Construction attorney Matthew DeVriesA move from Washington, DC to Nashville sparked construction attorney Matthew DeVries of Smith, Cashion & Orr to start a blog in order to help his marketing and development in a new and unfamiliar region.

The energy and conscientiousness he’s poured into Best Practices Construction Law since launching comes through in his posts and his engagement with others in the bustling construction and green building law community.

It’s also paid off for his practice development.

"I have certainly seen an increase in the number of cold calls from potential clients as well as media inquiries from reporters and bloggers," Matt says. "For example, when Congress was debating the climate change legislation earlier in the year, I received a call from a reporter at BNA who asked about the potential effect of the environmental legislation on the construction industry. This gave me an opportunity to share some knowledge and highlight [the blog]."

We caught up with Matt for this LexBlog Q&A to find out more about how blogging has made him a better lawyer and how he integrates Twitter with his blog.

See our email exchange with Matt after the jump.

Lisa Kennelly: Why did you decide to start a blog?

Matt DeVries: I had a personal blog that I maintained for a number of years and I really enjoyed the opportunity to write about various experiences in my life, including funny stories about my five kids, thoughts on marriage or parenting, tips on leadership and other random posts. When I moved from Washington D.C. to Nashville, Tennessee three years ago as a veteran attorney, I was at somewhat of a disadvantage. I had little to no local contacts, which made my marketing and development in this region a challenge. Having seen the success of a number of other blogging lawyers—one of my favorites being Daniel Schwartz—I decided that I would jump into the legal blogging arena as a way to enhance my practice.

Lisa Kennelly: What has been most rewarding about blogging?

Matt DeVries: Believe it or not, the process of identifying a blogging platform, creating a brand/theme, and posting regularly has made me a better lawyer. Since the information that I post on the internet is publically available, I am more conscious about my writing, as well as the purpose of each post. In addition, I have assessed my client base and focused my target practice areas to make sure that my blogging efforts were purposeful. All in all, the process of setting up the blog and the discipline of regularly posting enabled me to better serve others in the construction industry.

Of course, it is also rewarding when I receive a phone call or an e-mail from a colleague, potential client, or reporter based upon something I have written on the blog. That type of feedback lets me know when I am doing things right!

Lisa Kennelly: What has been the most challenging?

Matt DeVries: The most challenging aspect of legal blogging has been to identify and articulate “useful information” that will benefit my clients as well as the construction industry as a whole. There are so many individuals in the legal blogging world who simply process and churn information. From the onset, I decided I did not want to be one of those people. I wanted to use this arena to help others, which is the real purposes of Best Practices Construction Law“Using experience, knowledge and technology to ensure success in the construction industry…”

So while I have not had a difficult time finding relevant topics to blog about, the more challenging aspect for me has been to make sure that the information that I share with others is useful, relevant and helpful.

Lisa Kennelly: What has the response been to your blog from clients, other attorneys, or anything else?

Matt DeVries: I have received a great praises from other LexBlog clients (such as Shari Shapiro, Rich Cartlidge, Scott Wolfe and Tim Hughes). In addition, numerous clients have expressed their thanks and gratitude for providing them with a useful resource to keep up to date on many best practices within the construction industry. Finally, I have certainly seen an increase in the number of cold calls from potential clients as well as media inquiries from reporters and bloggers.  For example, when Congress was debating the climate change legislation earlier in the year, I received a call from a reporter at BNA who asked about the potential effect of the environmental legislation on the construction industry. This gave me an opportunity to share some knowledge and highlight www.bestpracticesconstructionlaw.com.

Lisa Kennelly: How does using Twitter affect or complement your blogging?

Matt DeVries: I was using Twitter prior to starting my construction blog, but I do not feel that my “tweeting” had any real purpose. I was just another person chirping in the Twittersphere. However, after going through the detailed design process with LexBlog—where we identified some of my strengths and desired practice areas that were consistent with my client base—I feel that my focus has been more refined. This has enabled me to use my Twitter account, @matthewdevries, to truly complement my blogging. There is a lot of room for growth for me to effectively use Twitter to establish new contacts and relationships, but I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and proud of progress made thus far.

Lisa Kennelly: What advice would you give to an attorney thinking about starting up a blog?

Matt DeVries: I would suggest to any attorney thinking about starting up a blog to make sure they fully understand why they want to start the blog in the first place. Just like all other marketing opportunities and relationship building techniques, it is more than entering a room  and shouting content. You need to understand the value of purposeful dialogue through your blogging platform. 

Lisa Kennelly: It seems like there is a very active, strong construction law blogging community. Do you agree, and if so, why do you think that is?

Matt DeVries: There are certainly a number of great construction blogs out there, as well as plenty of green building law blogs. I think people in the construction industry simply want some guidance as they deal with unprecedented times—high unemployment, tight credit markets and lack of financing for new construction, and an overly saturated residential market. At the same time, green building has been described as the “only bright spot in the construction industry.” I am very humbled to be included in the construction law blogging community during these times.

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