Many of you don’t know Dan Schwartz, a Connecticut lawyer and publisher of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

I know Dan as a friend, having first met him in Montreal thirteen years ago. I’ve gotten to know his caring family, and him, mine, through Facebook.

So it gave me goosebumps (I get emotional, easily) when I read what Dan shared on LinkedIn this morning.

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint when certain life events have a big impact on your career.

For me, one of the biggest of them is actually easy to spot.

It was 13 years ago this week that I started a blog on employment law. A few months prior, I had met Kevin O’Keefe at a young lawyers conference for the ABA in, of all places, Montreal.

I worked with his then-skeleton crew at LexBlog, Inc. and it’s all history from there.

So why has something as small as a blog had such an impact?

Lots of reasons: The doors it has opened to meeting others. The continual focus on staying relevant. The impact it has had on my writing.

And so much more. So, here’s to 13 years!”

I continue to ask lawyers to get out the magic wand out when thinking of blogging. Why? Blogging can be a life changing event.

You can represent the clients you’d like to represent on the type of matters you’d like to work on. You can pay your children’s college tuition at the school of their choice. You’ll be invited to travel to nice places with your spouse to speak – and it’ll be all paid for.

And like Dan says it’s just nice to have the opportunity to meet others, to stay relevant in your field and to improve your skills.

Blogging. Kind of amazing the impact it can have on a lawyer’s career.

My team and are honored to play a small role in helping these lawyers.

Too many blogging lawyers report the law, rather than share an interpretation of the law. At the same time, it’s the interpretation of the law – what the law means to them – that blog readers are looking for.

When it comes down to it, any second year law student can report the law. They’ve done plenty of it already in law school.

You can also hire people who are not lawyers to write your legal blog posts. Other lawyers hire lawyers who are not practicing and have no expertise in the niche to write their blog posts. Sadly, too many lawyers do.

Darryl Cross, well known for his work in helping business leaders develop high performing teams, commenting on a recent post of mine, shared:

The biggest pivot lawyers need to make is going from “here is what the law says” to “here is what I PERSONALLY think it means to you”. It is a watershed moment that anyone can do—-if they have the courage to do so. And they should. Take a stand, have a point of view, and you will have a great blog.

Cross is spot on.

Imagine a client on the phone asking you a question. You’d sound pretty silly saying let me pull out this case or regulation summary and read it to you.

You’d listen to the client share the situation, maybe ask a few questions and then offer your take – preliminary or general as it may be, without going further.

Blogging is the same.

Legal blogging works, not because you are competing with Westlaw, but because you are creating an intimate relationship of trust with people, including in-house counsel and execs, by sharing your take. Your take, founded on experience and judgment.

Blogging like this shouldn’t take courage, as Cross alludes to. Helping people is why we went to law school. Being afraid to talk with folks also won’t get you far as a lawyer.

But if courage it takes to take a stand and have a point of view, you need to do it.

Not in the sense of poking your thumb in someone’s eye or being a Rush Limbaugh, but in the sense of here’s my take on how the law applies to you, to this situation.

There is nothing unethical about sharing general insight on the law. That’s not an issue.

You can easily separate yourself from other legal bloggers, maybe lawyers on the same law firm blog, by saying here is what I think.

I try my best to share each of my blog posts on LinkedIn.

As Jeff Nowak, publisher of FMLA Insights, shared recently, writing a blog post and not sharing it on LinkedIn is like hitting a home run and stopping at first base.

I don’t just share a link, I share the whole post in the space provided. If the copy won’t fit – most posts will not – I shorten the post up. Bottom line, I give LinkedIn users everything they need to get the point.

It does not matter one bit if readers do not come to my blog. Like you, I’m not selling shorts or chocolate, I don’t need people to come to my site to buy something. Again like you, I’m blogging to demonstrate my skill and build relationships.

Plus, folks don’t have the time to leave a social media site and visit another site to read an article.

Today was the perfect example of how easy it is to network by sharing a post on LinkedIn.

