At Clio Con (Clio’s Cloud Nine annual conference) a couple weeks ago, Seth Godin advised lawyers that they should be seeking the minimum viable audience in their business development efforts.

Godin has made blogging a lynchpin in growing his name and reputation as a speaker and author. His almost twenty years of blogging on Seth’s Blog, a blog publication, separate and apart from his website, has made him a household name in the marketing field.

Godin’s Clio discussion may as well have been directed to blogging lawyers. After all, it’s the blogging lawyers who get the opportunity to build a strong name and develop business in a niche more than other lawyers — and to do so much faster.

Why a minimal viable audience? Read what Godin shared on his blog a couple years ago:

Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact.

And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone.

You can see the problem.

When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.

When you have your eyes firmly focused on the minimum viable audience, you will double down on all the changes you seek to make. Your quality, your story and your impact will all get better.

And then, ironically enough, the word will spread.

Legal blogging to the minimum viable audience works.

Look at the FMLA, equine law, fashion law, cannabis law, China Law, E. coli, cruise law, foreign service of process, NY business divorce, Texas Appellate law and countless other niche blogs.

The lawyers behind these blogs are known nationally and, in many cases, internationally.

The blogging lawyers have honed their legal skills in their niches like other lawyers. They’ll appear in the top few items on Google on a relevant search. And they’re household names when it comes to referrals.

Life’s too short to be a wandering generality.

Take Godin’s counsel, look for the minimum viable audience when legal blogging.

“Connecting lawyers with people, for good, since 2003,” feels like a much nicer – or at least a more mature – mantra than “We build blogs for lawyers.” The latter from when we kicked things off at LexBlog in November, 2003.

The Internet is about connecting with people in a real and intimate way. Always has been, always will be.

There’s no such thing as differentiating between a “virtual world” and a “face-to-face” world.” One world, different mediums of engagement. Engagement leading to intimate relationships of trust.

The last two weeks I heard again about the latent legal market in the United States. First at Clio Con and this week at LMA Annual.

Depending on the survey, seventy-five to eighty-five percent of people with a legal issue – and who may be able to afford a lawyer – do not use a lawyer.

The big reasons are that they don’t trust lawyers, they don’t know what lawyers do and, even if they did, they don’t know how to find a good lawyer.

Shows you that despite lawyers, collectively, spending billions of dollars on advertising and marketing – directories, SEO, content marketing, Google AdWords, Google my Business, hiring marcom professionals, and more – lawyers are not connecting with their market.

Market meaning people, whether consumer, corporate executive, in-house counsel, small business person or another lawyer.

“Connecting” with people in an intimate fashion so they know you as “the lawyer” in a niche who cares about what they do and who they to do it for – and stays abreast of developments in their field – is how you reach this latent legal market.

Since 2003, I’ve felt blogging to be a remedy to the chasm between lawyers and people. A chasm that denies millions of legal services and leaves hundreds of thousands of lawyers living hand to mouth.

But, for whatever reason, I’ve not always felt comfortable wearing a mantra for blogging proclaiming a higher purpose on my sleeve.

Building blogs for lawyers, legal blogs and strategic consulting, managed WordPress platform for the law, networking through the Internet, digital media solutions for the law and legal blog community. All tag lines or glib phrases describing what we do.

None of them felt right. ”Blah, blah, blah.”

They were tactics, not a mission.

None felt like something team members would proudly say when responding to a family member who asked over Thanksgiving dinner where they worked.

“LexBlog, we connect lawyers with people, for good,” sounds nice as a team member passes the cranberries across the table.

I don’t know that we need to be repeating our mantra – our purpose – everywhere. But we sure as heck should know why we exist, why we get up each morning and why we spend more time at LexBlog than with our families.

Rather than talking tactics with team members, something I am known to notoriously hate and suck at, I need to be talking the why.

I’ve always liked Clio’s mission of “transforming the practice of law, for good.” And in pursuit of that mission, developing seamless solutions so that lawyers can connect with people and deliver legal services so as to help lawyers reach this huge latent legal market.

For good, meaning not only to help people, but for once and for all – after all the well intentioned talk of others that they were going to do so.

It’s this mission that drives Clio’s team members, keeps their team members and lands smart, passionate, gritty and driven new team members.

