Blogging — Not Just For Teenagers
by Peter Mullison
Imagine a marketing tool that compresses time. A tool that helps you stay abreast of legal developments, while letting potential clients know what you do and why they should hire you. That is the potential of the weblog, or "blog." As more and more consumers research legal services online, lawyers without an Internet presence are at a disadvantage. Compared with a traditional, static site, blogs are easier to create and maintain, are economical, and often will be found sooner in search engine results.
A blog is a website that uses journal-style entries to provide commentary on a given topic. If you have only heard about blogs from your college-aged child, maybe you have come to think they aren’t for you. The modern blog is no longer the domain of the angst-ridden teenager. Consider this: Fortune 100 companies (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com), academics (http://lawprofessorblogs.com), and business coaches (http://ducttapemarketing.com) are using blogs to generate goodwill and open a dialogue between them and their readers. In the process, the publishers learn about what their readers need and the readers learn about the publisher’s expertise.
Some Colorado lawyers already have staked a claim in the blogosphere. Linda Chalat at Chalat Hatten is the driving force behind her firm’s blog (http://www.coloradolaw-blog.com), which they started last year. Chalat Hatten has had a Web presence since 1995, foregoing Yellow Pages ads. Chalat candidly admits that attracting clients is one reason for their decision, but she also gave a similarly refreshing answer: "We consider our blog a public service. Providing access to information that impacts our clients and prospective clients is important to us. The blog is an easy way for us to do that." Chalat adds that the firm gets several calls a week from potential clients who found them on the Web.
Deciding to publish a blog is only one part of the equation. Still to be resolved are the issues of where you are going to "park" it, what your subject matter will be and how to get people to read it. First, however, you need to think about what audience you’re trying to reach. Lawyers who are trying to reach potential clients may want to consider different options than lawyers who are trying to reach their colleagues, though the differences may just be the blog’s degree of formality or polish.
Third-party blog hosts like Blogger (http://blogger.com), TypePad (http://typepad.com), and LiveJournal (http://livejournal.com) offer easy-to-use interfaces that will have your blog up in no time. Point your Web browser to any of these sites, create an account and you’re ready to go. One downside to these options is that you risk losing your entire content if the host goes under; another is that some hosts offer limited design options.
The other alternative is to host a blog on your own site, using third-party blogging software. One such platform is the open-sourced WordPress (http://wordpress.org), which is free. This option is a bit more technically challenging and may require you to hire someone to help you set up the blog. However, you should find that hiring someone to help you put up a blog is not as expensive as having someone design a traditional website. Once the blog is set up, regular posting is easy. Another benefit is an ability to use your own domain name. Instead of http://www.joelawyer.typepad.com, for example, your business card can read http://www.joelawyer.com. (Tip: Domain names that hint at your practice area, e.g., http//personalinjury.com, help point search engine users to your site faster.)
Settling on your blog’s focus is the next step. Like any marketing tool, you should first decide what your objective is and for what audience you are writing. A survey of the blog search engine Technorati (http://technorati.com) finds that lawyers are writing about a variety of topics that include specific areas of the law or simply general law practice. A good site to research what other lawyers are blogging about is http://www.blawg.com. Sharing developments in the law that you have to read about anyway is an easy way to provide regular content. It also is a good way to build your credibility as a reliable source of information.
Ultimately, creating a blog, or even a traditional website does you no good if no one looks at it. Because search engines — particularly Google® — favor sites that update frequently, blogs are great ways to raise your online presence.
Certainly, publishing a blog is not the end-all, be-all solution to establishing an online presence. Nevertheless, it is an effective, simple and economical way to raise your profile — something that both the solo practitioner and managing partner of a bigger firm can appreciate.
Peter Mullison is an attorney with the Mullison Law Office in Denver. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.