I penned a post yesterday on how easy it is for blogging lawyers to get found By potential clients. The post took thirty minutes.

I shared about three-quarters of the post (to squeeze it all in). Today I looked at who liked and commented on the post. I’m looking at people I’d be interested in talking to.

I guess I treat it much like a social event at a conference. Who would I like to get to know.

Except here I have more than a dimly lit room, a bar and nameless faces.

Here I can see who liked something I said, who commented on what I said and who shared what I said with others.

Today I saw someone from Asia with a strong background in legal business development in major firms liking and sharing my post of yesterday.

We’ve already connected on LinkedIn and are exchanging notes. My guess is we’ll hook up by phone and the obligatory Zoom call.

This is why you call blogging, “Networking through the Internet.” The content is just the currency of engagement.

It’s regularly said that people and businesses hire lawyers, not law firms.

This played today in an interview of Linda Lu, Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel at TransUnion, by Practical Law The Journal: Litigation.

TransUnion’s Legal & Compliance department has approximately 200 associate lawyers. Lu is Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.

As to hiring outside counsel, Lu was asked, “What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?

Lu replied that she looks at individual lawyers with whom to partner, not the law firm.

To impress me, a lawyer should:

  1. Provide practical legal and business-oriented advice.
  2. Be a trusted advisor who my company and I can rely on to have our backs and who makes my life easier (including by appreciating how my success is measured and the limits of my time and resources).
  3. Communicate articulately and succinctly.”

Provide practical advice, be a trusted advisor and communicate articulately and succinctly.

Talk to the good legal bloggers, the ones who have generated millions of dollars in legal work from corporations. These three points made by Lu are exactly what they do in their blogging.

Most blogging lawyers who achieve business success through blogging do it on their own blog, as opposed to a group blog.

Makes sense, only one lawyer can go up in front of a trade association to give a talk or talk one to one at a social event afterwards. It’s all about trust and relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent group legal blogs published by law firms that generate significant business. In addition, lawyers may not get certain work if they don’t have a strong firm behind them.

But even in group blogs it helps big time if there is a blogging champion or two. Lawyers who establish themselves as trusted advisors by communicating in a personal, yet professional, way and provide practical advice, regularly.

Corporations do tend to hire the individual blogging lawyers, not a group of blogging lawyers.

Last Thursday, a friend asked me to find a lawyer for them or to get a referral from a lawyer so they could get counsel on a niche legal issue in a large metro area in another state.

No matter what anyone tells you, locating the right lawyer is not easy, and usually comes via relationships.

So I reached out to a lawyer I knew in that metro area to see if they knew of such a lawyer or knew of a lawyer who may. No luck.

As way of context, lawyers get work by referring work to other lawyers, it builds a network.

Any lawyer would be glad to take my call asking for a referral to another lawyer. And that lawyer would be glad to take the call of any lawyer in their community asking for the same thing. It’s how they get referrals – by referring work out.

When I came up empty on a referral, fortunately I knew the name of NAELA (National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys), an association of attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of older Americans and individuals of all ages with disabilities. 

It was an elder law niche issue for which I needed a referral. And lawyers who are members and leaders of niche associations are good places to start a search.

It took me hours wading through NAELA’s poorly developed directory with some lawyers having some information about themselves and others having none. Often the information was such that only a lawyer would know what it meant, and even then the info was not that helpful in selecting a lawyer here.

Unfortunately, it was much the same for law firm websites when I got to them from links on NAELA’s site. Though I did email three lawyers last Thursday night and Friday morning. Only one responded.

Imagine if a lawyer blogged on elder law issues, perhaps more particularly on the relevant niche. The more they blogged, the more likely they would have hit that niche.

I do a search on the niche in that metro and I find that lawyer, their blog and their insight on the issue. Within seconds.

Case closed. The lawyer gets the call.

Lawyers worry about where there work is going to come from. Lawyers pay countless dollars for websites, SEO and directories.

Why not just share what you know by answering the questions you get in your practice. Do it once a week – about 30 minutes is all – and you have fifty answers a year.

