I’m a small town trial lawyer by trade.

Over seventeen years, I made it to county courthouses in cities the likes of Viroqua, Prairie du Chien, Sparta, Black River Falls, Whitehall and Mauston. Occasionally I made it to courts in Madison, Minneapolis and Chicago.

I don’t believe I was ever invited to speak to a legal industry group. And only once was I asked to pen an article for publication.

Not in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned being invited to speak in Europe to an international audience of lawyers, technology executives and in-house counsel.

Two weeks ago that’s where I was. In Amsterdam at the Lexpo legal innovation and technology conference presenting on the power of blogging and social media.

Out of the blue last fall I received a call asking if I could speak and what my fee and expenses would be. Amazing, “Could you come to Amsterdam, some place you’ve never been, we’ll pay your way and put you up. You really should bring your wife as you’re already being paid to come to Europe.”

Hey, maybe Rob Ameerun, Lexpo’s founder and organizer didn’t say exactly that, but it sounded just like that to me. It was certainly something that was going to make me a star at home – we hadn’t been to Europe since we backpacked and hitchhiked across the Continent on $10 a day thirty-five years ago.

The reason I was in Europe was simple. I blog.

Rob and the person who recommended me to Rob knew of me and my passion for blogging and social media, the subject of my talk, because of my blog publication, Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

Wilder to me still was that, as a result of blogging and social media, people from any number of countries at the conference knew who I was. Invites to speak in London and Lithuania followed.

I’m not alone when it comes to American blogging lawyers being invited to Europe this spring.

Veteran law bloggers, Jordan Furlong and Ron Friedmann, joined me as speakers at Lexpo.

Staci Riordan, long time fashion law blogger and chair of Nixon Peabody’s fashion practice, is featured today in the International Trademark Association (INTA) Daily News for her presentation in Barcelona yesterday on advocating for a brand on social media, as a social media influencer yourself.

From Barcelona Staci is on her way to Tokyo and Seoul to speak. As she tags her Facebook posts, a bit in jest, “#lifeoffashionlawyer.”

Staci was not alone in Barcelona. From long time China law blogger, Dan Harris over the weekend:

If you are going to be in Barcelona during INTA 2017, please let us know via an email to firm@harrisbricken.com and we will do our utmost to have one of our lawyers meet up with you there. Four of our lawyers will be there throughout the conference, including two of our lawyers from our Barcelona office, Nadja Vietz and Joaquin Cabrera. In addition to our home-grown talent, Mike Atkins (world famous for his Seattle Trademark Lawyer Blog) and Alison Malsbury (who spoke at INTA last year on cannabis trademarks) will also be attending.

All of the U.S. lawyers Dan mentioned got to Barcelona as a result of blogging. Heck, in addition to a successful international practice, Dan’s firm has built perhaps the leading cannabis practice in the country on the back of the Canna Law Blog.

Crazier yet, Dan’s letting 10,000 conference attendees from 140 countries know to look up he and his colleagues while in Barcelona — via one of the most widely read international legal publications, his firm’s China Law Blog.

Then this morning I see the dean of law blogging with his LawSites blog, Bob Ambrogi share on Facebook a picture of his home for the next week. A Danube River cruiseboat leaving from Munich.

Bob’s known internationally for his expertise on the Internet and legal technology, in large part because of his blogging. As a result he’s going to be teaching at a bar association conference cruising the Danube.

I don’t share these stories to impress you, but to impress upon you the opportunity that blogging presents you as a lawyer.

Of course you need to have some expertise, blogging is not “fake it till you make it.” But blogging puts you on the map, builds a name for you and makes you an attractive speaker for conference organizers to invite. Stars attract an audience.

Know that the lawyers here have built their names with a blog. They’re not writing articles published in a section of a law firm website claiming to be a blog.

These lawyers and I sought to go out and connect and engage on the Internet with an independent publication, our blogs, and the use of ancillary social media, including Twitter and Facebook. We built a brand for a blog publication and ourselves.

Sure, prominent lawyers who do not blog will be invited to speak at conferences around the world just as they always have. But small town kids like me wouldn’t get there without blogging.

