I’m on record that blogging for lawyers is more than creating content.

I’ve wondered more than once if I may be creating a straw man argument on which to make a stand. But I always come back to blogging being a conversation, a way to engage one’s audience in a real and authentic way.

After all, the seminal book on corporate blogging from the early days of blogging, written in 2006, was entitled, Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.

The authors, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, talked about how blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere were changing how businesses communicate with their consumers and other stakeholders. Robert and Shel presented more than 50 case studies of companies and business leaders as leaders interacting with their audience. (emphasis added)

Effective legal bloggers tell me that when a new client comes in the client feels like they know the lawyer. They’ve heard the lawyer ‘talk’ to them via their blog. They thought the lawyer understood them and their problem. They liked the way the lawyer “talked.”

Often the client came from other than the blog itself. It was because of the lawyer’s word of mouth reputaton or a referral. The lawyer’s blog, when found on a Google search, LinkedIn, the lawyer’s website or the referral, put them over the top. The blog created an intimate relationship of trust.

When I first started blogging, I imagined I was talking to an audience of one – me. After a few posts I envisioned talking as a late night radio talk show host who must be reaching a few listeners in town.

I always envisioned people asking questions or wanting to know something. I talked to them on my blog the way I would over coffee at the local coffee shop or over a beer at the local pub.

Everything came from me, personally. Whether information or a perspective I picked up from a personal experience or something I read with a word as to why I shared the piece, it was always personal.

The first lawyer who called me about blogging, back in 2003, a Harvard and Northwestern grad, asked me how he could use blogging to develop work. He wondered if he should do what he saw a lawyer or two doing on their blogs – talking about movies, food etc.

I explained, no. Listen to your clients and prospective clients and respond to their inquires. What are the questions they ask? Take out a legal pad and write “Blog” at the top. Write down all the questions clients and prospective clients ask and answer them on your blog,

He responded, “that’s exactly what I do and how I get work.” Not on a blog, but in emails and on phone calls.

The lawyer blogged in a conversational and personal way based on the law he knew and his experiences as a lawyer. He increased his asset protection business expoetentinally as a national audience picked up on his “call in radio talk show.” A show with a national reach.

Sure, content in the form of legal information can be valuable. Done well, it’ll attract attention via Google and people to one’s blog or website.

But a lawyer still needs to close the deal – to establish trust as both a trusted and reliable authority and someone a prospective client, maybe one who has never contacted a lawyer before, feels comfortable contacting.

An intimate relationship of trust just seems more likely to come from blogging to engage, versus content alone.

  • I think the “straw man” is in how you frame the issue. As a long-time legal blogger (one featured in the book Naked Conversations that you cite), I agree that blogging is a way to have a conversation with interested readers.

    However, let’s frame the issue in a way that’s more meaningful.

    Let’s begin with: Why have a conversation? You say it creates an intimate relationship of trust. Fine, I agree that it can do that. Not always. But often enough to make having a blog useful for many lawyers.

    Here’s another question: what kind of trust gets built up? There is more than one kind of trust.

    People might trust a lawyer because s/he “knows a lot about an area of law” (this is called “authority” by Professor Robert Cialdini, who wrote a book called “Influence” that talks about the psychology of trust-building).

    Or people might trust someone because they feel like they really care a lot about helping their clients (i.e. empathy). The old saying “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is apt here).

    Or people might trust you because they can easily understand how you will help them (i.e. clarity).

    Or perhaps they trust you because you seem “real” and not cagey (i.e. authenticity).

    Of course if you exhibit all of those qualities the odds of you being trusted is higher, and the level of trust people will have in you will be greater. At least as a matter of probability.

    But here’s what’s NOT true: merely having a blog, or merely establishing your expertise by writing blog posts repeatedly, will not ipso facto establish trust.

    Moreover, posting regularly to a blog will not guarantee that you’ll “engage in a conversation.” These days, people are bombarded with attempts to capture their attention and many people are addicted to social media.

    Most of these people are not “engaging in conversations” on blogs. Shel Israel and Robert Scoble wrote Naked Conversations in 2006, which was WAY BEFORE the explosion of Facebook/Twitter/ and social media.

    Blogs are still useful. But other methods of establishing trust online with complete strangers are more useful, especially given the current state of affairs.

    Email “newsletters” or whatever you want to call it, are much more reliable ways of having an “intimate conversation.” Once someone is on your list you can email them whenever you want. If you do a good job of sending out truly useful information that person will keep reading the emails you send.

    If you do a poor job of “conversing” then they’ll unsubscribe.

    For many years I ignored email. I figured I could just have an RSS feed for my blogs. I did set up an RSS-to-email so that people who wanted to be alerted to my blog posts could get them by email if they wanted. But that was all I did.

    I figured it was enough. And maybe for some people it is.

    But if you REALLY want to build up trust. And if you REALLY want to have an intimate conversation, send someone an email that’s well written and meaningful.

    Lee Rosen does this with his Friday post. A few other lawyers do this as well.

    I too have been doing it for several years now, and I’ve come to understand how much more effective it is than mere blogging. In fact, if I had to choose between only having a blog and only being able to “converse” with people via email, I’d choose email.

    Of course if you don’t use email in the way I describe it’s hard to understand how it works.

    It reminds me of when I first started blogging and tried to convince people that it was a powerful way to communicate with total strangers who then became more engaged over time. Unless you started your own blog it was hard to understand the power of blogging.

    You were a pioneer in getting lots of lawyers to understand the power of blogging, and that was a great contribution.

    But maybe you have trouble seeing beyond the “blog horizon.” No shame if you do. I certainly couldn’t grasp the power of email.

    Until I started using it regularly, that is.

    ;-)