORK: The Internet is a social space, offering you the opportunity to get to know other bloggers with similar interests and trade links. Most bloggers include a Blog Roll at their sites, providing permanent links to the bloggers they read regularly. These links invite readers to visit sites that are credentialed in this fashion. Using the trackback function (a way of adding your own blog address) when you link to an entry at another site can produce the same result. Don t forget that you are a lawyer: Launching a blog means that you are publishing to the world. That means that you should add the same disclaimers that you would in a mass-market print article, that you should include a statement that the blog may be considered to be advertising under applicable ethical rules, and that you should include the terms of use that any Web site targeted at a general audience should carry. A Brief Case Study My blog focuses on technology standards, because many of my clients develop them. Most standards organizations are created by the 500 largest technology companies in the world, making them particularly hard targets to reach by conventional marketing means but also ideal candidates for on-line marketing. Not long after I started blogging, I began covering a story of both local and international interest: the adoption by the Massachusetts government of a standard called Open Document Format, or ODF. That decision meant that the Massachusetts Executive Agencies would have to give up using Microsoft Office. Not surprisingly, the decision proved to be controversial. I committed to writing promptly and informatively on this story whenever a relevant news event occurred. Doing so helped me to establish connections with primary players in the unfolding drama, many of whom became sources. This allowed me to 2013 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 2

4 ESSENTIALS OF CREATING A SUCCESSFUL LEGAL BLOG, 51-JUN B. B.J. 16 break news the mainstream press did not yet have. The blog helped me to be viewed as a trusted source for the mainstream press and this status sustained itself as other states and national governments later followed Massachusetts lead. I paid attention to which journalists covered the same story, and compiled an list of their addresses. Whenever I had a scoop, I would send a brief alert describing the new development and its significance to a growing list of press, government and industry contacts. Soon, a dozen or more publications at a time, such as Computer World, CIO, InfoWorld, CNET, and eweek, were using quoted material from me. Usually, the name of my law firm would be mentioned as well, and a link would be provided back to my original story. Finally, I paid close attention (using tracking software) to who was linking to my blog, as well as to the volume of traffic that each site could drive to my site. Using this data, I connected with the editors of the best sites, and let them know when I posted a new entry on a story that would appeal to them, almost always generating a link back and new regular readers. The result of all this effort has been very satisfying. Today, more than 250,000 readers visit the blog and the related standards site every month. The blog also regularly garners quotes in mainstream press articles and in publications read by decision makers in the target market all without any assistance from a PR firm. And yes, practice development through blogging has generated meaningful business. IN CONCLUSION: Is writing a blog right for you? If you enjoy writing and are willing to stick with it, then a blog can be an enjoyable and rewarding adjunct to your professional and personal life. But if you really want to make it work as a business generator, be prepared to add a major and ongoing commitment to your calendar. Footnotes a1 Andrew Updegrove is a partner at the technology-focused Boston law firm of Gesmer Updegrove LLP. End of Document 51-JUN BBJ Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 3