Are individual lawyers relying too much on their law firm’s marketing professionals, as opposed to taking charge of their own marketing?

Building a book of business as a lawyer has always been about building a name for yourself and building a network of relationships. So marketing departments in law firms can help, but they cannot turn a lawyer into one with a good book of business. This takes initiative on a lawyer’s part. Marketing professionals would probably agree.

But today with many law firms struggling, AI/software soon to be doing the work some lawyers are doing and corporations (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and others) picking up a good junks of the transactional legal services market, it sure seems that lawyers would be foolish not to be scrambling to build a name for themselves.

Large and medium size law firm leaders, and the lawyers employed in these firms, who think they’ll withstand the changes taking place sound a lot like the newspaper publishers and media players of 10 years ago. Or maybe like Macy’s, the nation’s largest traditional retailer, who is closing stores as people turn to the net for shopping.

A senior lawyer in a 400 lawyer firm told me a couple months ago that he doesn’t expect his firm to survive, at least in its present form. “In-house counsel may get fired for not using Cravath, but not for failing to use his firm,” he explained in making the point that rates are going down, in-house counsel are bringing efficiencies with technology and corporations are bringing more work in-house.

The Internet is a fabulous place for a lawyer to build a name and relationships. But it’s not going to happen with a group blog lacking passion (especially one inside of a website), profiles of lawyers and driving traffic to websites and content.

The Internet works best for lawyers when they learn how to engage influencers, prospective clients, clients and referral sources in a real and authentic way. Personal law blogging and the use of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, not for attention, SEO and traffic, but to establish yourself as a trusted authority in a niche and build relationships is the key.

What had to be the pinnacle of employment in sports media, ESPN just laid off over 100. Many were household names. I am sure the sportswriters and announcers who worked their tail off to get to ESPN never envisioned ESPN running into trouble as a result of the Internet overnight changing the way sports is broadcast and delivered.

Turns out that companies like Comcast, DirecTV and Dish are losing subscribers. People are turning to the net, mobile apps more than anything, for sports.

Change can happen — and fast. Chasing partnership track at a medium or large law firm can sound great as a young lawyer. What happens though when things start to soften and then dramatically change all around you? It’s not as if you just slide over to the other ESPN (large law firm).

Sure, you can work in larger law, but while there, use the firm as a platform to build a name and relationships via the Internet, personally. It’s in your mutual interest and you’ll be in a position to more than support yourself in the future.

What’s better, ALM’s collective legal periodicals or the collective work of lawyers and other legal professionals who are blogging? Can ALM (f/k/a American Lawyer Media) survive the rising phenomenon of lawyers and law students blogging on an open WordPress platform to build a name and build a business?

Fifteen years ago no sane person would have raised this question. But a lot has changed since then.

I picked up a subscription to ALM’s aggregated Law.com feed for my news aggregator this year.

A few reasons for buying the subscription. One, there were ALM stories I would see in my feeds on Feedly that were behind the ALM paywall. I wanted to read the stories and share relevant ones with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Two, I wanted to build relationships with ALM reporters and editors. With the high ALM turnover, I didn’t know as many people there. What better way to get to know them than to share their stories on Twitter.

Three, ALM reporters were reporting on interesting subjects I wanted to learn more about.

And four, by tweeting and blogging about the subjects of their stories I could build relationships with the people and companies being covered.

Though there are items on ALM not reported elsewhere, usually on the business of law, I was struck by the brevity of many stories and, often, the shallowness of the analysis and reporting.

Made me wonder if law blogging was not on the verge of replacing ALM and other publications as the source of legal news and analysis. LexBlog platform bloggers already publish upwards of 200 posts a day — and there’s some good stuff.

Lawyers have deep subject matter expertise and those who blog well have an unmatched passion for what they cover.

Blogging lawyers are often active on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media establishes trust and sources.

Social media, person to person, moves news and commentary today. Unlike reporters at the New York Times and even a few at the ABA Journal, I am not seeing many ALM reporters actively me and others on Facebook and other social media.

