exBlog is routinely asked for a sample law firm blog policy.
My approach has been too cavalier. ‘Why do you need a policy for something that is just a different medium for communication? Law firms need to look at their own policies and see how blogs fit in.’
Kevin McKeown, our VP of client development, also a lawyer, but with a long history of business development and strategy takes a different approach. One of taking responsibility as the leading law blog provider to get lawyers, legal marketers, and business development professionals what they need to get firm management’s approval on blogs.
As such, Kevin’s been working with a number of large law firms on a law firm blog policy. Here’s what Kevin kicked out to large law firm this week. Not a policy per se, but factors that firm needs to take into account in crafting its own blog policy. Use it in your firm’s blog discussions and please offer any feedback.
Law Firm Blog Policy? Ten Questions to Consider.
- Who owns the blog? Firm or individual lawyer(s)? Firm ownership is suggested if using to extend brand of firm and enhance reputation of a practice group. Copyright reflects ownership decided.
- Who will blog? One author or multiple authors in a group blog? The firm approves and identifies all authors and blogs.
- Does the blog(s) have a specific focus or niche? The narrower the focus, the better. Articulate.
- Does the firm need firm guidelines for blogs? Maybe not. Review existing guidelines, practices and procedures. How are email newsletters, media relations and client development issues handled? With minor revisions, professional blogging may easily be covered under existing firm practices.
- Does the firm need to restrict blog content? Some firms may wish to restrict blog content to be general and informational similar to email newsletters and alerts. Other firms may wish to take a more progressive, and usually more successful, approach to blogging by linking to and referencing other blog posts and news stories. By doing so, you’re joining the conversation as an authority in your field. Depending on the circumstances, lawyer(s) may wish to avoid taking too strong position on a particular legal topic. Generally, you don’t want to be blogging about existing clients and matters that members of the firm are working on.
- What’s the blog posting and comment policy? Most firms, subject to general oversight, let blog authors write and publish without showing content to practice chairs or marketing prior to posting. Comments from blog readers should be allowed. To not allow comments, risks embarrassment to the firm. Blog software preferences should enable the blog author(s) or another designated party to review and approve comments before going live. Expect no more than 3 or 4 comments per month. Appropriate comments may be published.
- How frequently should be blogs be updated? The most effective bloggers post new content at least once a week. Blog author(s) should not fall below this threshold. To develop a compelling voice, the author should write and post—not someone else. A post should be relatively short—a few paragraphs (200-500 words may be fine). In many cases, take no more than 20 to 30 minutes to write a post.
- What is the role of the marketing? General oversight. Review blogs from time-to-time. Encourage lawyers to ask LexBlog specific questions about best blogging practices and any technical issues. Work with PR to determine what, if any, PR or marketing will be done to promote blog. Think through how networking with other bloggers and media will be addressed. Decide who responds to media requests directed to blog authors.
- How does the firm ensure that published blog content shares and extends the reach of the firm’s intellectual capital and maintains and enhances the firm’s reputation (quality control)? Require that new author(s) participate in LexBlog’s best practices training prior to the blog’s launch. One of the best ways to enter social media discussion is to follow relevant RSS (real simple syndication) feeds and reference other respected bloggers and their posts. The training reinforces this concept and shares other insights and tips for how to write effective, compelling posts including the use of supporting links, graphics, and photos via LexBlog’s platform. The orientation also addresses how to utilize LexBlog’s HelpSpot for any client support or technical questions (see http://support.lexblog.com/). Finally, the LexBlog’s blog “boot camp” is reinforced through ongoing educational webinars for beginning, intermediate and advanced bloggers as part of the client care commitment.
Blog Ethics? Seven Points to Consider
- Follow existing firm protocols and rules.
- Do specific ethics rules exist in your state? Few, if any, states have specific rules applying to blogs.
- Follow existing state ethics rules—particularly web advertising rules.
- Use disclaimers on blogs—do not dispense legal advice or create an attorney/client relationship. See firm policy questions above.
- Do not breach client confidences.
- Do not engage in any false or misleading communication.