5 BUILD YOUR PRACTICE WITH A BLOG, 44-JAN Trial JAN Trial 30 Trial January, 2008 Law Office Management BUILD YOUR PRACTICE WITH A BLOG Writing a Blog Can Help You Share Information, Interact with Potential Clients, and Establish Yourself as an Expert. It Can Also be a Lot of Fun. Here s How to Set Up a Good One No Tech Degree Required Benjamin W. Glass III a1 Copyright 2008 by the American Association for Justice; Benjamin W. Glass III When developing a marketing plan for a law firm, you have an almost endless selection of media options. But with more and more consumers turning to the Internet for help with their buying decisions, that s the medium you have to use to stay competitive. How? A blog is one good way. Starting and maintaining a blog is not complicated: All you need is the ability to write and something to write about. It is relatively inexpensive, costing less than many traditional forms of advertising. Blogging can be time-consuming, but the payoff is high visibility on a search engine s results page, the most valuable real estate on the Internet. 1 Like the back cover of the Yellow Pages or a television ad during prime time, a listing on the first page of a search engine s results is highly sought-after territory, and competition for it is fierce. Keep in mind that Internet users tend to be smart consumers, and most have figured out that the sponsored listings that usually appear at the top and on the right-hand side of a results page are paid advertisements. And they re understandably skeptical that they can find what they re looking for in a sponsored ad. 2 They re likely to click on the non-sponsored listings, assuming the links will take them to Web pages (like blogs) that the search engines have determined are relevant to the search terms. Consumers feel that a sponsored ad will be less likely to be relevant than a Web site vetted by the search engines. That s why creating and maintaining a blog should be a part of your Internet marketing plan. A blog is simply a Web site designed so that the average person (even the average attorney) can update it easily and frequently. Originally set up as online journals where the tech-savvy posted their daily ruminations, blogs now cover everything from politics to fashion. Popular bloggers have become personalities with credibility as experts in their fields. Blogs are also interactive. Most allow *31 readers to post comments, and usually the blog author approves posts before publishing them. This ensures that only quality content appears on the blog, and it allows the blog owner to filter out useless or inflammatory posts. The primary difference between a traditional Web site and a blog is that a blog is typically updated much more frequently. It is also more hands-on: While updating your Web site may involve calling your webmaster and waiting for that person to make the changes you want, a blog lets you create and post an article instantly, and you don t need much technical know-how to do this. From a marketing standpoint, however, none of that matters if people who are using the Internet to find a lawyer can t find your blog. As with real estate, location is everything, so it s necessary that you have a basic understanding of Internet real 2013 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 1

6 BUILD YOUR PRACTICE WITH A BLOG, 44-JAN Trial 30 estate. Blogs are typically published in a data format called a Web feed, which publishes or pushes the blog s entries out to Internet aggregators programs that periodically scan the Web for news and pull recent posts on topics users select into one page. You do not need to understand this part of the technical side of blogs other than to know that most Web sites rely on search engines to find their data. If you want your site noticed on the Web, having information on it pushed to rather than found by search aggregators is a good thing. Search engines rank Web pages, including blog posts, according to their relevance to the search query. Of course, relevance is subjective, but some of the most important factors in the search engine algorithms 3 are currency or freshness of content, the density of the relevant subject matter (meaning how often the search term appears), the frequency of your updates, the age of your site, and the popularity of the pages (as judged by links from other reputable sites). A blog is a cheap and convenient way to update your site frequently with current information, to generate discourse among your peers and even your opposition (resulting in more link popularity) 4, and to provide proof that you are an expert in the subject matter. Moreover, if you have a well-positioned Web site as well as a separate, well-positioned blog you can double the amount of real estate you occupy on a search engine s results page. Doing so also eliminates one of your competitors from that page. If your message in either spot is interesting enough, the consumer will stop his or her search and start a conversation with you. 5 Most consumers don t know how to find the best lawyers for their cases any more than they know how to find a good neurosurgeon and lawyers haven t done much to teach them. Getting something you have written published is a great way to steer potential clients to you because it establishes you as an expert on the topic you have written about. A blog instantly makes you a published authority. 6 Think about it: When you see a new book on a store display, you presume that the author knows the topic inside-out. As with writing a book, the point is not just to call yourself an expert but to write in such a way that the information you provide establishes your expertise in the mind of the reader. 7 That same expertise can also make you an invaluable source for news reporters. When reporters are working on stories, they need comments and informed opinion, and in today s world of 24/7 news, they need them right now. They, too, use the Internet for research and are likely to use news- or blog-related search engines, like Google Blogs, to broaden their search. 8 Blogs can help you influence public opinion. The insurance industry and big business spend tens of millions of dollars getting their message out. Media access, ads, and publicity campaigns have imbued the public with a tort reform message. Now, thousands of trial lawyers are getting the other side of the story out through blogs and Web sites. Just type tort reform into any search engine to find the insurance industry s message being countered by the People Over Profits Web site, which is sitting on the first page of Google. Get the blog rolling When you re ready to tap into the blogosphere s marketing potential, the first thing you should do is read other blogs to find out what is already out there. Is one of your competitors already blogging in your market area? If so, what is his or her focus? Is there an information gap you can fill? Type personal injury lawyer [your city and state] into a search engine and see what turns up. Did you find any blogs on the first page of results? If so, pay attention those bloggers are doing something right. Next, navigate to and two great collections of legal blogs. Spend some time browsing the blogs that interest you. Get a feel for content, frequency, *32 and style. Also, visit and bookmark Kevin 2013 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 2

