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Five Ways Lawyers Screw up Their Blogs (hat tip to Law360)

I was pleased to get a call last week from Erin Coe at Law360 as she worked on an article about five ways lawyers screw up their blogs. (You can find the whole piece here, but it does require a subscription to access.) My colleagues and I at Knapp Marketing have been helping attorney and law firm clients make the most of this tool for years.

It’s true I have some strong views on the right way to blog in the legal space. My comments go along with those of some other notable friends (Ross Fishman and John Hellerman) that Erin talked to and that this article collects. It’s a wealth of advice on ways that lawyers and law firms can avoid blowing it on blogging.

Following are three of the points of the article that we believe are critical to blogging success:

1. Take the idea of voice, for example. Blogs that are so lawyerly and so cautious that they are unwilling to share analysis, opinions or a voice are just a killer. If lawyers want to make themselves more likeable, and more trustworthy, they should inject personality and voice into their writing. Still, I see lawyers who have big, interesting personalities end up sounding like a machine on their blog.

Lawyerly literature has its place: in the law library. But many (if not most) blogs by lawyers are thick with legal jargon and thin on observations that potential clients can draw on to evaluate how a lawyer’s skills get used. Writing with the firm’s malpractice insurer in mind is not the best way to engage people who will buy your services.

Blogs are not briefs. Impress people with your command of the topic, not your command of the English language. Be plain spoken. Don’t equivocate.

2. Quite a few bloggers don’t prepare anything to post until a highly anticipated verdict is issued or the news of a major legal development appears, but clients are facing legal problems every day.

All day long, somebody with a problem that you can solve is turning to the Internet to get information. Lawyers need to talk thoughtfully and interestingly about problems they can solve for clients. Blogging is not about waiting for something important to happen. And long breaks between posts just turn off readers, who may be potential clients.

Focus on content that will intrigue clients: advice on the potential challenges clients or their industry are facing; issues that are going to help or hurt a client’s industry in the coming years. Develop case studies, sanitized to avoid identifying the client or confidences, as well as interviews with clients about business challenges and innovations. Bloggers need to write about things clients value and issues they worry about.

3. Finally, the single biggest mistake is when attorneys write from their own point of view as a lawyer. It’s like they are writing for a law review or writing up a case analysis. If all that bloggers are doing is talking to other lawyers, that’s not what attracts clients (unless those lawyers are possible clients).

Putting yourself in the shoes of your clients is the first rule for blogging attorneys. Otherwise, you are not trying to understand what a client with a problem wants to hear.

We like to think that Knapp Marketing has specific strengths in the online social space that benefit our lawyer and law firm clients. We are grateful that Law360 gave us a chance to take what we’ve learned about good blogging and spread it among their readers.