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January 30, 2007

Blogging Advice For The Blog-Challenged

Connecticut Law Tribune - January 1, 2007

(Since the writing of this article back in early November, there is much more I would add because of all I have subsequently learned.  However, this is the way it was published on January 1st of this year and I will continue to update with future posts.  More importantly, I have come to realize that the majority of attorneys still do not know what a blog is nevermind to use one effectively in their practice.  These same lawyers are still contemplating the wisdom of a website as they write large checks out to their yellow page providers.  We take for granted, because we have blogs and read blogs that all lawyers must.  Trust me, it just isn't true.)

Blogging is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It's a very inexpensive, if not an out-and-out free, means of communicating to countless potential clients or referrers of clients. However, most lawyers, especially solos with limited time, may browse blogs and glean information, but few really feel comfortable blogging themselves.

This is because they don't quite know how to design a blog or can't imagine how to use it .......

as a marketing/leveraging tool for new business. And once they figure out it might be beneficial to have one, they don't know how to get started. As defined by "Wikipedia," the term "blog" is a blend of the terms "web" and "log." Authoring, maintaining or adding an article to an existing blog is called blogging. Individual articles on a blog are called "blog posts." A person who posts these entries is a blogger.

A blog entry typically consists of a title, body, permalink (the URL of the full, individual article) and post date. A blog entry can include: comments by readers, categories (subjects that the entry discusses), and trackback and/or pingback (links to other sites that refer to the entry). Alongside the regularly updated entries, a blog site often has a less-frequently updated list of links, or a "blogroll," of other blogs that the author reads and/or with whom he or she affiliates.

Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. It's technical simplicity and personality driven content makes it a perfect match for lawyers. For those who have never seen a blog, an excellent resource for solos and an excellent example of a self-designed and well maintained blog is Grant Griffith's Home Office Lawyer

As a marketing/networking tool, when used correctly, a blog enhances all other marketing efforts. And like a well-designed web site, it allows lawyers to have a unique voice amidst the competition. However, blogs are especially beneficial to solos because they allow them ongoing casual dialogue with clients or potential clients that can set them apart from the masses.

Most important, blogs are not for dispensing legal advice. Bloggers who create a blog that is academic, cold or sterile frequently fail. The successful blogs are those that establish themselves as the "go to" blog for information.

A good analogy would be the following: you go to the library to find a book on volcanoes. If the librarian tells you everything he knows about volcanoes, you would be put off. However, if the librarian were to walk you over to the section on volcanoes, recommend a favorite author, share a story about his own trip to Mount St. Helens, all while directing you where you wanted to go, the librarian has given you what you want. Chances are the next time you had a question about volcanoes, you would remember her, and maybe even refer other people to her. That is the purpose of a blog.

Through their regular posts, the quality of their permalinks, and the expression of their personality, bloggers gain an audience, build their reputation and carve out a niche area of expertise, all of which should translate into referrals and ultimately paying clients.

Lawyers' blogs should be accessible through their web sites. If they don't have a web site yet, they should definitely start with a blog first, because a properly designed blog can actually eliminate the need for a web site. One of the best sites to learn how to self-design a blog is Typepad.com.

After much research, I finally took the plunge and selected Typepad myself. My blog has been officially introduced this month at www.susancartierliebel.typepad.com. The cost per month ranges from $4.95 to $14.95.

Of course, always refer to the Rules of Professional Conduct when designing any web site or blog. And understand that, once someone commits to creating a blog, in order for it to actually be a successful client referral resource, it must be updated regularly with relevant and timely information that establishes the person as an authority in a chosen practice area(s). The time invested should be considered a marketing expense.

Susan Cartier-Liebel is solo practitioner, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. Her blog, Build A Solo Practice, is at susancartierliebel.typepad.com. Copyright © Susan Cartier-Liebel (2007) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.

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Susan Cartier LIebel has an excellent post on her blog, Build a Solo Practice, LLC called Blogging Advice For The Blog-Challenged. She provides some good basic information for those who are thinking about or just getting started blogging. Blogging is [Read More]

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