Legal moves slow. Lawyers hold on to what they’ve had in the past. Legal PR often looks for “earned media” versus more the more influential commentary that moves across blogs and social media. All pluses for ALM.

The value of editors will of course be the rebuttal of some. But Facebook is the leading source of news for a growing number of people in the country, including the majority of millennials.

News is what other people report and share. News is not defined by who is reporting.

Blogs haven’t nailed curation yet. That’s coming though.

Today, ALM may have “a winning hand” with have all the stuff in one place. But technology curating WordPress published legal news and information with AI components could relegate ALM to the slow lane in the next few years.

WordPress is by far and away the most popular and, arguably, the most powerful publishing and content management system that exists. Its world-wide community of open-source developers is delivering improvements and feature enhancements (including curation) at a far far faster clip than developers working on a proprietary platform, such as the one ALM is likely using.

I remain a subscriber to ALM’s Law.com feed, I like some of the stuff. I am sure they have a large subscriber base.

I just wonder if ALM represents the future of legal publishing with the growing popularity of blogging by passionate lawyers and law students with deeep expertise using publishing software that is more advanced.

Technologist and inventor of the blog, Dave Winer, defined a blog as “the unedited voice of a person.”

In 2003, when I was beginning my stint as a fellow at Berkman Center [at Harvard Law School] , since I was going to be doing stuff with blogs, I felt it necessary to start by explaining what makes a blog a blog, and I concluded it wasn’t so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice.

If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)

I’m pretty much with Winer so it pains me to see what blogs have become in the legal industry — and across the corporate communications field for that matter.

I get that law firms are going to have group blogs with multiple contributors. Makes sense. There are some good ones.

But group blogs, and any blog, can be the unedited voice of a lawyer when lawyers cover and comment on items they’re most passionate about.

Most law blog subjects cast a broad net so letting lawyers each blog on what they are individually seeing and reading so as to engage in thought leadership in a real and authentic way works big time. Readers feel it — and so do the law bloggers.

Posts do not, and should not be approved by an editor. Doing so in any significant way throws water on the fire of good law bloggers. It’s hard enough blogging sometimes, let alone blogging and wondering what my editor is going to think.

I met a young lawyer in the Midwest who had a great idea for a blog. A real strategic commercial construction niche opportunity in which, among other things, he was going to engage and build relationships with overseas financiers and developers investing in his metropolitan area.

But every one of his blog posts needed to be edited by the chair of his practice group. The blog posts “sat on the desk” of the chair for a week or more. The young lawyer threw in the towel, no more blogging. The blog was “taken down.”

The lawyer and the firm was deprived of an opportunity to grow. I’m sure the associate has received various kinds of pressure to grow a book business otherwise. What a shame.

The best law blogs are not marketing, per se. Sure, a lawyer is going to build a name and business through blogging. But law blogging is part of legal dialogue, scholarship, commentary and information. It’s the stuff lawyers did long before legal marketing was approved ethically forty years ago this June.

Lawyers pen emails, letters, briefs and more. Lawyers go to networking events and conferences in areas the law they’re passionate about and openly discuss things.

Marketing can empower lawyers to blog and help facilitate blog publishing, but it makes little sense for marketing to be involved in blogging.

Blogging platforms themselves are as easy to use as email and writing on Word. Asking or accepting that lawyers “blog” on Word so others can copy and paste to the blog platform makes no sense. Lawyers will also never feel the sensation of blogging.

Hey, I get the spelling and grammar thing for lawyers. Do know though that I have better relationship with my readers as a result of them correcting my typos from time to time. Run a spell check, but focus on engaging in a conversation just as you would at a networking event, not the form.

Don’t get me started with others writing a lawyer’s blogs, as some marketers are selling. That’s nuts, unethical and certainly not the unedited voice of a person. Doesn’t even merit discussion.

We’re starved in this country for the real and authentic voice of a lawyer engaging with real people – corporate employees or consumers.

Blogs are the perfect vehicle for expressing the voice of a lawyer.

But make it the unedited voice of a person.