7 BUILD YOUR PRACTICE WITH A BLOG, 44-JAN Trial 30 O Keefe s site Real Lawyers Have Blogs (http:// kevin.lexblog.com) and read his posts. Don t just read the legal blogs. Take a look at some business-marketing blogs, including Seth Godin s at and Duct Tape Marketing, found at Once you find some blogs you would like to follow, set up a blog reader. A blog reader reads the RSS feeds that the blogs push to the Internet. 9 You subscribe to blogs that interest you, and the reader puts their headlines all on the same page for you. This means that you don t have to keep a list of separate blogs in your Internet browser s favorites list. Instead, you can see the newest posts on your favorite blogs instantly. 10 You don t even need your own blog to start blogging. When you post a comment on someone else s blog, you add content that can link back to you. When you post meaningful, substantive comments, the blog owners will recognize you as someone who adds value to their blogs, and later, when your own blog is up and running, they will reciprocate. Most blogs keep a list of other blogs that the blogger finds particularly insightful or intriguing. It s free and valuable advertising for the bloggers who get on that list. This is one of the reasons blogging has become so popular: Bloggers constantly promote and cross-promote each other s blogs. Building a better blog There are three different ways to get blogging. You can start from scratch by building your blog with simple, free or low-cost programs and tools; you can go to one of what I call the get-started-in-lawyer-blogging platforms and pay for the technical bells and whistles to get well positioned on search engines quickly; or you can join a blogging network. Do it yourself. Wordpress.com, Blogger.com, and TypePad.com are three popular Web sites devoted to helping people build their own blogs. With Wordpress and Blogger, you can get a blog up and running at no cost in a matter of minutes. These sites will help you design a professional-looking blog and publish it quickly, and they all have upgrades you can buy to improve both the way your blog looks to readers and the way it looks to search engines. Remember, it doesn t matter how attractive your blog is if the search engines computers don t think it s interesting and position it near the top of their results pages. Starting one of these free (or nearly free) blogs is a good way to see if you will develop the habit of posting entries to your site frequently. Try keeping up a blog for six months to see if you like doing it before investing in anything bigger. No technology will write your blog for you, and a blog will not do anything for you if you do not pay enough attention to it. Get help. Once you know you like blogging, you may want to sign up with a company that s in the business of helping lawyers build, use, and promote their blogs. This is a more expensive option, but if you know you will keep up your blog, you should take a look at sites such as Lexblog.com and Justia.com. These are hosted solutions, so you don t need to install any software. When using these tools, you simply log into the hosting company s server and do everything there you don t need blogging software on your own PC. You can use your own domain name. They have designs that you can customize to your taste and budget. Both sites also have lots of advice on the publishing, marketing, and networking aspects of blogging. Join a network. Blogging networks are the Cadillac of blogging, allowing a newcomer to join an existing, branded network like InjuryBoard.com or Corante.com. Fees and methods of joining a network vary. InjuryBoard.com is area-exclusive, meaning there is only one blogger per advertising market area on the network. You must apply and be screened before you can join. With other blog networks, such as Law.com, it s less clear how you become a part of the network. Blog networks are a developing area of the blogosphere, and hard-and-fast rules are hard to find. A blogging network will give you a jump-start from the technological side and also with marketing. You will get a 2013 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 3

