Reading  “WTF is AALS,” in an Above The Law post by the Anonymous Law Professor last Tuesday was enough to catch my attention.

Turns out AALS is the American Association of Law Schools, an organization I hadn’t heard of before. They were having their annual meeting last week in San Francisco, including a Thursday morning session on how law professors were blogging for professional development.

Short notice, but LexBlog’s starting the Law School Blog Network was enough to get me to jump a flight down the next day.

The session on blogging, which took type form of three discussion groups of about fifteen was excellent.

My findings on law school blogging from the session (excuse the length – my notes for working with law schools):

  • Each of the law professors who were blogging felt they were making a strong name for themselves from blogging.
  • At least one law professor would not have gotten her job as a professor without blogging. She was practicing law, had not attended a tier 1 school, but whose goal in life was to be a law porofessor – her blog got her in.
  • Their networks were growing among influenential legal and business professionals worldwide.
  • Blogging professors were getting invited to speak at events worldwide.
  • Law professors view favorably the free and open legal publishing that blogs bring.
  • Concern was expressed about LexisNexis’ acquisition of SSRN, an historically open body of scholarly publications, because LexisNexis is now limiting some open access. Blogging provides an alternative.
  • Media loves law professors blogging as evidenced by blogging professors regularly finding themselves being contacted and quoted by reporters.
  • Law schools look favorably on blogging professors. Deans and administrators like the media coverage, court citations, advancement of legal scholorship and readers, including judges and alumni.
  • Law professor blog posts, like law reviews, get cited by the courts.
  • Judges read law professor blogs as a form of legal scholorship and dialogue on the law.
  • Law professor blogs influence the ABA’s committees, rulings and policy making.
  • Conensus of professors in the session was that 10% of the professors at their law schools were blogging,
  • Law school deans like their law professors blogging because of the notoriety it brings the professors and the schools.
  • Blog posts need not be a thousand words or more. Though some posts may be longer in nature, 400 hundred to 600 words is fine.
  • Law professors, like practicing lawyers who blog, like to follow stats and traffic. Who’s reading, how many are reading and where readers are located.
  • Law professors were in 100% agreement that blogs belong separate and apart from a law school website – a blog is an independent publication and a law professor needs to maintain ownership of their blog.
  • Being recognized as a top 100 legal blog in the annual Blawg 100 by the ABA Journal is valued by law professors.
  • The blog publishing platform, TypePad, not used by many professionals, was used by some of the professors, by virtue of Professor Paul Caron’s Law Professor Blog Network using Typepad.
  • Law professors use other social media as an adjunct to their blogging, just like practicing lawyers who blog – Twitter and LinkedIn, more than Facebook.
  • Law professors who do not blog and use social, but whom show an interest, are as lost as to what it’s all about as practicing law students.

I enjoyed attending, met a professor or two who is interested in blogging with LexBlog’s Law School Blog Network and will make it a point to attend AALS in the future.

Through efficiency brought by technology and a law school’s commitment to introduce its students to more effective business models and technology to improve legal services, LexBlog is moving forward with a Law School Blog Network offering law students, professors and administrators its blogging platform and services at no cost.

A year ago I was talking with Michigan State University Law Professor, and then Assistant Dean for Career Development, Daniel Linna, about the possibility of some day having free blogs for law students. What seemed like a pipe dream to me then is now a reality — and then some.

I was back in East Lansing teaching at a social media bootcamp for students, professors and administrators. At that time, Linna was launching The Center for Legal Services Innovation, LegalRnD for short, to study and introduce students to technology and innovation to make legal services more available to moderate income Americans and less expensive to businesses.

Part of the discussion concerned the power of blogging for learning, for building a name for yourself, building a network and making legal services more available through young lawyers with niche expertise. Let alone the contribution to advancing the law via open publishing.

In only the way Linna can put the subtle pressure on you, he says, “Gee, that would be pretty cool if you could make blog software and services free to law schools.” He had me.

One problem. A year ago, a project (blog site) at LexBlog took fifty hours of time – intake, design, development, quality assurance, content about the publisher etc. Free is pretty expensive at that rate.

Fast forward to today and LexBlog has become fifty times more efficient. What used to take 50 hours takes an hour. My tech team, led by our CTO, Joshua Lynch, is looking to push it further – maybe get it to 15 minutes in some situations.

This efficiency was brought about by moving the company from an agency to a software company.