It’s not not hard, it’s called blogging – and you’d make it much easier for people looking for your help as a lawyer to find you.

I was on call last week with the marketing director of a midsize law firm which is publishing four legal blogs.

The firm’s CFO questioned the value of the blogs. How much time were the firm’s lawyers putting into the blogs – and in turn, how much business was being generated by the blogging?

Legitimate questions as the ROI of legal blogging should be measured in terns of revenue. In the case of this firm, the ROI was not there.

The marketing director and CFO thought generating more traffic to the blogs and in turn their website – through search performance and other means – was the answer.

My question was how did the firm generate its work over the years, it’s a good firm.

The answer was relationships between the firm’s lawyers, referral sources, the business community, potential clients and existing clients. Relationships, combined with the lawyers having strong names as authorities in their respective fields.

I explained that traffic, alone, to blogs and the website is much akin to traffic and eyeballs as they related to billboards, radio, television and other forms of advertising. Things the firm never did nor believes in.

Rather than traffic, we needed to look at whether the blogs were developing relationships and a strong reputation for lawyers in the firm.

Nothing changes when it comes to developing business via blogging, it’s networking, just networking through the Internet.

Accordingly, we reviewed a number of items I thought worth sharing with you.

  • Blog focus being awfully broad. It’s tough to build a name and open the door to relationships when covering broad areas of the law such as business law or estate planning. Tight niches inside these areas, especially ones like to grow are key.
  • Tone of writing, Blogs should be written in a business dinner conversation tone, not necessarily like a brief. Let people hear you talk, your sense of humor, your care and your tone. People need to get a feel as to who you are.
  • Identify potential blog champions. Not every lawyer is wired to develop business. The Internet didn’t change this. Who’s pumped to build a name, be a star in a niche, build relationships with people and to be a leader. Who won’t let you down when you empower them and get out of the way? Who won’t have you chasing them done to pen a blog post? Who will be a good champion that other hard charging lawyers in your firm will follow?
  • Brief posts sharing what you read offering your take. That’s what people are looking for, someone who is following a niche and sharing what they see. Posts need not be, and probably should not be, one thousand words or more.
  • Lawyers need to be using social media when blogging. Publishing a post and not taking it “out” for engagement is nuts. A lawyer with a robust LinkedIn profile, personally needs to be sharing a synopsis of the post on LinkedIn with an accompanying link. The lawyer should look for likes and comments of the post on LinkedIn. Then connect and engage with these folks. Feed the algorithms so your posts will be displayed in front of the people you’re trying to reach.
  • Reference relevant influencers in posts. They’ll see you and engage with you. Maybe it’s an association you’d like to speak in front of. Maybe it’s reporters and bloggers in your niche.
  • Share posts, as appropriate, with client’s, referral sources and potential clients. An email with a post of yours or a partner’s telling them you were thinking of them because of an earlier matter or something else relevant does the trick.

Rather than traffic, search and eyeballs, focus on what brung you. If it’s relationships and reputations, make your blogs grow relationships and reputations. It can be done – and it’s easier than you think.

I’ve managed the Legal Blogging Group on LinkedIn since the first week LinkedIn created groups.

Regardless of what you think of the value of LinkedIn Groups, they’re gold for reaching out to shake people’s hands. And after all, shaking hands and talking with folks is what networking through the net is all about.

How so?

  • Don’t just check off to accept or deny requests to join the group.
  • Review the profile of each person requesting to join.
  • For those you are accepting, send a personal invite to connect with a note welcoming them to the group, introducing yourself/company as the moderator, explain what you do to add value to the group, and ask if they would be so kind to connect on LinkedIn.
  • Then go back and accept their request to join the group.
  • You’ll receive notes of thanks. Continue the dialogue through LinkedIn as appropriate.
  • Look for business development opportunities with the person. Need not be right away. May go into your customer relationships system. For us, it’s HubSpot.
  • For example, with LexBlog expanding internationally, I make note of people with law firms overseas and have my team look at what their firm is doing to build their name through digital publishing. We may be able to help them with our blogging education program, our legal blogging community and and our publishing platform.