While some law firm website developers are advising law firms to bury law blogs inside a law firm website, a just released ABA book on strategic online publishing for law firms advises just the opposite. Law blogs should be located off websites on a separate domain to build influence, achieve better seach engine performance (SEO) and generate business.

In fact, the authors, Steve Mathews (@stevematthews) and Jordan Furlong (@jordan_law21), both veteran and widely respected legal publishers and business development professionals, are seeing a growing trend by law firms to move blog publications off their websites.

Their new book, “Creating an Online Publishing Strategy for Law Firms,” provides lawyers and law firms with all they need to know about turning their firm’s content marketing (e.g. writing, newsletters, and blogging) into a coherent, effective and strategic online publishing campaign.

Key for Matthews And Furlong was to provide a step-by-step guide offering advice and ideas for building and maintaining an effective online publishing strategy that can communicate a lawyer’s and law firm’s expertise and enhance their profile with target clientele. In addition to large law firms, their book is useful for small and midsize law firms, from at least 10 lawyers up to as many as 100.

Topics include:

  • Designing a strategy to guide publishing efforts and integrate them with business development and branding plans
  • Choosing the best platforms for content, including blogs, newsletters and more
  • Distributing content through a variety of channels, from magazines and other old media to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other new media
  • Creating a publishing culture within a firm that motivates participation and contributions to the publishing strategy
  • Measuring the effectiveness of a firm’s publishing efforts, including the best metrics and tools to gauge the return on your investments

Blogs are the easiest, most effective, and most accessible form of legal publishing, per the authors.  But publishing content is not enough, “distributed publishing” is needed for a lawyer or law firm industry group to create a dominate market presence and generate business.

Law firms are moving their blog publishing away from their websites to create this market dominance and generate business.

Firms that originally tended to keep all their public content within the strict boundaries of their website gradually became more willing to locate that content beyond the website, isolating content for each target market on a web platform affiliated with the firm in some way (e.g., blogs, microsites, etc.).

Over the past several years, social media have been offering firms the opportunity to share that content even farther, outside of their own website and related platforms altogether. From our perspective, these two trends — locating content beyond the website, and circulating content throughout the internet — form the backbone of a strategic approach to both content creation and circulation that we call “distributed publishing.”

The authors do a nice job of explaining the logic of this strategy.

Distributed publishing involves a “hub-and-spokes” model of content delivery. Think of your law firm website as the central hub, the headquarters of your firm’s internet presence and its most valuable assets (home page, lawyer biographies, and practice descriptions). Now move out from that hub to an “inner ring” of spokes representing the firm’s complementary content platforms (blogs, microsites, etc.). This hub and this inner ring constitute most… of your firm’s content production.

Now move out farther again, and you’ll encounter a huge “outer ring” of spokes of third-party content production and distribution engines: a diverse assortment of trade periodicals, online news services, and most importantly, social media networks. These entities will distribute your content to a much wider audience than your own firm-affiliated web products could manage.

The three component parts of this “distributed publishing” ecosystem — your website home base (hub), your satellite firm-owned content destinations (first ring of spokes), and the vast array of content production and distribution networks (second ring of spokes) — all work together to establish the powerful, diverse, interlinked network of your firm’s online presence.

Blogs away from websites are more influential to clients and prospective clients.

Firms need this diverse presence in order to impress an increasingly sophisticated client market. When people need the services of a lawyer and conduct an online search, among the most important factors they consider is information about the lawyer located elsewhere than the lawyer’s website. Potential clients are likelier to be impressed by a lawyer with a website biography, a LinkedIn profile, blog contributions, a Twitter feed, shared presentation slides, third-party publications, and relevant legal industry tweets, than with a lawyer who has just a website biography alone. Law firms with farther-reaching and higher-quality online “footprints” generated by these multiple presences also tend to score more highly in search engine results.

The authors provide a diagram of the “spoke-and-hub” to strategic law firm publishing where you’ll see blogs at the first ring out from a firm’s website.

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Matthews and Furlong know their stuff. I have know each of them for a long time, have the utmost respect for them and find them not only on top of their game, but also very giving of their time to the industry through their own publishing, speaking and social media activity.