And which lands new customers. Customers who want to work with a partner focused on something bigger than themselves. A partner focused on the greater good.

So with Jack consenting and telling me a one off just means more are joining the cause, I’m going to start wearing the mantra of “connecting lawyers with people, for good” on my sleeve.

And talking about our cause with my team members and partners.

As a community of legal bloggers, not just LexBlog, we can connect lawyers with people, for good.

Developing legal business through publishing is in large part about developing relationships.

The content is the currency of engagement that builds and nurtures relationships. The content enables you to engage someone.

Maybe it’s the networking you do with someone who likes or comments on content that you share on LinkedIn.

Maybe it’s virtually meeting someone whose article you shared on Twitter.

Maybe it’s the discussion that ensues from your emailing a client or prospective client something that you or someone else wrote.

Taking it up a notch, one could use an aggregation and curation engine, ala LexBlog’s Syndication Portal product, to showcase a large number of content publishers and organizations.

How so?

Look at Sheppard Mullin’s ‘In The Know’ aggregating and curating blog posts from the firm’s over thirty legal blogs or the firm’s ‘Coronavirus Insights’ publication which aggregates and curates their lawyers’ blog posts relating to the virus and pandemic.

Now imagine a publication along the lines of those two aggregating and curating the blog posts and content written by third parties?

Why and how so?

To build relationships and a strong reputation.

If you’re doing IP work in the pharmaceutical industry, imagine aggregating relevant content published by pharmaceuticals, scientists, academics, associations, financiers or even other lawyers.

You’ll receive thanks and kudos presenting you with ample opportunities for engagement and discussions leading to relationships.

You’ll build a reputation for caring for others and for having a strong interest in staying up to speed with developments and people in your niche.

All of this without heavy lifting via RSS feeds from consenting publishers (they gladly consent for the visibility) coming into a common data base for syndication onto a niche publication sponsored and published by you.

Publishing is unquestionably valuable for business development. But keep in mind what you publish need not be your own content. You can generate a reputation and relationships by publishing content by third parties.

Before talking with a larger law firm this morning, I made a few notes on what I’d be thinking about as a larger firm when starting a first blog. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

One, Pick a winner. It’s not time to launch a blog for a group of lawyers for the heck of it, because they just want to blog or because they just saw a blog in a competing law firm and thought they should have one too.

You need to pick a winning area of the law and a winning lawyer or group of lawyers. Lawyers who are passionate about blogging and the area of the law that will be covered.

This blog is going to be your role model for blogging lawyers to come.

Blogging has to work in developing millions of dollars in new revenue, per blogging lawyer, per year. Killing off this new revenue generator for any number of lawyers in your firm who may express a future interest in blogging by dismissing blogs as an effective business development tool because this first blog didn’t work would be a major loss.

If you’re in marketing, business development or communications and leading or coordinating this blog initiative, you need to make it an enjoyable and rewarding experience. You don’t want to be pushing a rope.

Two, choose a niche. Niche law blogs have generally proven to do much better than blogs focused on general areas of the law. Such blogs can become must have insight and commentary for a targeted audience. They’ll bring early success, something you want on a first blog.

Rather than immigration law, how about immigration law for the pharmaceutical industry.

Three, choose a growth area, look to the future. Lawyers tend to focus on what they’re doing now or have done in the past.

Hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, said he experienced so much success because he was taught: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Look for areas of the law and niches in an industry that are predicted to grow.

Blogging lawyers who focused on fashion law before fashion law was even a thing and the cannabis industry before marijuana was legalized did very, very well for themselves.

Such blogs can demonstrate to the firm how networking through the net, via blogging, can help the firm grow new business.

Three, find and empower passionate bloggers. Passion is what you’ll find behind any successful law blog.

Do the lawyers love the area of the law, love representing the clients in the area, are they excited about building a name and relationships in the area? If not the leading lawyer(s) in the group, look for passion in associate lawyers – and empower them.

You’ll need blog champions for this blog and future blogs. Such role models arise out of passion.

Four, look for business development acumen in the blogging lawyers. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

Some lawyers aren’t wired for business development. Blogging is networking through the Internet, not just writing legal copy.

Though every blogger need not get business development, you’re going to need to have one or two who do.

Connecting the dots in an engaging and authentic fashion is important. So is seeing how ancillary social media fits in.