Just a few ideas for leveraging the LinkedIn group’s membership feature for business development. I’m sure there are other ways to leverage it that I’ve missed.

I just reviewed thirty requests to join LinkedIn’s Legal Blogging Group, approving most of them. The ones not approved were from people with no interest in the law or legal blogging.

As with last week, I was struck by the number of people from countries other than the United States, particularly India, who requested to join. Young people studying the law and practicing law made up the majority of the requests.

There’s a large number of young people interested in the law no matter the country. But why so many law students and young legal practitioners outside the United States expressing an interest in blogging as compared to those in the United States? Especially India.

My first thought is that the United States is sorely lacking when it comes to law schools preparing their students for life in the law today.

Sure, there is the core law that students are learning. And sure, students from the top fifteen or twenty law schools are going to get good jobs in large firms by learning the core law, alone. If a large firm is what they want.

But most law schools in the States don’t expose their students to blogging as a way to learn, as a means of legal scholarship that is more meaningful than law review, and as a way to build a name so as to get hired. Let alone as a valuable business development, networking and learning tool of value to hiring law firms.

There are few deans, professors and administrators who blog. Most academics have not experienced blogging, first hand, as a learning and a professional development tool. There are no role models for law students.

Some schools that have started programs on professional development that covered blogging and social media have stopped the programs, sending the teaching professors on their way to other schools.

Other schools have offered a brief program on blogging here and there and then dismissed blogging. Some law school deans have gone so far to express a strong interest in starting such a program, only to dismiss the idea – in many cases as a result of pressure from professors.

The reason for less interest in the States may also be with the law students and recent grads, themselves.

I have not seen a lot of initiative by law students and grads to be different. To put in the effort to learn something new and to put in the effort to do what it takes to set themselves apart.

Maybe some law students and grads from overseas have not been handed what many U.S. law students have been handed over their lifetimes. Maybe they’re willing to fight.

The LinkedIn Legal Blogging Group is just a small sample of law student and law grad interest in blogging. But the numbers over the last few months have been striking.

The State Bar of Wisconsin is the latest bar associaton to partner with LexBlog to bring a legal blogging community to their state or metropolitan area.

The legal blogging community partnerships are twofold. One to create a hub for all things legal blogging in the jurisdiction. And two, to make it easy and low cost for lawyers to begin to blog or to continue blogging on a better platform than they’re currently using.

From Michelle Newblom, reporting for LexBlog on this partnership, over the past few years, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Communications Team noticed a steady increase in the number of its 25,000-plus members who are actively blogging as a way to communicate their expertise and build their reputation.

But bloggers were looking for a way to increase readership of their blogs. And for lawyers in general, there was not an easy place to find relevant blogs, subscribe to multiple blogs at once and access a central database of this growing body of secondary law.

The Bar’s answer was the launch of an online blogging community exclusively for Wisconsin legal bloggers—WisLawNOW, using LexBlog’s Portal solution, the same technology platform powering LexBlog’s global legal blogging community at LexBlog.com.

Per Joyce Hastings, communications director for the Bar:

We want WisLawNOW to be the hub for member-generated content in Wisconsin.

WisLawNOW gives our members access to a growing, timely library of legal knowledge that is searchable and responsive to mobile devices.”

Aggregating numerous Wisconsin legal blogs into one hub provides bloggers and their firms with greater visibility. Readers can easily navigate to different subject-matter channels and view profile pages of author biographies and the blogs published by a lawyer or firm.

Peter Kraemer, digital communications coordinator for the Bar, wants to ensure that regardless of a blogger’s location or practice niche, they can widely share their expertise and create connections with a broader audience.

We’re excited about the prospect of really bringing together a whole community within this easy-to-use product. It’s their words that matter to our audience. We just want to bring their insight to everybody.

The WisLawNOW community is not just for lawyers. It’s a resource for the public as well, per Hastings.

