Steve Matthews Law Firm SEOBeen meaning to blog about Steve Matthews’ excellent piece on thought leadership for lawyers for a long time.

Agree wholeheartedly with Steve that the selling of expertise is a key element in legal marketing. “Expertise, even more than having years of experience, is an important measure of qualification, and a tool used to grade the modern professional.”

Though being recognized as a thought leader has been around forever for lawyers, Steve highlights the advantages of building such a reputation online. And I think Steve would agree online reputation building is done via blogging.

First of all, the barrier to entry has definitely been lowered. While web technology has been limited to those with programming expertise in the past, newer software technologies – such as blogs and social networks – have leveled the playing field for exposing one’s professional knowledge & expertise. Second, the number of participants in these online conversations is not limited. Those with a willingness to get in there and participate will benefit from the increased exposure. And lastly, the web is a mix of both those that innovate ideas, and those who diligently spread the word. Success can be found in either capacity, but a balance between ‘subject expert’ and ‘online rainmaker’ is probably the best approach for most Professionals.

Steve aptly explains the concept and value of online thought leadership.

Thought Leadership is a phrase that’s evolved in online communities to describe those individuals who become a hub within online conversations. These individuals are very recognizable. Their opinions are watched by hundreds, and often thousands, who share a common interest. Their online publishing power is driven by their social network as much as their individual ideas. And when they do publish their opinion, people seem to jump! Jump you say? How so? It’s difficult to explain. Thought Leaders are in a very interesting position. Not all readers are supporters. And in some cases, the naysayers can outnumber their supporters. It’s not that their opinions are the most respected (although this is the case for some, and an ideal position, really), it’s that their voice drives others to respond. The end result is that they set online conversational direction, and if they enter into a particular discussion, that issue will be heard. These individuals carry an immense amount of ‘web profile’ power. For a lawyer who wishes to drive their personal brand through the roof, becoming a Thought Leader can deliver one of the longest lasting effects possible. Done properly, the position of being a Thought Leader could create value for a lifetime, or at least as long as one’s professional career. (emphasis added)

Blogging is not about instant search engine success. It’s about joining an ongoing conversation with others discussing subjects relevant to your area of practice. Like networking offline, becoming a thought leader among others in the conversation is not achieved overnight.

But as Steve says, done right, ‘Lawyers have the opportunity to increase both their ‘image’ of being an expert, and backing up their professional credibility with commentary that demonstrates, and qualifies, their knowledge with potential clients.’