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How to make your blog prosper

Longtime legal bloggers cite zeal for writing, technology

When a handful of intrepid lawyers launched their blogs about seven years ago, most attorneys had never heard of the term "blog."

Since then, however, the blogosphere has become bloated with online commentary on every legal-related topic imaginable.

Local, regional and national legal blogs proffer attorneys’ remarks on court rulings, practice niches, litigation techniques, ethics issues and technology.

But the demands of updating a blog can prove overwhelming to many lawyers.

Several longtime bloggers said the key to their longevity is their longstanding interest in writing and technology.

Many of the original legal bloggers were "early adopters" of legal technology, said Tom Mighell, whose Inter Alia blog first appeared in 2002.

They recognized the capacity of the Internet both for legal marketing and the development of online communities, he said.

"It’s kind of a love of being part of an online group where people communicate with each other and discuss things," said Mighell, a senior manager at Fios Consulting, an electronic discovery firm in Dallas, and co-host of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, a legal podcast.

"These are people who get the fact that the Internet is becoming a much more interactive place lawyers can use, not only to market their practices, but to get a dialogue up between them, their fellow lawyers, clients and potential clients," he said.

‘New way to have a conversation’

"I was really interested in the social aspect," said New Orleans solo business litigator Ernest Svenson, who launched his "Ernie the attorney " blog in March 2002. "It was a new way to have a conversation."

Several of his friends launched blogs around the same time, but abandoned them when they discovered the demands of updating.

"It is a time-consuming thing," Svenson said. "You have to be driven to write. If you like to write and if you feel like you have something to say, then you’ll like blogging."

Svenson has since launched two other blogs, PDF for Lawyers and Digital Workflow . And although he no longer updates his original blog as frequently, he maintains it as an outlet for his "musings on law and politics."

"If I think I might write and I have a blog, then I’m looking at things and thinking: Is that blogworthy? It makes my brain strain in a different direction, and I like that," Svenson said.

J. Craig Williams was a solo attorney when he launched his blog, "May it please the court ," in August 2003 as a marketing tool. Although he is now a partner at Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, in Irvine, Calif., he still tries to post several times a week.

"Now that I’m at a big law firm, it’s not as critical. We have more marketing opportunities here," he said. "But it is still something that brands me. A lot of people like to look at it and comment. The main reason it’s been going as long as it has is because I enjoy it."

Flying under the radar

Robert Ambrogi, a legal media consultant in Rockport, Mass., and author of Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites , said the main reason blogs fail is because busy lawyers don’t have the time to update them frequently.

"I think a lot of people think it’s easier than it’s going to be," he said.

On the other hand, Ambrogi added, "People psych themselves out that it’s harder than it needs to be."

Ambrogi suggests that newbies blog "under the radar" for the first several months, rather than making big announcements about their blogs.

That way, he said, "You don’t embarrass yourself when you discover you’re really not made for doing this."

In a recent post, Drug and Device Law co-author Mark Herrmann suggested that legal blogs are like small businesses: half fail in the first year and 90 percent fail in the next five.

But Mighell said nearly half of the 2,300 law blogs he’s been tracking since 2000 are still active (with new posts within the past 60 days).

And even those that failed lasted a respectable average of one year, 10 months.

The number of new legal blogs peaked in 2005-2006; since then, there’s been a steady decline in debuts, according to Mighell.

Advice for newbies

Mighell said there is still plenty of room for new blogs. He advised would-be bloggers to:

  • Find your niche – a subject area where you can stand out from other legal blogs. Look at blogs in your geographic area and see what subject matter isn’t being addressed.
  • Know your audience. Determine who you intend your audience to be – the clients you already have, or potential clients.
  • Be prepared to update. Mighell suggests writing a new post at least twice a week. "You’ve got to keep that blog current," he said. "If people don’t see new things coming from you, they don’t pay attention to you."

Questions or comments can be directed to the writer at: nora.tooher@lawyersusaonline.com