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The write stuff: Legal bloggers find their niche online

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Whether focusing on employment law or the realities of moving on after a divorce, Wisconsin’s growing crop of legal bloggers have found that a narrower focus works well on the Web, where potential clients are just a Google search away.

Here are the stories of four making a name for themselves through niche blogging.

BLOGGER: Terry Dunst

FIRM: Bakke Norman SC, New Richmond

BLOG: Wisconsin Municipal Law blog

Law-symbol_blog_When Terry Dunst started practicing law in 2006, he began looking for a way to keep clients updated on legal changes. After talking with staff members at the State Bar of Wisconsin, he settled on blogging.

“It’s just a place for me to give updates on the things we do as a service to our municipal clients, changes in the law. It’s informational,” said Dunst of Bakke Norman SC, New Richmond, who started his blog about three years ago.

Dunst does not keep track of how much time he spends blogging, although he said it probably averages about an hour a week. And he doesn’t keep a schedule for posts, relying instead on what’s going on in the news, the Legislature and the courts to help dictate when he should write.

“Some people write every day, and then there are blogs like mine where I’ll take time away and then write two or three posts,” Dunst said. “There are no rules.”

Setting the time aside to write is his biggest challenge, however, he said. But based on client feedback, he said, the time is well spent, as they are reading.

Blogging also helps Dunst focus on the intricacies of his practice, he said.

“It’s kind of fun, so it accomplishes that purpose whether anyone ever reads it,” Dunst said. “It’s an outlet, and it helps me focus my understanding of the law.”

BLOGGER: Frank Pasternak

FIRM: Pasternak & Zirgibel SC, Brookfield

BLOG: Wisconsin Personal Injury Lawyers blog 

Law-symbol_blog_Frank Pasternak’s goals for blogging have changed in the past 10 years.

“It started off as more of a soapbox,” the Brookfield personal injury attorney said. “I tried to educate people about tort reform and the personal injury law system.

“Now, I still try and use it to educate the public, but I realize that many of the people who read the blog are attorneys, so it’s become more of a source of information for the public and personal injury lawyers relating to Wisconsin personal injury law.”

The blog helps feed the various social media platforms that are now an essential part of Pasternak’s marketing strategy, he said.

“(Blogging) has become part of a strategy within social media,” he said. “So I’ll write an article and I’ll link it to Facebook and Twitter, those sorts of things, to get people to read it.”

Free Web services, such as Blogspot, make it possible to post without knowing much of anything about computer code, he said.

He still wrestles with how often to post. These days, it’s about once a month, down from several years ago, mostly because he doesn’t have as much time.

But overall, Pasternak said, blogging has been worthwhile.

“It’s one tool in the marketing bag. I’ll probably use it as long as I practice personal injury law, as long as there are people looking at it,” he said. “It’s sort of like an annuity you started long, long ago. You’ve had it this long; why not give it that chance?”

BLOGGER: Latrice Milton

FIRM: Milton Family Law SC, Brookfield

BLOG: Women in Transition blog 

Law-symbol_blog_Family lawyer Latrice Milton knew she wanted to reach out to clients online, but it took months for her to feel comfortable with her writing style and blog topics.

“Finally, I was like, ‘Who cares?’” she said. “You get over it, and you know that not everyone is going to like what you write.”

Milton said her clientele, about 95 percent of whom are women, helped her hone the idea for her blog.

“It’s not like a [typical] legal blog,” she said. “It’s more dealing with the nonlegal aspects of divorce and transitioning out of marriage … a mixture of financial, life advice tips for better living, talking about kids, setting up a budget, fears about moving on after divorce.”

Milton uses a combination of blog posts and video to catch the attention of as many people as possible. She employs a local production company to handle lighting and editing to save time with the videos. With their help she can produce about 30 videos, 30 seconds each, in half a day’s time.

Blog posts take 15 to 30 minutes to write, she said, depending on how excited she is about the topic.

She said she tries to cut herself some slack when other projects compete. When she’s really swamped, she’ll just rely on existing content or two- to three-sentence micro-posts.

“I just don’t have it in me all the time,” Milton said. “… It’s still a marketing tool. It’s a way to get my name out there without asking anything of (clients). They get some free advice, and if they like it they’ll tell a friend or family member.”

In fact, most clients tell Milton they chose her after reading her blog or watching her videos.

“Many of my clients say they knew I was their attorney before they met me,” she said, “because they got a sense of me [through my posts].”

BLOGGER: Randy Enochs

FIRM: Enochs Law Firm, Milwaukee

BLOG: The Milwaukee Employment Lawyer blog

Law-symbol_blog_When Randy Enochs started a law blog in 2010 to market his new solo practice, he knew what he didn’t want to do.

“It’s not an employment law course. I’m not going to tell people what they need to prove their cases or where they need to go to file,” he said. “My blog is informational. I tend to focus more on case law.”

Enochs started blogging during law school, writing for the American Constitution Society. He now finds most of his ideas on Twitter, he said, where he follows about 700 news sites, writers and other informational sources. “I spend my lunch hour going through Twitter, going through news articles and interesting case law,” he said. “And, at night, I’ll fire up Blogspot and write a quick article.”

Enochs has no set schedule for posting. In 2010 and 2011, he said he averaged about 170 posts each year. As his practice has grown, his posts have been less frequent; about 100 in 2012 and 72 last year. As of late January, Enochs had posted six times in 2014.

Mostly, his writing schedule depends on his workload, which means he might write three posts one week, but only one the next. Writing about a topic he genuinely finds interesting helps, he said.

“[People that post a lot], you know they enjoy it; it’s not really work for them,” Enochs said. “For me, it’s the same; I enjoy the articles.”

Between reading and writing, Enochs said he spends maybe five hours each week on his blog. Sometimes, it’s just a couple of hours. And that time is usually spread out over the course of working on several posts.

Google analytics and comments from other attorneys have reinforced that it’s worth the effort, he said.

“It’s served as a really good marketing tool,” Enochs said. “It drives traffic to my regular firm website. It’s been one of my Top 10 traffic sources, so one way or another, it’s lead to some business.”

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