Mathews, president and founder of Stem Legal Web Enterprises, a web development, publishing and strategy company for the legal profession has been working within the online legal environment for almost 20 years (including 12 years inside law firms). He’s conceived, managed, coded and marketed law firm websites, blogs, intranets, portals and extranets. Of partcular note for those claiming blogs inside websites are better for search engine performance, Mathews is recognized as one of the leading authorities on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies for lawyers and law firms.

Furlong is a lawyer, consultant and legal industry leader, who previously served as the editor of National, the publication of record for the Canadian Bar Association (equivalent of ABA Journal). As a senior consultant with legal web development company Stem Legal Web Enterprises, he advises lawyers and law firms on content marketing and consults regarding the establishment and execution of publishing strategies. He’s also widely respected on the business of law in the future.

I don’t say this to impress you with Fuhrlong and Matthews, but to impress upon you that these guys have been publishing online and blogging for a long time. They are not website developers who have come to content marketing and blogging later on — out of necessity, not because they personally blogged to build a name and relationships for business development.

Pick up the book, it’s short and easy read. If you’re in doubt of the merits of blogging strategically and think the book costs too much, let me know. I’ll buy you a copy.

I was struck by a recent blog post and article by lawyer and global law firm marketing and management consultant, Gerry Riskin, which talked of a law firm’s success being dependent on the success of the firm’s individual lawyers.

I find the same in blogging – success for the firm comes from the success of individual blogging lawyers.

I advise law firms to empower individual bloggers to chase niches that do or could lie within the strategic plan of the firm. LexBlog’s product roadmap, though improving our offering to groups of lawyers in large firms, is placing some emphasis on empowering individual lawyers to blog – whether in large or small firms. Easy to launch, inexpensive and eloquent blog publishing for an individual lawyer, or two.

With some exceptions, lawyers who blog individually, even at the largest of firms, achieve more than lawyers blogging in group blogs. Achievement being measured by revenue (in the millions of dollars a year) for the lawyer as well as for other lawyers in the firm who participate in the work generated.

This would likely be no surprise to Riskin. In his years of consulting with law firms around the globe, he’s found that the most successful law firms are those that empower individual lawyers to chase their dreams.

The lawyers in your firm deserve practices that are personally satisfying while also returning the financial rewards that are commensurate with the value they give your clients. As a law firm leader, you can help individual lawyers to create a vision for attaining personal fulfillment, while also contributing to the law firm as a whole, by providing them with the tools they will need to make those personal visions a reality.

There may be another reason solo bloggers out perform group bloggers. Lawyers cherish their independence, per Riskin.

Lawyers are among the most ferociously independent people on this planet who have ever chosen to work in groups. Many of us chose the law because we wanted to be able to apply independent thinking, and have a lot of control. We wanted to be able to decide for ourselves how to conduct a matter, and how to serve a client.

Risken provides the recipe for a firm’s success via the success of individual lawyers.

  • Provide lawyers in the firm with the leeway to create a vision of the kind of clientele and the practice they want within the scope of the firm’s initiatives.
  • Offer professional development sessions and workshops that will facilitate their moving closer to their goals, by honing business development skills.
  • Conduct workshops in areas relating to client interaction that many lawyers find difficult.
  • Help individual lawyers learn ways to combat the pressures of time.

Man, Risken may as well have been providing a roadmap for blogging success in large law firms.

I just blogged about launching a successful blogging initiavtive in a law firm. The key was finding a lawyer or two who want to blog, are passionate about building a name for themselves in niche industries or areas of the law and educating them as to what blogging is really all about.

As the lawyers become successful, they’ll serve as viral positives for lawyers who follow. As Risken says, “An outsider may have impressive credentials, but that is no match for the credibility that the top performers within the organization enjoy.”

Riskin might as well have been wrapping up this post on the advantages of individual lawyer blogs when he wrote the below.