8 BUILD YOUR PRACTICE WITH A BLOG, 44-JAN Trial 30 well-designed template no fussing with formats and HTML coding; all you need to do is type your words in and the day you start your blog you will have strength in the search engines because the blogs already established on the network have hundreds of links leading readers to information in the network. These networks also market themselves, making you, in essence, like a franchise owner, paying for and benefiting from this mass advertising of a known, well-established brand. Spreading the news Once you ve got your blog going strong, you ve got to tell people about it. One of the best ways to do this is to register your blog on Blawg.com and Blawgsearch.justia.com both known for their lists of legal blogs. You should also add your blog address to your signature and your business card. Include a link to your new blog from your firm s Website. Tell all your favorite bloggers that you have launched a new blog of your own. Most important, continue to comment on other blogs where you have some valuable insight or special knowledge. Even nonlegal blogs frequently discuss legal issues, and visitors regularly seek input from lawyers on these subjects. Be alert to these opportunities. *33 The late Mark McCormack, founder and chairman of the International Management Group, once said: All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend. Most traditional law firm Web sites are businesslike, but a blog allows you to show your personality. You cannot personally know all the people who are reading and commenting on your blog, but they can feel like they know you. Footnotes a1 BENJAMIN W. GLASS III is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in Fairfax, Virginia. He may be reached at He blogs at and 1 The most popular search engines are Google, MSN, Yahoo, and AOL, but Google is clearly dominant, handling about 66 percent of all queries. 2 There is a way to get consumers to click on your pay per click ad. It s all in the message: An ad that says Hire the Smith Law Firm will likely generate little or no response, while an ad that offers Free Information to Fight the Insurance Companies will generate interest. 3 The algorithm is the program by which the search engine determines the relevance of your site. Whatever you do on the Internet, you are serving two readers: the human reader and the electronic reader. Both must find your Web page interesting and useful for your Internet marketing dollars to be well spent. 4 People will come to your blog and post comments critical of you and the position you take. This is more than OK this should be encouraged because it provides more content for the search engines to mine. 5 Benjamin W. Glass III, Make Yourself the Obvious Choice, TRIAL 38 (Mar. 2006). 6 The termed used by bloggers is thought leadership, as in: By your blog, you can develop your thought leadership on a topic. It was coined by Joel Kurtzman, founding editor-in-chief of the magazine Strategy + Business Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 4

9 BUILD YOUR PRACTICE WITH A BLOG, 44-JAN Trial 30 7 See Elsom Eldridge, How to Position Yourself as the Obvious Expert: Turbocharge Your Consulting or Coaching Business Now! (MasterMind Publg. 2004). 8 While few blogs are indexed in the news-focused search engines, some blog networks (and individual blogs in those networks) are. 9 An RSS feed allows people to subscribe to your blog and have your new blog posts and comments fed to an RSS reader. This allows someone to keep updated with your blog posts without having to go directly to your blog s Web page every time they want to see what is new. 10 Several blog readers offer free services, including and The easiest method is to start a free account at Google (www.google.com/accounts) and set up an igoogle home page that will track not only blogs, but any other Web sites that you want to monitor. End of Document 44-JAN JTLATRIAL Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 5