Business development in the law is about building a strong name and relationships. Blogging and the net didn’t change that.

Five, establish a clear goal. A goal is more than having a blog and a goal is not met by traffic and web stats.

A goal may be:

  • Learning the power of blogging as a business development tool within a year.
  • Understanding how blogging fits in the culture of our firm.
  • Using the blog to serve existing clients. “We built this blog for you as way to keep you abreast of developments and to share our insight.” Good clients are hard to get, this is one way to keep them.
  • Business development – building relationships and a reputation with a very targeted audience.
  • Revenue. Individual blogging lawyers are generating seven figures a year in new revenue from relationships they’ve built from blogging. Even a deadline to start accruing such revenue after two years is not bad as compared to other business development channels.

Six, and having little fun here, get a sound blog partner for a platform and strategy. If you choose someone other than LexBlog and don’t succeed, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😊

The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Randazzo reports that large firms are prospering despite the Covid-19 economy.

”Many large law firms have excelled financially this year, even as some clients in sectors ranging from hospitality to retail have suffered. The most elite firms say they are on track for a record year, thanks to hot practice areas like restructuring and public-offerings work, and many are doling out extra money to lawyers this fall.

Firm leaders and consultants attribute the stability to lawyers’ ability to easily work from home, business that comes from a range of industries and practice areas, and a major reduction in travel expenses.

At the onset of the pandemic, the legal industry braced for the worst, but come summer, law firms found their lawyers were still busy and many busier than the year before.

Though certain practice areas took a hit, they have been off­set by boom­ing re­struc­tur­ing prac­tices, cap­i­tal-mar­kets work and lit­i­ga­tion, per Randazzo.

It’s these practices, unnamed growing practice areas, and niches in such practice areas which represent blog opportunities for law firms and law firms.

Pandemic related items in growing practice areas represent even greater blogging opportunities. Sharing what you are reading and learning is of value to both clients and prospective clients.

The pandemic turned our business development world upside down. Networking through the Internet, via blogs and other social media, are among the leading ways to develop a reputation and relationships.

No question there have been law firm layoffs, and I am not looking to dismiss those layoffs and the many lawyers in large and small law firms who have been adversely effected by the pandemic.

Bottom line though, what has been a very tough world for us all, health-wise, business-wise and social-wise, may strangely provide business development opportunities, through blogging, for law firms and lawyers.

Veteran Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, asked in a New York Times column this last weekend, “How Did a Young, Unknown Lawyer Change the World?

I’ve been asked repeatedly in recent days to explain Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s accomplishment: How did she, a young unknown lawyer, starting basically from scratch, persuade the nine men of the Supreme Court to join her in constructing a new jurisprudence of sex equality?

I replied that she had a project, a goal from which she never deviated during her long career. It was to have not only the Constitution but also society itself understand men and women as equal.

Fair enough, as far as that explanation goes. But I think it misses something deeper about Justice Ginsburg, who died last Friday at 87. What she had, in addition to passion, skill and a field marshal’s sense of strategy, was imagination.

She envisioned a world different from the one she had grown up in, a better world in which gender was no obstacle to women’s achievement, to their ability to dream big and to realize their aspirations. Then she set out to use the law to usher that world into existence.

To dream big and realize their aspirations.

I couldn’t help but smile. Greenhouse describing one of our more celebrated Supreme Court Justices in the same way one would describe successful legal tech entrepreneurs.

  • Passionate
  • Strategic
  • Dreamer
  • Vision of a better world
  • Use what you have to usher in that better world

What fired this imagination in Justice Ginsburg?

The best answer may be simply that Ruth Ginsburg saw things that others didn’t. She understood that the law could be harnessed in service to fundamental transformation. That’s the difference between imagination and goals. We all have goals, big or small, and we all encounter obstacles to accomplishing some of them. But only a few have the turn of mind to confront head-on the structural obstacles that stand in their way.

Only a few have the turn of mind to confront head-on the structural obstacles that stand in their way.

Sounds like an entrepreneur, doesn’t it?

You might be quick to diminish what legal tech entrepreneurs are doing as compared to a justice on the Supreme Court. You’d be wrong to do so.

Lawyers and, in effect, legal services are irrelevant to eighty-five percent of Americans. No matter their financial status, consumers and business people don’t reach out to a lawyer when faced with a legal issue.