Rather than design in Photoshop (.psd’s), developing sites and making modifications to sites separately as website developers and marketing agencies do, LexBlog has developed its own publishing software on WordPress core.

Think of software as a service such as Salesforce or Clio, except with a custom front interface. Bottom line we’re disruptive to the industry and able to do more for people.

With this increased efficiency we realized we could build a “Law School Blog Network.” LexBlog would offer the most comprehensive blog publishing software in the industry as a service to law students, law professors and law school administrators. All for free – blog publishing software, mobile design, hosting, SEO, marketing, free ongoing support and syndication across the LexBlog Network, including a forthcoming Law School Blog Network.

Blog software is free – in theory. But it’s not tailored for the law, folks don’t know where to start, their blog cannot be found, they don’t know how to maintain it and don’t know good blogging from bad. If you’re putting in the time, we want you to build a name for yourself in an area that you love.

To see an example of a blog on the Law School Blog Network blog, check out Dan Linna’s LegalTech Lever. Michigan State Colors and logo – everything Sparty (school mascot), the law school and the alumni could love.

Linna owns the content, title and domain name. He is free to move the content to any other branded site, whether part of the Law School Blog Network, or not, at any time he chooses. No strings attached.

For an example of a law student’s blog, see Miguel Willis’ Innovative Law Student. Seattle University Law School colors and logo.

Law student? Law professor? Law school administrator? Want to start blogging or are already blogging on a less than professional software without accompanying support, let us know. It will be our honor to help.

You can use the contact form on this blog or on LexBlog, and we’ll get back to you. You can also reach me via social media or email.

Well the Holidays are over and unfortunately so is the NFL regular season. Which means we are back into the grind of the new year, and as we welcome in 2017 at LexBlog, we are also welcoming a few new blogs to the network:

  • Jerry Moberg & Associates has launched the Trial Attorneys blog. Jerry is a self described “country lawyer” as you can see in his opening post, and currently represents a number of municipalities, including school districts, cities and towns, counties, and special services districts.
  • LexBlog is happy to have launched a 17th blog with Mintz Levin, this one being on alternative dispute resolution. The blog ADR: Advice From the Trenches will “provide updates, analyses, and advice regarding the law and practice of international and domestic arbitration, mediation, and more esoteric forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution.”
  • The Minnesota firm Larkin Hoffman has launched their first blog, titled “Franchisor Attorneys.” We are very excited to have them on the network as Larkin Hoffman had already published more than a hundred articles and columns on franchise law and industry issues.

A business development professional from a mid-size West Coast law firm emailed me with with a question about ghost blogging.

Ghost law blogging, if you’ve not heard of it, is practice where some lawyers and law firms hire people to write blog posts for lawyers and hold the posts out as being written by the lawyer.

The business development professional acknowledged that ghost blogging is legally unethical, but wondered if there may be some middle ground between ghost blogging and the attorneys publishing their own blog content. Perhaps having him write the post or just holding out the post as written by the firm. He was concerned about lawyers maintaining the blog.

My answer got into the brass tacks of what makes for law blogging success so I thought I’d share it with you.

I first explained that I believe I saw FindLaw selling ghost blog posts to lawyers at one time, but rather than represent that the post was written by the lawyer (in the byline author field of the post), the byline read that the post was on “behalf of the lawyer.” A cheesy solution, but different than other firms which unethically misrepresented that the lawyer wrote the post when they did not.

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

How so? Begin with the lawyers understanding what blogging is and what the goal is. The goal is not necessarily to bring traffic to the website. The goal is building word of mouth and relationships, the same things that built his firm. The Internet has not changed this.

Keep clear that we’ll measure success by an increase in revenue. Establish a goal and then measure how much has revenue jumped for the lawyers/area involved? It can be very significant.

Knowing that, 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 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 not worry about where business is coming from. Why not? Many, many other lawyers have done so through blogging.

Know that not every lawyer wants to blog. Ask who is excited to blog. 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 in or is looking to grow. Could be tighter than a practice area such as estate planning, i.e., a type of trust in estate planning. The blog will become a must read by a niche audience, the lawyers will know it and they’ll see “why blog.”

Niches are 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 offer 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 they’ll be following in a news aggregator (Feedly). It’s like pressing the flesh. You get known and your blog posts get cited and shared by others. Posts may be as brief 250 to 500 words. Think about the emails between lawyers in the firm and to clients that already do this. 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 four question email interviews of referral sources, business associates and the like.