10 TOP 10 STRATEGIC BENEFITS OF BLOGGING FOR THE..., 76-JUN J. Kan. B.A JUN J. Kan. B.A. 14 Journal of the Kansas Bar Association June, 2007 Regular Feature Tech Tips TOP 10 STRATEGIC BENEFITS OF BLOGGING FOR THE LAW FIRM Grant D. Griffiths a1 Clay Center Copyright 2007 by Kansas Bar Association, Topeka, Kan.; Grant D. Griffiths Blogging (i.e., Web logging) has become a hot topic on the Internet the last couple of years. It has matured from its original use as a personal journal to a viable marketing tool for small business and professional service firms. A question I get often when visiting about blogging with other lawyers is: How can a blog benefit my law practice? In order to provide an answer to this, I have come up with 10 benefits I have seen in my own practice. 1. Search engine marketing A blog gives you an increased presence on major search engines like Yahoo! and Google. A well-written, routinely updated, keyword-oriented blog can enhance your chances of getting noticed not only by readers, but also by search engines. Like any marketing effort, with blogging or Internet-based marketing, you want to get noticed. A blog will do just that. Because a blog is not static as a normal Web site and because you can easily update a blog, the search engines love them. You will see quicker results too. Not only will you get noticed, but you will get noticed quicker with a blog over a normal Web site. 2. Direct communications Blogs provide a way to speak directly to your target audience. A blog is similar to an educational publication. You are providing information and a way for a conversation to continue with a marketing blog. By taking advantage of the commenting feature on most blogs, readers can comment on your individual posts and keep a conversation going on topics that interest them. The goal of a marketing blog for a law firm is to establish a readership -- readers who will continue to come back to your site time and time again. 3. Brand building A blog is another way to promote your practice and the area of law you practice in. For some, this is called brand building. You can establish your blog as the place to go for information. Information that the public is looking for to answer questions they may have. 4. Competitive differentiation 2013 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 1

11 TOP 10 STRATEGIC BENEFITS OF BLOGGING FOR THE..., 76-JUN J. Kan. B.A. 14 Because a blog gives you the opportunity to provide information about your area of practice, and provide that information over and over again, you can set yourself apart from your competition. This is a huge benefit of a blog over other marketing efforts such as normal Web sites and yellow page ads. With both of those media, you initially set up the marketing tool and it does not change. With a blog you can add to and change your marketing tool as often as you want. You have a competitive advantage over those who only use a normal Web site or yellow page ad. 5. Relational marketing A well-designed, well-maintained, and updated blog allows you to build personal, long-lasting relationships with your clients and reader base. They will come to trust you as a place to go for information about what concerns them. You are providing this information for free and in the process marketing your firm and gaining clients 6. Exploiting the niches My main marketing tool is my Kansas Family & Divorce Lawyer Blog, kansasfamilylawblog.lexblog.com. This type of blog focuses on one area of law, which is family law. Just as some firms will place yellow page ads in certain subcategories of the attorney section, a firm should do a blog for a niche area of practice. I have seen blogs for family law, estate planning, real estate law, criminal law, and other specific areas. These blogs seem to get the most bang for the buck. 7. Media and public relations Blogs are an excellent public relations tool. The media will call you, not your competition, because you are out there providing information. 8. Positioning yourself as the place to go for information Blogs enable you to articulate your viewpoints on new case law, share your knowledge, and provide information. A well-maintained and frequently updated blog will become a place for your readers to come for such information. Something you can not do with a yellow page ad. 9. Reputation management A good blog can help you manage your online reputation. 10. Low cost Blogs are inexpensive to set up, operate, and maintain. Even if you pay a firm like lexblog (www.lexblog.com), the cost is very reasonable; in fact, it is considerably less than the yellow pages. Other blogging platforms such as Typepad (www.typepad.com) and Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) cost less than $20 per month. Utilize a marketing blog is certainly not for everyone. However, if incorporated into a firm s overall marketing efforts, blogging can have benefits to the firm. Footnotes a1 Grant D. Griffiths is a solo practitioner from Clay Center. He can be reached at or at (785) Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 2

12 TOP 10 STRATEGIC BENEFITS OF BLOGGING FOR THE..., 76-JUN J. Kan. B.A. 14 End of Document 76-JUN JKSBA Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 3

13 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES The following articles provide useful insights into why lawyers should consider blogging and into the proper strategy to pursue in blogging. Kevin O Keefe, Legal Blogging: How to Craft the Right Strategy Between Lawyers Roundtable, The Future of Legal Blogging hive/lpm_magazine_articles_v31is5an4.html Lex Blog, Why Blog? Think. Write. Connect

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