People don’t trust lawyers. Legal services aren’t delivered in a fashion people expect services to be delivered today – efficiency, convenience, declining costs and a mobile app away.

Legal tech entrepreneurs are chasing their dreams to make legal services more accessible to the masses. Even creating solutions that enable Americans to find and to connect with lawyers they’ve learned to trust in an intimate way.

No, I don’t think entrepreneurs see themselves the equal of Justice Ginsburg.

That didn’t stop this entrepreneur from getting a warm feeling reading Greenhouse’s column that passionately chasing a dream in order to usher in a better world was a noble thing to do.

Sure wish Linda would have accepted my offer to begin blogging with us when she left a the New York Times a few years back.

I read, via a blog post from Rick Georges, that a Fastcase 7 update includes what Georges calls a “brief bank” for lawyers.

Got me thinking of a law blog bank.

As way of background, brief banks enable lawyers to get their hands on relevant briefs and memorandums that another lawyer has prepared and filed with the court.

Not only saves a lawyer time, but gives them insight into another lawyer’s thinking and analysis.

As a practicing lawyer, we had a brief bank available to state lawyer association members. It had few, if any, relevant briefs. And it took a couple weeks to get your hands on them.

Fastcase buys Docket Alarm, which then practicing attorney Michael Sander created. Docket Alarm could monitor court dockets and make available relevant court filings – including briefs and memorandums. An instant brief bank on steroids.

An aggregation of all credible law blogs provides much the same value.

A lawyer is working on an issue and looking for the current insight and analysis of other lawyers on the issue. Perhaps even from the most knowledgeable and respected lawyer on the subject in the country.

Unlike briefs, blogs are not filed with courts. Who’s going to aggregate them?

A company that is already aggregating law blogs with posts from a huge number of law bloggers.

If we’re smart, LexBlog is that company.

  • We are already aggregating blog posts from almost 30,000 lawyers.
  • We’re building a data base by blog subject, lawyer, location, firm, post subject, etc.
  • We’re building an API accessible to legal research and AI platforms.
  • We’re recruiting and adding blogs by the day.

Not boasting. Just seems like a doable common sense solution that would help lawyers.

I noticed today that veteran legal blogger, Bob Ambrogi added a resource section to his LawSites Blog.

Called, LawSitesResources.com, this resource section is a frequently changing collection of white papers, e-books and other resources, all available at no cost.

The section currently lists twenty different resources, covering topics that range from CCPA compliance to data privacy to the law firm of tomorrow.

For example, this week’s featured resource for family lawyers and family law professionals is a free report, How Parenting Plans Are Being Modified During COVID.

Ambrogi, blogging on legal technology matters for almost eighteen years, has a good sized audience of lawyers, other legal professionals and legal tech companies.

His audience is likely to have an interest in the items shared, the particular items varying based on their interests.

Items at LawSitesResources.com are sponsored by the companies that produced them and generate revenue for LawSites. You would not be charging for resources posted to a resource section to your blog.

They may include:

  • Resources from government agencies
  • Resources from various organizations, including companies
  • Law firm publications – your firms and other firms (assuming not a problem
  • Your own blog posts that are evergreen in nature that you reduce to a nice PDF
  • PDF outlines of information your law firm otherwise shares in emails, client alerts, articles etc
  • Relevant podcasts or videos

I am sure there are more items you could share, but you get the point.

Know too, that not every blog needs a resource center – and a resource would be work to assemble, needs to be good and needs to be updated with new items and the deletion of outdated items.

Legal blogs have also proven more valuable business development tools through regular engagement of your audience than as a destination site.

Thirty some years ago, as a practicing lawyer, I’d receive a carbon copy of a lawyer referral slip from the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Someone from the La Crosse area had contacted the State Bar, via a toll free number displayed in the yellow pages, asking for a referral to a local lawyer.

I was on the referral list for matters in which I had no deep expertise. Being I was next up on the list, my name, with nothing on my background nor expertise, was given to the person who called the Bar.

The carbon copy was forwarded to me so I knew that if the person contacted me, I was to pay ten percent of my fee to the Bar.

With some flaws, it was not a bad way to connect people with lawyers in a state – thirty or sixty years ago.

Like everything, the Internet has changed how people find a lawyer.