There are a lot of people who are interested in the law beyond the legal profession – especially for those whose work requires them to stay on top of change. WisLawNOW also is a potential resource for referrals within the legal community as well as the public.”

COVID-19 is a perfect of example of the public needing legal information overnight and lawyer-bloggers stepping up to the plate to fill the void, per Hastings.

When the pandemic hit, the Communications Team lacked an effective infrastructure to quickly aggregate this new content for the public, per Hastings. The WisLawNow portal takes some of the pressure off the in-house team.

Like other bars, Hastings has a small team, she needed a way to efficiently develop and push content as issues evolved. Leveraging the latest in aggravated publishing technology in the form of a legal blogging community enabled the Bar to readily make information available without diverting resources from other priorities.

Wiscosnin’s a big state with a lot of communities lacking bloggers on various niche subjects. There are also subjects not being covered on statewide niches for wich there are succesful legal bloggers in other states.

To help lawyers get started blogging, and to grow this legal blogging community, the Bar will make LexBlog’s professional turnkey blogging solution available for free, and after six months, at only $39 a month.

That’s the price of a WordPress.com business blog and a solution that LexBlog sells for $200 a month.

LexBlog will walk Wisconsin lawyers through the setting up of their blog and provide them education on how to blog strategically and effectively.

It’s a real honor for me, growing up in Wisconsin and practicing as trial lawyer there for seventeen years, for LexBlog to be part of building Wisconsin’s legal blogging community.

I’m right with Kraemer in hoping that through WisLawNOW, the people of Wisconsin “get a real sense of who the thought-leaders are in Wisconsin,” and that the blogging community grows “to act as a forum for lawyer members.”

When I’m sharing a news story regarding a law firm on Twitter – positive news about the firm – it would be nice to give a shutout to the managing partner/executive chair as well as the firm, generally.

The problem is that most chairs/managing partners are not active on Twitter.

Being as weak as the next law firm when it comes to a simple form of innovation – communication – is a scary place to be.

If you as a leader of a law firm, can’t reach in your purse or pocket and pull out your iPhone and share an engaging Tweet, you’re lacking on the innovative communication front.

I use Twitter a fair amount, not to push information at people, but most importantly to listen to the pulse of what is taking place in my market and to engage my audience of customers, business development partners, fellow tech company leaders and influencers – reporters, bloggers and heavy social media users in my vertical.

If I want to engage a multi-billion publishing software company leader, I reference her or him and something I wrote about them on Twitter. We’re talking by Zoom within a week.

If I want to explore international expansion in a particular country or continent, I start to follow certain organizations and people on Twitter. I’ll strategically engage them.

If I want to to give kudos to our customers and organizations for their work in the access to legal services and social justice arenas, I give them a shutout on Twitter. The world hears it, and others join in the kudos.

There are many more things that for which the leader of a law firm could use Twitter, including the leading of their own people and demonstrating that they are engaged, innovative and care.

The obvious responses are I don’t have the time, we’re a law firm so we have ethical issues preventing the use of Twitter, we have to maintain confidences and so much more.

That’s just telling the world you don’t know how to use innovation.

Not that long ago, law firms dismissed Twitter as a joke. They missed on that one.

The Democratic candidate for President just announced his choice for Vice-President on Twitter. President Obama immediately chimed in on Twitter with a strong endorsement of Senator Harris.

Having an innovation officer at your law firm, whose hiring was pitched to news outlets by your communications’ team is one thing.

It’s a whole nother thing to share with clients, potential clients, business partners and bloggers and the mainstream press who know you, personally, via social media, that a leader in innovation has joined the firm to work with you personally on the the innovation front.

The first is talk. The second is real – and walking the talk.

We’ve moved forward in so many ways on the communication front. Many of us remember working as lawyers without email. Imagine telling someone today that you don’t use email.

Failing to use Twitter may not be quite as bad – but it’s close in some people’s minds and it’s certainly a sign that that you and your law firm are lacking on the innovation front.