Are Avvo blogs a credible solution for America’s lawyers?

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Seattle based Avvo, a free online legal directory for lawyers with consumer and small business law practices, announced a blog service for lawyers a couple weeks ago. Avvo charges $300 per year for the service.

I’ve got a couple of concerns as to whether Avvo’s blog solution is a credible client development tool for lawyers. Sure I’ve got a dog in this hunt, but over the last six years this blog has been all about honest and straight forward counsel to lawyers looking to achieve client development success via the Internet.

No question Avvo is targeting lawyers unwilling to invest in a blog for reputation enhancement or client development. I’m perplexed though as to what Avvo offers that lawyers cannot receive for free from WordPress, a well known free blogging platform used by many lawyers.

Here’s the features of an Avvo blog:

  • Blog running on WordPress technology.
  • Your choice of one of 9 WordPress design options.
  • Customizable blog pages.
  • Pre-populated and customizable blogroll.
  • Support (as to buying blog and turning blog on).
  • Hosted on your own domain.

Here’s the features of a WordPress blog:

  • Blog running on WordPress technology.
  • Your choice of one of 60 WordPress design options.
  • Customizable blog pages.
  • Customizable sidebar allowing customizable blogroll and other elements.
  • Free support on setting up blog.
  • Free hosting on a WordPress-owned domain.
  • Hosted on your domain name for $9.97/year.

I met with Avvo CEO, Mark Britton, and Conrad Saam, Avvo’s Senior Marketing Manager, on the day of the announcement to get a better understanding of Avvo’s blog offering. I also wanted to learn how Avvo blogs compared to our professional turnkey blog solution at LexBlog.

Mark and Conrad made clear Avvo didn’t look at Avvo’s offering as competing with LexBlog. No strategic consulting, customized development, training on blogging/networking through the net, SEO, marketing, syndication, or network.

Avvo’s goal was simply to get more lawyers using a more effective means of Internet marketing – blogs. The concept being if lawyers just get started blogging, they’ll realize blogging’s potential and in many cases move on to a solution like LexBlog’s.

I laud Mark’s goal of bringing technology to legal marketing and offering a free online directory, arguably offering more features than Martindale-Hubbell’s pay per play directory. I’ve met lawyers around the country who’ve obtained clients through their Avvo listings. Speaking to consumer and small business lawyers, I suggest completing an Avvo profile and participating in other areas of Avvo’s site such as the question and answers section.

I wonder if Avvo’s blog effort is misguided though. Blogging for client development is an art and a skill acquired over time. Blogging is not throwing content onto a website. Throwing yourself on the Internet as a lawyer where everyone sees you immediately while driven by the goal of not spending more than a dollar a day seems odd.

I’m not sure how much time Avvo has really thought about a credible blog solution. They’ve only got two references to blogs on their web presence. One page on its website and a blog post. Each mislabeling Incisive Media’s Legal Technology Blog as running on WordPress when it’s running on Six Apart’s TypePad blog platform.

Avvo has sought my counsel in person any number of occasions, before and after their website went live. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking credit for what they’re doing, but I suggested ratings and questions & answers long before they were implemented. I provided counsel to Conrad Saam as to blogging and how to work with bloggers for more effective PR. Seems strange that being only a mile away I was not asked about blogs if the goal was to serve lawyers.

For six years I’ve worked my ass off to assemble a team of 20 people at LexBlog, many of whom train and provide ongoing support to lawyers for years. Ask anyone on my clients services’ team if lawyers are natural born bloggers. Ask anyone of them if most lawyers will have fun and achieve success in client development through blogging on their own.

There are many lawyers who on their own have achieved success through blogging and who publish wonderful blogs. I read a ton of them. They’re the exception, not the rule.

Sell someone lower cost ski equipment, give them a week’s pass at Aspen, and then push them out of the Gondola at the top of the mountain when they have never skied before and without any lessons. At least an unenjoyable experience. At worse, fraught with danger and injury.

Don’t tell me there’s beginner’s blogging at the bottom of the mountain on the ‘bunny hill.’ Blog and you’ll get seen fast. Do something stupid and embarrassing – Google has a lifetime memory.

Lawyers are busy people. The good ones are willing to invest in client development for their professional and personal success. They’ve often got a family and a mountain of debt riding on their success.

LexBlog is more than happy to provide Avvo lawyers a credible blogging solution. We’d welcome a partnership with Avvo which would mutually benefit Avvo and the lawyers in its directory.

But selling lawyers something that on the face of it looks like they can get for free without the necessary turnkey solution that brings client development success is not the answer.

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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