Unfortunately, websites and directories, aren’t doing a great job in connecting people with lawyers. 85% of people, regardless of whether they have the financial resources or not, don’t contact a lawyer.

Websites and online legal directories aren’t working to increase to legal services. They tend to be advertisements, brochures and fancy yellow pages.

People rightly expect more, and don’t place a lot of trust in these things as a means to identifying the right lawyer for them.

How about something as simple as state bar association law blog network.

  • Identity the top cities in your state, Maybe the top five or ten. For larger states, it may be more,
  • Identify the top ten or fifteen areas of practice. When building out Prairielaw.com, later incorporated into Martindale’s lawyers.com, we identified thirteen practice areas for which we’d provide legal information by state.
  • Identify where good blogs already exist for these metro areas and other areas within the state.
  • Identify where there there are not good law blogs for each of the practice areas in any of the identified metro areas.
  • Aggregate and curate the existing blog content now being published by lawyers. The content is displayed online, with constant updates. Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Arizona and New York City have already done this.
  • Include a directory of these blogs, bloggers and their firms. Not just for people to come and find bloggers, though they may, but to have profiles for each the blogs, bloggers and firms that will be indexed at Google.
  • Recruit the blogs and bloggers you need to fill the practice areas in each of the identified metro areas.
  • There is no cost to the lawyers.

What do you have?

  • A vehicle by which a consumer or small business person can go to the net, probably Google, and immediately find an experienced and caring lawyer in the niche needed. They’ll find the blog and they’ll find the profile of the blogging lawyer on the bar’s network site.
  • A vehicle for consumers and small business people to develop an intimate relationship of trust with a lawyer. Not only is the lawyer sharing valuable information, they are doing it themselves, in their own writing and in their town of voice.
  • The type of solution people expect with the Internet today. Something that is innovative and disruptive, not more of the same. Something that gives a person something more than they otherwise get from a website or a directory.
  • A never ending and growing body of information for consumers and small businesses on various areas of the law.

Pretty simple concept.

What do we have to lose by trying legal blog networks, except the growing gap in access to legal services and people choosing the wrong lawyer.

Getting the influencers to write about you and your newly launched law blog is usually overlooked by lawyers and legal marketing professionals.

Ironically, as I explained to a couple law firms this last week, it needn’t be hard to get the influencers to do so.

Influencers are those people who influence your audience of clients, prospective clients, referral sources and association leaders when it comes to taking notice of you, your blog and your credibility.

Influencers include mainstream media, trade media, bloggers and social media users who cover and discuss matters in the niche upon which you are or will be blogging.

Influencers by definition are those with a decent sized audience, and whom are viewed by their audience as a credible source of news, information, insight and commentary.

In the early days of blogging, lawyers launching blogs often contacted other bloggers and the media announcing the launch of their blog. Occasionally it worked to get some publicity. Most of the time, it did not.

Today, I don’t see lawyers or law firms seeking publicity on the launch of their blogs, whether via a press release, email or otherwise. The initial launch of a blog is not really news and most influencers would laugh it off.

But one way to get influencers to take note of you, your blog, and your credibility is to ask for their feedback.

How so?

  • Make a list of the influencers and their sources.
  • Follow what they are writing/reporting/blogging.
  • Share in your blog, via a block quote, what some of your influencers are “saying” and offer your take.
  • Let them know you shared what they had to say with an email letting them know, a tweet mentioning them as a source or a posting on LinkedIn mentioning them as a source in your blog post shared on LinkedIn.
  • Once your blog is up and going for about 90 days, drop some of your influencers an email asking for feedback on your blog. 90 days gives you some credibility and demonstrates some commitment to blogging.

How so?

  • Tell them you’re a follower of their work.
  • Let them know you are new to this world of citizen journalism, or blogging. That you are just figuring out the right ways and wrong ways of doing things. Figuring what “works” and what doesn’t.
  • Knowing they’ve been in journalism and, maybe, blogging in particular, compliment them on their work in this regard and ask for feedback on your blogging.

There is no guaranty they will write about you and your blog, directly, but you have a decent chance of them beginning to cite you and what you are blogging.

The reason being is that you took a down to earth and sincere approach to engaging them. Being that other lawyers and law firms are marketing and pushing content at people, this approach is welcomed and well received by the influencers.