I have been asked by law school professors, placement officers and students for best practices on blogging.
Here’s 17 tips that I believe will make for a more successful law student blog. Expect the number to change as I think of things I missed.
- Establish a goal you want to accomplish through blogging. Saying I blogged is not the accomplishment of a goal. Rather than legal writing, set a goal of understanding how to network through the Internet by the time you graduate from law school. Commit to building a name for yourself and building professional relationships through blogging. Such goals land you internships, clerkships and a job doing what you want to do for whom you want to work for upon graduation.
- Focus on a niche you can get passsionate about. Blogging on a niche will not limit you from pursuing long term goals later on. Blogging on general legal issues or on a blog focused on too broad of a niche will not work. You’ll not be able to identify influencers in a niche. You’ll not get your blog posts cited or shared. You’ll not build a name nor relationships and you’ll find it difficult or impossible to learn how to network through the Internet.
- Find and follow the influencers and thought leaders in your niche and follow what they are writing or blogging about – blogging lawyers, reporters, association leaders, law professors, or even fellow law students, no matter where any of them are located.
- Subscribe to their blogs and publications, ideally via a news aggregator (Feedly is a free, easy to use and the most widely used by legal professionals). A news aggregator will save you a lot of time. Twitter can also be used to follow news and commentary in your niche by following the influencers.
- Understand what true blogging is. Summaries of case law, legal developments and legal news on a niche may work for some practicing lawyers, but a law student, and most lawyers, would be advised to look at blogging as a conversation. Listening is more important than writing.
- “Listen” to what the influencers are writing and engage them in your blog posts by referencing what they are “saying,” perhaps by citing a block quote and offer your take, why you shared what they wrote or what you learned from their writing.
- Let the parties you cite know that you did so. You may do so via an email or via sharing your post on Twitter giving a hat tip (h/t) to the Twitter handle of the party cited. This is the engagement – and it’s also how you draw attention to you and your blogging.
- Publish your own individual blog. Blogs with groups of law students or blogs done as part of a class will limit you from learning how to blog, from understanding how to network through the Internet, limit you from building a name and limit you from building relationships. A law student group blog will be less followed and less cited.
- Title the blog, itself, just as you would title any publication, indicating that the blog is published by you. Your blog is every bit a publication. Blogging has democratized publishing, be part of it.
- Get a domain that you own. This way you control your publishing and your body of work. Influence as a legal professional is measured, in part, through their writings – and influence from digital writings is measured by the age of one’s domain and the citations and shares of one’s writing.
- Publish on WordPress. WordPress is by far and away the leading content management solution on the web, running 70% of sites with a content management system. Using a managed WordPress host, whether WordPress.com or LexBlog (free turnkey blog solution for law students), will solve a lot of headaches.
- Blog posts are best written in a conversational tone, as opposed to in the style of a legal brief. Blog as you talk.
- Blog posts need not be long. 400 to 500 words can be sufficient, though be guided by what you “need to say” to make your one point, more than a particular length. A post of about 1,000 words may be required in some cases, but be cognisant of people reading and sharing on mobile devices.
- Blogging as a law student need not take a lot of time. A blog post every other week would result in over 20 posts in a year and 40 to 50 posts in two years of law school. A post should take two hours or less. Many lawyers take less than an hour to publish a blog post.
- Blogging is learned only through trial and error. In law school we learn to do things as perfect as possible – and not to act until we’re ready to be perfect. That won’t work in learning to blog. Subscribe to other blogs, see how they blog, observe the style of the bloggers and reporters you follow, and get started knowing you will blog bad, but for only so long. You will feel uneasy when you start blogging, every legal profession does.
- Share your blog posts (or portions of them) on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), assuming you use the medium, not for the purpose of dissemination, but for engaging people with a relevant interest. Social algorithms lead to engagement, help you build a name and help you nurture relationships.
- Legal ethics do not prevent you from effective blogging nor the effective use of social media.
I hope this is of help and know that as a law school, law professor or law student, we at LexBlog are here to help you.