A business development professional from a mid-size West Coast law firm emailed me with with a question about ghost blogging.

Ghost law blogging, if you’ve not heard of it, is practice where some lawyers and law firms hire people to write blog posts for lawyers and hold the posts out as being written by the lawyer.

The business development professional acknowledged that ghost blogging is legally unethical, but wondered if there may be some middle ground between ghost blogging and the attorneys publishing their own blog content. Perhaps having him write the post or just holding out the post as written by the firm. He was concerned about lawyers maintaining the blog.

My answer got into the brass tacks of what makes for law blogging success so I thought I’d share it with you.

I first explained that I believe I saw FindLaw selling ghost blog posts to lawyers at one time, but rather than represent that the post was written by the lawyer (in the byline author field of the post), the byline read that the post was on “behalf of the lawyer.” A cheesy solution, but different than other firms which unethically misrepresented that the lawyer wrote the post when they did not.

The real key to the dilemma though is to make blogging a fun and rewarding experience for the lawyers who are going to blog. Blogging will not feel like a chore and getting posts up will not be a challenge.

How so? Begin with the lawyers understanding what blogging is and what the goal is. The goal is not necessarily to bring traffic to the website. The goal is building word of mouth and relationships, the same things that built his firm. The Internet has not changed this.

Keep clear that we’ll measure success by an increase in revenue. Establish a goal and then measure how much has revenue jumped for the lawyers/area involved? It can be very significant.

Knowing that, identify the areas the firm is looking to grow or sees an opportunity. Do you have a lawyer or lawyers who want to build a name in the area and want learn to use the Internet to do so?

Who wants to become a star – to do the type of work they’d love to do, for the type of clients they want to do that work for and not worry about where business is coming from. Why not? Many, many other lawyers have done so through blogging.

Know that not every lawyer wants to blog. Ask who is excited to blog. Do not end up with an editorial calendar where it’s a chore for the lawyers and the person chasing them down. If lawyers say they are not excited, that’s okay.

The blog will be on one niche area the firm excels in or is looking to grow. Could be tighter than a practice area such as estate planning, i.e., a type of trust in estate planning. The blog will become a must read by a niche audience, the lawyers will know it and they’ll see “why blog.”

Niches are critical. Niches do not limit work, they expand the work coming through trust and name recognition.

Educate the blogging lawyers that we are not talking articles. We are talking blogging. Depending on the niche, you may reference and share news and developments, heavily using block quotes, and offer your take/why you shared it.

The lawyers will be referencing other bloggers (law and industry), reporters and association news – you’ll make a list of about 20 influencers that fall in this group that they’ll be following in a news aggregator (Feedly). It’s like pressing the flesh. You get known and your blog posts get cited and shared by others. Posts may be as brief 250 to 500 words. Think about the emails between lawyers in the firm and to clients that already do this. It’s not much different.

You can expand, once the blog gets known, to having guest posts of people with whom you want to build relationships and to four question email interviews of referral sources, business associates and the like.

Any help the blogging lawyers may need, and most do not, is in proof reading, titling a post and putting in a picture.

Begin with the premise that we’ve always networked to build a name and relationships, now we’re going to learn how to use the Internet to do so. We’ll get a lawyer or two started who can become blog/social media champions and be a viral positive from whom other interested lawyers in the firm can learn.

The blog will be the first social media used by the blogging lawyers, maybe 2 to 4 posts a month, and then the lawyers can learn how to use other social media personally – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with the understanding that the blog content is currency for relationships there.

You know my take on ghost posts. Don’t go down that road. If you’re a real lawyer or real law firm, you’re better than that.

  • I agree, Kevin. Lawyers are very smart people, and have plenty in their heads to share, not to mention doing what you said, and that is reporting on the news in their practice areas. Take note of the articles you already read every day, then open your phone, start an email to yourself, hit the voice-to-text key, then talk for a minute or so about the first thoughts that come to mind after reading the article. Copy that email and paste it into a blog post, or give it to the person who is responsible for posting and formatting. This can make it very easy to blog regularly. I have sent myself blog posts many times. Those thoughts can, of course, also be dictated into a text message to oneself, or in Evernote or any other notes app. Just make sure to title it Blog Post so you can always go back and find it. It’s not hard to do. It’s just being willing to take the time to write or speak your own thoughts. Having someone else write for you isn’t necessary, or even a good idea. Kevin is right. You’re better than that.

    • Thanks for the comment Nancy. This blog post was in fact an email from 7 AM yesterday morning. 10 minutes of fine tuning and it’s a post. Many of my random thoughts reduced to posts generate the most engagement – at the time I post and by lawyers telling me months or a year later that they liked the post.

      Merry Christmas and continued success in the new year.

  • Hear hear. Well said, Kevin, and Nancy too. When I was first laying the groundwork to strike out on my own and launch my firm, I had a consultation with a legal marketing outfit that seemed to be pretty “on-the-ball.” The sales agent talked about SEO and smart website design and the right way to manage an email campaign, so I sent her a thousand bucks to get the ball rolling.

    Next conversation, after trying to extract more cash out of me, she started telling me that it was silly to spend my own time writing content for my site– the blog included. “Much of what you pay us goes to writing your content.”

    Ahem, WHAT?! You mean to tell me that somebody who doesn’t know my niche as well as I do, and who isn’t even a lawyer– but a professional marketer instead– would be writing my thoughts for me?

    “Well, it has to be that way, or you’re wasting your time,” she said. “This is far more efficient– and besides, a professional writer is going to be better at it that you are.”

    That wasn’t the only thing that gave me an icky feeling about doing business with her outfit (she also told me she needed ten grand to get my website and email set up… a one with five zeroes after it). Too bad I’d already sent her a check. An expensive lesson to learn.

    I’m trying to be a thought leader here. A recognized expert. I can’t show my talent & knowledge (and humanity!) to the world by having someone else write for me.

    • Thanks for the comment, Aaron. You’re making the common sense argument that for whatever reason some marketers and lawyers cannot see — that if you are building a name for yourself, it’s you, the lawyer who needs to do it.
      For the first few years of law blogging, no one ever brought up ghost written blogs, they would have been laughed at. But like any good thing, it can be ruined when driven by short cuts and money.
      You and your blog are cited by David Cuthbert, my lead sales representative, regularly. He likes the clean look and your blogging. You also do a nice way of holding yourself out as a blogger/author on Linked – sets you apart from the pack.
      Merry Christmas and wish you great success in the coming year.