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The blogging lawyer as a citizen journalist

December 28, 2014

Law firms generally look at blogs as a way to market lawyers and the firm. The focus ultimately becomes the lawyers and the firm. How do we draw attention? How do we build a brand? How do we strategically engage influencers?

There is nothing wrong with this. It works, if done well, and is a heck of lot more tasteful and effective than other forms of advertising and marketing.

At the same time there is a whole other type of blogging lawyer – the citizen journalist. These lawyers, by providing news coverage on a niche, become a leading source of news, commentary, and insight. They provide coverage where it generally did not exist.

This morning I went to Twitter looking for news on the ferry fire off the coast of Italy trapping hundreds fearing for their lives. I searched “ferry.” The first result under “Top Tweets” was a post shared by Miami Attorney Jim Walker (@cruiselaw),  publisher of Cruise Law News.


Walker is the world’s leading reporter on deaths, injuries, and safety matters relating to the cruise industry. Via his blog, he not only reports the news, but is the de facto cruise industry watchdog.

Twitter knows Walker’s level of influence in the area and pushes his tweets to the top of search at a time of breaking news.

Seattle Attorney Bill Marler (@bmarler) is another lawyer-reporter by building a food safety publishing powerhouse with his blog, Marler Blog, a second blog, the Food Poison Journal, and his news site, Food Safety News.

This last week there was outbreak of listeria associated with caramel apples. Five people have died.

Curious how Marler’s influence would be viewed by Twitter and Google I did a couple searches.

Here’s Twitter with Marler at the top.image

Here’s Google News with Marler having two of the top three results.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.54.03 PM

These results are not SEO induced search results that most lawyers are after. The results come because Twitter and Google view Marler and Walker as the leading reporters, commentators and watchdogs in their respective fields.

Walker and Marler, by virtue of their citizen-journalist status, regularly receive information from lay people, industry employees, experts and government employees who want to get the story out or add information to stories being covered. These lawyers are the leaders of a “community” advocating safety in an industry.

By virtue of reporting and holding companies accountable as lawyers, these guys are also making things a heck of lot safer for all of us.

Looking at blogging as marketing first is always an option. It works very very well.

For those lawyers looking to take blogging to a new level, there is the role of the citizen journalist that remains wide open in hundreds, if not thousands, of areas. You will create a source of news coverage in an area where it did not exist. You’ll create a community of people sourcing news for you.

And as Marler and Walker can attest, you will become the “go-to” lawyer for people in need of a lawyer.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Wisnu haryo Yudhanto

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