Law firms with lawyers who have happy and fulfilling careers will prosper. Competitors cannot easily emulate them, and the advantages enjoyed by firms who have worked with lawyers to develop their own personal action plans quickly becomes obvious – resulting in benefits not only in the work environment but also on the bottom line.

Group blogs will surely continue in larger firms, and some will experience success, but individual bloggers generate significant revenue for themselves, other lawyers in the firm and the firm itself.

A law firm marketing professional recently emailed me about the challenge of getting a blogging initiative underway at his firm.

His firm, though progressive in other ways, has been slow to adopt things “of this nature.” He was also concerned about the lawyers publishing blog posts.

He wondered if I had any ideas. I thought I’d share my response.

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Don’t worry about slow adoption, most firms are just getting started blogging. Many firms that started a while ago have wasted a lot of time doing it wrong.

The key to the dilemma is to make blogging a fun and rewarding experience for the lawyers who are going to blog. Blogging will not then feel like a chore and getting posts up will not then be a challenge.

Begin with the lawyers understanding what blogging is and what the goal is.

The goal is not necessarily to write content and bring traffic to a blog or a website. The goal is building word of mouth and relationships, the same things that have built your firm. The Internet has not changed this.

Keep clear you’ll measure success by an increase in revenue – how much has revenue jumped for the lawyers/area involved? It can be very significant.

Knowing this, identify the areas the firm is looking to grow or sees an opportunity.

Do you have a lawyer or lawyers who want to build a name in the area and want to learn to use the Internet to do so? Who wants to become a star – to do the type of work they’d love to do, for the type of clients they want to do that work for and never have to worry about where business is coming from.

Why not set such a goal? Many, many other lawyers have achieved these heights. Certainly you have lawyers the equal of other firms.

Know that not every lawyer wants to blog – ask who is excited – do not end up with an editorial calendar where it’s a chore for the lawyers and the person chasing them down. If lawyers say they are not excited, that’s okay.

The blog will be on one niche area the firm excels at or is looking to grow. Could even be tighter than area of law – a type of trust in estate planning versus estate planning, generally, for example.

Niche blogs become a must read by a niche audience, the lawyers will know it and they’ll see “why blog.” Niches are absolutely critical. Niches do not limit work, they expand the work coming through trust and name recognition.

Educate the blogging lawyers that we are not talking articles. We are talking blogging.

Depending on the niche, you may reference and share news and developments, heavily using block quotes, and offering your take/why you shared it.

The lawyers will be referencing other bloggers (law and industry), reporters and association news – you’ll make a list of about 20 influencers that fall in this group that the blogging lawyers will be following.

Blogging is like pressing the flesh. You get known by citing others and your blog gets cited and shared by others in return.

Posts may be as brief 250 to 500 words. Think about the emails between lawyers in the firm and to clients that already do share items and offer a quick take. It’s not much different.

You can expand, once the blog gets known, to having guest posts of people with whom you want to build relationships and to do “four question email interviews” of referral sources, business associates and the like.

Any help lawyers may need, and most do not help once they understand blogging, is in proof reading, titling a post and putting in an image.

Begin with the premise that we’ve always networked to build a name and relationships, now we’re going to learn how to use the Internet to do so. We’ll start networking through the Internet.

Rather than making blogging a big initiative, get a lawyer or two started who can become blog/social media champions and be a viral positive from whom other interested lawyers in the firm can learn. It may be a year or two for others to follow.

Feel comfortable with two to four posts a month, maybe starting with just two. Don’t set yourself up for faiure and making lawyers feel guilty for not achieving unrealistic goals.

Once lawyers get the hang of blogging the right way and pick up the “love” of getting cited by bloggers and reporters, getting their posts shared on social media and invited to speak, blogging becomes addictive.

After the blogging lawyers get the hang of blogging, introduce Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as further ways of networking through the net. Not as distribution channels, but as ways of engaging followers of your blog.

To summarize, begin with education of what we’re doing by blogging, how we’ll do it, how we’ll measure success and involve those excited about the opportunity. Do that and posts will not be an issue.

You know my take on ghost posts as a way to “create content.” Don’t go down that road. Your firm is better than that.