Any help the blogging lawyers may need, and most do not, is in proof reading, titling a post and putting in a picture.

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 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.

The blog will be the first social media used by the blogging lawyers, maybe 2 to 4 posts a month, and then the lawyers can learn how to use other social media personally – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with the understanding that the blog content is currency for relationships there.

You know my take on ghost posts. Don’t go down that road. If you’re a real lawyer or real law firm, you’re better than that.

Guy Alvarez of Good2bSocial, a leading digital marketing agency for law firms, has a nice piece on the analytics used to measure web marketing.

One statement by Guy sticks in my craw though, that being “…the main goal of online marketing is to get people back to your law firm’s web site.”

The obvious goal is revenue, and I’m sure Guy agrees with this.

If the law firm puts money into online marketing, how much will it increase revenue. Anything spent should be measured the same way the law firm’s accountant or CFO measures success. An increase in revenue for the firm, a practice group or an individual lawyer.

The path to increased revenues for many lawyers and firms is not through an increase in traffic to their websites though.

The vast majority of lawyers I talk with get their work through relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. A website, for them, is a nice way for people who found them otherwise to look at their background and that of their firm, but traffic to the website is not a revenue generator for them.

In the case of larger law firms, it’s probably seven or eight percent of the firm’s lawyers originating the vast magority of the firm’s revenue. Again for them, the website is important, but it’s not how they maintain and grow revenue. It’s relationships and word of mouth reputations.

Law firms should not change things up when it comes to online marketing. Word of mouth reputation and relationships remain the key.

So when doing online marketing, the goal should be building, nurturing and accelerating relationships and reputations. Assuming you’ve been successful in doing so, then look to increased revenues as the measure of success.

I am always telling lawyers who are beginning to blog to follow their passion.

“If you had a magic wand and could wave it and ask for anything you wanted, what type of work would you want to do and what type of clients would you want to do that work for? Now make it happen through blogging.

Ohio lawyer, Brett Taylor, took it to a new level.

As reported by Chicago Tribune business columnist, Robert Reed (@reedtribbiz), Taylor quit his job at Jones Day in Columbus to blog full time about the Chicago Cubs.

That’s right. After working in the firm’s litigation group for four years, in 2011, Taylor (@bleachernation) left a secure, but unsatisfying, position to publish his Bleacher Nation blog full time.

Taylor’s not unlike the lawyers I’ve met and worked with at LexBlog who decided to chase their dream through blogging. Though the men and women I know did stay in the law.

Taylor told Reed he saved a bit from practicing, they lived modestly and that his wife, Gretchen, made it possible with a regular paycheck and health insurance.

Like me, Taylor became a Cubs fan by watching WGN on cable TV, as opposed to sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley field. He grew up in Ohio and went to Ohio State University for law school.

Taylor’s not a journalist nor doing regular reporting. He speaks to readers as a fan, adding a little legal assessment along the way.

It’s working. In addition to Bleacher Nation readers, he has 158,000 Facebook and 58,000 Twitter followers.

Taylor’s the real deal in engaging his followers. When I gave him a shout out on Twitter for the move he made during the Cubs’ game last night, which we lost 7-1, he immediately responded.

Bleacher Nation’s not solely a labor of love.

While declining to give financial results, the site is increasingly running ads from retailers, travel firms, even a recent online advertisement for McCormick spices. Periodically, Taylor seeks to tap into his followers’ collective goodwill by imploring them not to block those ads and reduce the click count.

Taylor is not alone in following his dream today. Harold Welsch, founder of DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, told Reed:

We find more people leaving professional jobs and giving it a try. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

So many lawyers are struggling with the type of work they are doing. In Taylor’s case, the killer instinct clients wanted in litigation wasn’t for him. Some lawyers are struggling getting a job or work altogether.

A law blog based on passion works, too many lawyers are living proof. If you build, they will come.

Do any of you know of any law firms using opt-0ut email newsletters? Do any of you use opt-out newsletters?

By opt-out I am referring to sending out emails for marketing purposes, without permission of the recipients, which include a “opt-out link” notifying the sender the recipient wants no more e-mails from the sender.

Such email is basically spam, to me. It’s an annoyance to receive email you don’t want from someone you don’t know and have to go through the effort of asking the sender to stop sending you things you never wanted in the first place.

I receive opt-out emails from law firms and other organizations every day. I didn’t sign up to receive the emails and it’s frankly a pain to unsubscribe.

