How to Start a Legal Blog
How to Start a Blog of Legal Issues, for Law Firms: Before to Start, some Tips
by Tom McNichol
Tips for how to build a legal blog that attracts—and sustains—an audience.
It wasn’t long ago that law blogs seemed to be the wave of the future for tech-savvy attorneys. Now some are beginning to wonder whether that wave has already crested.
Consider the evidence gathered by Greg Lambert, a law librarian in Houston who contributes to (of course) a blog called 3 Geeks and a Law Blog (geeklawblog.com). Lambert revisited a list he had compiled of more than 200 big-firm blogs and found that more than a third were either dead or dying, with no recent posts. Even allowing that some may have been attached to law firms that went out of business or to employees laid off in the recession, that’s a lot of blogs to bite the dust. Perhaps it was inevitable that a sizable number of the online musings would be abandoned after the initial excitement of law blogging (or “blawgging”) subsided.
But perhaps some just couldn’t keep up with the grind. Among law bloggers who continue to make regular posts, most have learned the hard way what it takes to keep such a site up and running. Here are some tips we gleaned from them about how to survive and thrive.
Be honest with yourself. Before you launch a blog, ask yourself three critical questions: Do I have the time? Do I have something to say? And do I have the authority?
“If you can’t blog at least twice per week, on schedule, don’t bother blogging at all,” advises Broc Romanek, a veteran law blogger and coeditor of TheCorporateCounsel.net. There’s no bigger turnoff for readers than a dormant blog. If you decide you do have the time to blog, make sure your blog discusses a legal topic you care about. If you’re not fully engaged by your subject, you can’t expect readers to care. And attorneys in particular should make sure that their firm allows blogging by employees, lest they become that most unfortunate of creatures – the inadvertently unemployed blogger.
Learn how to build an audience. Blogs thrive on two things: links and readers. Of the two, building links is easier. Whenever you can, link liberally to other established bloggers; with a little persistence, you may find them returning the favor. You can also email other bloggers to alert them to a post they might find interesting. (Most blogging software contains a “track-back” feature that notifies you when someone else links to your post.)
Building readership is more elusive, but if there were an easy way to do that, every blogger would be a best-selling author. Above all, strive to engage your readers. Hook them with an original insight, or a new way of looking at an old topic. It’s OK to be serious, but don’t take yourself too seriously. A good blog is a conversation, not a lecture.
Blog for the right reasons. Unrealistic expectations are the single biggest killer of law blogs. Too many big-firm attorneys think the blogs they launch will act as free advertising for their firm, not appreciating that the content of a blog has to be far more useful and nuanced than a typical press release – and so requires far more work. Some small-firm or solo attorneys launch blogs either to drum up new business or in the hope of becoming at least semi-famous. When these outcomes don’t pan out, the blogs are promptly abandoned. The best reason to blog is because you enjoy it. Some days, that will be the only reward you receive.