Happy Valentines Day! If you are in search of a perfect last minute gift for him or her, make sure to check out lexblog.com (mostly joking). Since our last “New to the Network” post, we have welcomed two new clients while launching ten new blogs.

  • LexBlog would like to give a warm welcome to Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz who has now joined the network with the creation of Focus On The Data. Frankfurt-based out of NYC started as a boutique firm focusing on the entertainment industry but has now grown to become a full-service firm. Focus On The Data is authored by Frankfurts privacy and data security team, and provides insights and practical guidance on complex information privacy matters through every stage of the cycle.
  • Also new to the network, we have CJ Lee & Associates with the Indian Law Blog. CJ also known as Calvin Lee Jr., focuses his practice on supporting Native Americans in their varied endeavors.
  • Third, the Health Care Law Observer from the Boyce Law Firm out Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Observer will not only cover regional health care updates but legal alerts at the federal level as well. Kudos to attorney Tommy Johnson, who has led Boyce in increasing their online presence with their second blog.
  • Next, we have New Nuclear from Hogan Lovells, a blog following the legal and regulatory developments shaping the future of advanced nuclear reactor industry. LexBlog has always said find a niche topic, and this is about as niche as it gets with not very many nuclear law blogs out there.
  • Property taxes in Minnesota are based on real estate values, making the laws surrounding the taxes complicated and nuanced. So in comes the Minnesota Property Tax Review by Larkin Hoffman.
  • Ballard Spahr has launched Money Laundering Watch – ‘Insights and news on the world of financial corruption’, a blog focused on covering the latest news and developments in the area. I’m excited to the see content MLW churns out as Ballard Spahr’s other finance related blog, “CFPB Monitor” led by Barbara Mishkin, is recognized as an ABA Journal Top 100 Blawg.
  • Next up we have another financial services blog in The FinTech Report by Perkins Coie. The blog covers everything fintech from pre-seed startups to complex multinational organizations.
  • And yet another financial services blog, Dykema has launched the NextGen Financial Services Report. NextGen sums up why we are seeing so many finance related blogs, saying “The Financial Services Industry has gone through a tremendous amount of regulatory and operational IT change in recent years, and with a new presidential administration more changes and developments are on the way.”
  • Just in time for tax season. McNeese Wallace & Nurick LLC out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is starting up the Adding Value – ‘McNees PA Tax Blog.
  • Lastly, Robinson+Cole is continuing to grow their blogging network with the addition of the ERISA Claim Defense Blog. They now have ten total blogs and have quickly launched two in the new year.

Most large law firms publish law blogs by traditional practice groups. There are over 130 employment law blogs being published by AmLaw 200 firms, alone.

The “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” from Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, widely labeled as the “Georgetown Report,” signals that publishing blogs focused on general practice areas is misguided.

Niche focused publications demonstrating subject matter expertise is key.

Why? The erosion of the traditional law firm franchise over the last ten years. Clients are disaggregating work and allocating work to different law firms based on subject matter expertise established, in part, through niche blog publishing.

From the Georgetown Report:

One significant result of this disaggregated approach is that the client’s relationship with its outside counsel may – and often does – shift from a traditional client/trusted advisor relationship to more of an ad hoc, transactional relationship. In the latter model, the outside lawyer becomes less of a counselor with respect to the overall matter and more of a provider of specialized services that the client is unable to provide internally or acquire more effectively elsewhere.

Fox Rothschild, which publishes thirty-seven law blogs, is one law firm that recognizes the disaggregation concept in its approach to blogging.

Mark L. Silow, Firmwide Managing Partner for Fox Rothschild, in telling Bloomberg Law he’s amazed both by the amount of traffic that the firm’s blogs attract and by the amount of business that they generate, says a niche focus is key.

The thing that we encourage, and actually insist on in our bloggers is that they be very focused, that they be very specific. We would never approve of someone who says I am going to write a litigation blog. It has to be much narrower, much more focused.

Why does Silow insist on niche blog publications?

Clients are hiring experts. They are not hiring law firms, they are not hiring generic lawyers, they are hiring experts.