Many of the unsubscribe features require a couple steps on my part. Some ask, “Are you sure you want to unscubcribe?” Am I sure? I already dislike you for sending me things I don’t want, but maybe I should rethink what I’m doing?

It’s easy to share information of value through the net — and to do so without forcing the information upon folks. Blogs, social media and email sign ups for white papers, survey results and studies are just a few of the ways to do so — and all ways to building a subscriber list.

When you have to resort to forcing things on people as if you’re passing out handbills on the sidewalk, maybe it’s a good sign what you’re sending out isn’t of much value — or that you don’t know how to effectively use the net.

I get the value of email newsletters and understand the requirment for the opt-out link on each. But why not send emails to subscribers? People who have voluntarily subscribed.

Ask the best lawyers. It’s all about relationships and a word of mouth reputation when it comes to building a book of business. Equally so on the Internet.

Sending opt-out email does nothing for relationships or building your reputation.

I have friends who have email newsletters going to 30,000 plus subscribers, all of whom opted in. We have clients who use their blogs like email newsletters who have over 10,000 subscribers — all who subscribed (opted in).

MailChimp, one of the leading email marketing services, sending over 10 billion emails per month on behalf of its users, will dump your account if they see you are sending emails to people who did first subscribe. We use MailChimp to send blog posts to subscribers of the LexBlog Network blogs, in part because of their strict policy.

Maybe I am old school, but I don’t see why professionals would ever want to send out spam-like email. Am I missing something?

The Indiana State Bar Association held its annual meeting last week. There was one session on social media and online networking.

I would never have noticed, but for the title of The Indiana Lawyer’s story as reported by Olvia Covington, “Social media create potential for ethical violations.” Rather than cover the benefits of social media — to lawyers and the public, via lawyers engaging the public — bar associations tend to focus on the perils of social media.

Though the Indiana presenters, Attorney Judy Woods and library manager, Howard Trivers, reportedly focused on ways legal professionals could get the most out of social media for research, the session, from Covington’s report, went on to warn of the perils of social media in general.

The perils, per Covington’s report:

  • Lawyers — especially those who frequently use social media — should heed an ABA opinion, concerning judges, to draw a line between their personal and professional online lives.
  • Legal professionals should become increasingly cautious when they log into various sites.
  • Attorneys should use caution when discussing their work online in that doing so can lead to ethical problems.
  • Social media posts can, at times, constitute legal advertising, which can get attorneys in ethical trouble.
  • Attorneys should list all states where they are admitted on every social media site they maintain so that they never give the impression that they are trying to solicit work in a state where they are not admitted.
  • Warned that even law firm employees who are not licensed attorneys can find themselves in violation of ethical standards based on their social media use.

Sure there’s truth in the above and other cases cited by Woods, but reading the warnings, I couldn’t help but wonder how regularly Woods and Trivers use Facebook, which 96% of the public uses, and Twitter, which leading lawyers, including in-house counsel, are using to engage other lawyers, the public, bloggers and the mainstream media.

The answer, unfortunately, is not that much, if at all.

This spring, I was speaking on an ABA section panel on social media with three other lawyers. None of the three blogged nor used Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, other than as a resume and digital rolodex.

The outcome was a one hour session that would scare the heck out of any lawyer who didn’t know any better about social media. I tried, but I was outnumbered.

Sure, bar associations ought to highlight ethical risks associated with social media. But when doing so in presentations to lawyers, bar associations ought to have lawyers who regularly use social media in their professional life (becoming a better lawyer, business development, professional networking, engaging with the public) and personal life.

Only then would the professionals presenting have a context of the potential of social media and understand that the networking being done via the phone in a lawyer’s pocket or purse is the most powerful networking the world has seen.

Only then would the professionals and the bar associations appreciate the power of social media for lawyers to establish trust with the people and make legal information and legal services more accessible.

Trivers and Woods, from what I read, are extremely talented professionals. I have no axe to grind with them, nor should anyone else.

Legal professionals, and the public we serve, just deserve experienced professionals when it comes to counsel on something as important as social media.

 

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Before you dig in to our Top 10, make sure to check out our #ClioCloud9 coverage over on LXBN. Now here’s Tuesdays Top 10 in Law Blogs:

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Over on LXBN, Zosha Millman interviewed Greg McLawsen, managing attorney and founder of Sound Immigration . Now here’s Thursdays 10 in Law Blogs: