Marketing has never been more important for attorneys – and a blog displaying expertise in a particular practice area is a valuable tool for networking, attracting new business and finding other opportunities.
But should you market yourself with a personal blog tied to your specific name and practice, or contribute to a firm blog as one of several authors?
As in all things legal, the answer is “it depends.”
One thing is clear – the medium of blogging is a great way for lawyers to make their presence known not just on the Internet, but in the legal community.
“A blog is the tool that gets you to your relationships with people,” said Kevin O’Keefe, president of LexBlog and author of Real Lawyers Have Blogs.
Evan Brown, who practices intellectual property and technology law at Hinshaw & Culbertson in Chicago, agreed.
As a result of blogging, “you meet other people who share a similar interest, you get invitations to speak, other writing opportunities and press inquiries,” he said.
Brown has authored his own blog – http://blog.internetcases.com/ – for four years and also contributes to a firm blog, Practical E-Discovery.
Blogging “is a highly effective way of making your expertise more visible, and a great way to discipline yourself to stay current in an area of the law,” Brown added.
Here are the pros and cons of having your own legal blog versus contributing to your law firm’s blog – or even doing both:
An individualized voice
The upside of a personal blog: enhancing your personal brand as a lawyer by showcasing your personal skills and knowledge.
“The purpose of writing my own blog is to promote the particular expertise that I have, my own personal brand,” explained Brown.
Boston lawyer Stephen D. Rosenberg, a partner at the McCormack Firm, launched the Boston ERISA and Insurance Litigation blog in April 2006 as an effort to market his own practice.
While he couldn’t find the time to market himself in more traditional ways – authoring law review articles, for example – he found he could make time for the blog.
“I had a conscious realization that I regularly had ideas on particular subjects but I don’t have the time” to write anything lengthy, he said. “But I could put down my thoughts in three paragraphs.”
The blog has paid off, Rosenberg said, getting his name out in the legal community in his practice areas, which has led to seminars and in turn to “meeting people who have referred business and in many ways expanded the network of people that I deal with.”
An added benefit is that writing for the blog “has tremendously improved my ability to write quickly and succinctly, which has carried over into other areas of writing, like an e-mail or a brief,” Rosenberg said.
While the marketing benefit is huge, being solely responsible for a personal blog may be more than some lawyers are willing to take on.
Having your own blog “is a lot more work,” Brown said. “You are responsible for the technological side, the design, the maintenance and the content – all things you don’t necessarily have to worry about with a firm blog, where you are leveraging the resources of the law firm.”
The perks of a firm
While a personal blog allows an attorney to promote his or her individual practice, a firm blog typically has several contributing authors that illustrate firm-wide knowledge.
James B. Reed, a partner at the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira, N.Y., contributes to the firm’s blog, the New York Injury Law Blog. Link: http://www.zifflaw.com/NYInjuryLawBlog/
“The biggest problem with any blog is finding the time to actually blog,” he said. “The giant benefit of [a law firm blog] is that rather than having one person try to post frequently enough, we have four of us working on it.”
And as a litigator, “I have absolutely no time to blog for a week or two when I’m in trial,” Reed said. With a firm blog and multiple authors, “if I’m busy, someone else can pick up my slack, and vice versa.”
The downside to a firm blog: losing that individualized voice that can be heard so clearly on a personal blog.
“When you team up with other people in your firm to undertake a firm blog, there needs to be some uniformity of style, so you may have to modify your writing style a bit,” Brown acknowledged. “You lose a little bit of freedom.”
But Brown said lawyers should develop both sides of the marketing perspective – a personal brand as well as that of the firm.
“It’s important to cultivate both aspects of one’s professional persona – one aspect being this personal brand and set of credentials that you can showcase through your own blog, and the other being part of the marketing effort of the law firm through its sponsored blog,” he explained.
Why not both?
While lawyers agreed that blogging has great marketing and networking value, finding the time for both a personal blog and a firm blog is a challenge.
Reed said a second blog – and a personal one at that – would require more free time than he has. Rosenberg said he has considered the idea of launching a second, collaborative blog with some fellow lawyers but hasn’t found the time yet.
But aside from the time required, Brown said there isn’t a downside to working on multiple blogs.
Doubling your workload doubles your chances to network, he said.
Writing for both a firm and a personal blog “is a very cost-effective way of getting your content out there and making your expertise even more visible.”
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