If you can blog today on a decision that came out this morning involving a really specific technical aspect of the law, you have now portrayed yourself as a current expert.

Silow’s thinking closing parallels the findings of the Georgetown Report.

The buzz word is disaggregation, where clients, especially the larger and more sophisticated clients, are no longer saying “Fox Rothschild is my law firm, whatever legal issues I have pick up the phone and call Fox Rothschild.” They have now have litigation counsel for this, they have litigation counsel for that kind of issue. They have tax counsel, real estate counsel, securities counsel, and all kinds of counsel.”

Those who can project and have the real specific expertise are getting more and more work.

There’s little doubt Fox Rothschild is outperforming the majority of large law firms on the blog front. The reason is a proactive and strategic focus. Rather than the tired and old marketing and business development by practice groups with a large number of lawyer bloggers, Fox Rothschild looks to opportunities for growth.

Fox Rothschild’s blogs can have as many as six or eight bloggers, but a good number have two to three bloggers, with some as few as one. The firm is tapping into the interests and passion of its lawyers in order to establish firm niche expertise.

Fox Rothschild’s business success is in line with the findings of the Georgetown Report.

There are, of course, many reasons that some law firms outperform others – including historic location, practices, and client base – but there are two characteristics that seem to have emerged over the past several years as particularly important in marking firms as likely winners: strategic focus and proactive response to the needs and expectations of clients.

Though there are exceptions, general practice oriented blogs struggle, especially to start. The blogs do not become must have publications for clients, including in-house counsel. The blogs do not get shared on social media. The blogs do not get cited by reporters, bloggers and the even the courts.

As a result, the lawyers’ interest in blogging wanes and the blog shows it. The firm has wasted an opportunity and often hundreds of thousands of dollars in collective lawyer time.

Legal blogs present an opportunity for lawyers and law firms to make a name for themselves as subject matter experts. But follow the wisdom of the Georgetown Report and Fox Rothschild. Go niche law blogs.

Michigan State University College of Law is hosting their second annual Social Media Bootcamp this Saturday (Feb 4). I couldn’t be more honored to be leading the workshop. We had a great time last year.

The workshop is open to law students, lawyers, academics, judges, court staff and all other legal service delivery professionals.

The interactive workshop is designed to help law students, lawyers and legal services providers improve their professional use of blogging and other social media, whether you are beginner or a pro.

You’ll learn how to effectively utilize social media to build a personal brand, establish expertise, and build an online community. You’ll also learn how social media can be used for learning, advancing the law, and networking as a law student, lawyer, law professor or other legal professional.

If you’re a practicing lawyer, you’ll leave knowing how to really use the Internet to get the type of work you want from the type of clients you want to represent.

We’ll cover, among other things:

  • Use of a news aggregator (Feedly) for listening to the influencers and identifying items to share
  • Blogging on a niche to build your name, a network and advance the law
  • Twitter for listening, establishing yourself as an intelligent agent, building social media equity, and building relationships
  • Facebook for building solid professional relationships and sharing personal and professional information and insight
  • LinkedIn for more than just a profile, but to engage, to build a name – and in the case of lawyers how to get work

Law student, professor or law school administrator and looking to blog, ask me about the LexBlog sponsored Law School Blog Network. You’re entitled to a blog on our comprehensive blog publishing software and related services – for free.

Complete details:

  • Date: Saturday, February 4, 2016
  • Time: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Event Address: 648 N. Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824
  • Room: Castle Boardroom (3rd Floor)
  • Parking: Free on weekends in the parking ramp next to MSU Law
  • RSVP

Questions? Contact Amy Krieg, Assistant Director for Career Development, kriegamy@law.msu.edu or (517) 432-6830.

Big thanks for Michigan State Law for having me back again. This may be the third or fourth time in the last couple years. You’ve opened my eyes to the passion of law students looking to do great things – often, for other people.

Hope to see how this year’s social media contest is going too. past participants have ended up at with positions at Honigman in Detroit, General Motors, London law firms (internships) and West Coast companies in the agriculture/food business.