What Is the Right Way to Start a Law Blog?
Publishing content through a legal blog ("blawg") is a great way to drive more web traffic and clients your way. However, you must, at a minimum, always consider the Rules of Professional Conduct with what you publish.
Keep Things ConfidentialFirst, let*s talk about some of the rules to consider. In your example of your first blog post discussing a pending criminal case before the court, the confidential information protected by the attorney-client privilege is paramount. ABA Model Rule 1.6
Just because a matter is currently pending does not mean you must not discuss the case publicly in any manner whatsoever, zip, zero, zilch. ABA Model Rule 3.6 Trial Publicity enumerates the specific topics that are suitable for extrajudicial statements, such as information in the public record (such as the criminal complaint in your case). However, a proactive discussion with your client about disseminating information about his or her case can best uphold the integrity of your relationship with your client. Whether it be trial strategy or merely courtesy, deciding early on who is the gatekeeper of what information is released outside your office can mean everything to that client-attorney relationship.
Additionally, be mindful of your state*s legal advertising rules (e.g. ABA Model Rules 7.1-7.4). While broad topic discussions and case reviews are generally not considered attorney advertisements, keep in mind not only the blog*s content but the context and method of how it is being disseminated.
Prepare, Then CommitEveryone has a voice on the internet. With that amazing power and reach comes responsibility even beyond the ethical issues discussed above. Your blog will be part of your brand, whether a solo practitioner or a large firm. Just like other social media channels, you need engagement, dialogue and topic beyond just your own work to draw in and keep readership.
Don*t just come into work one morning and try to start up a blog. If you want a loyal readership and quality connections to sprout from the time and effort you*ll end up putting into this new endeavor, then you must have a strategic plan: What? When? How? Where?
What topics will your blog cover? Once you*ve picked your niche area, search to see what is already being written on the topic. Will your coverage be set apart somehow, such as by jurisdiction? What will your blogs include to make them quality sources of information with the appropriate authoritativeness of the author to keep readers coming back for more?
When will you publish your blog posts? (Note: *Publish* is the commonly used vernacular in writing blogs for once your draft goes live for your readers.) If you talk to any successful bloggers, in any industry, they will tell you that consistency is key. Second to quality, your frequency of postings is how you keep your readers coming back and engaged. Thus, you should strongly consider having several drafts of future blog posts in your bank, ready to go. Topics that are evergreen can be great to fill your scheduling needs when you happen to have a vacation planned, for example.
How will your blog serve you and your firm? If your answer is that it might bring in more clients after reading the blog, that*s good. If your answer is that it will engage your readers through comments and disccusions, that*s great! Many readers prefer to remain static by simply reading your content and moving on. But even the static readers will become more active from time-to-time when an informative or controversial topic draws them into the conversation. Ever read a blog that ends with an open-ended question? There ya go!
Where will your content go? The term *sharing* has taken on an entirely new life online. We see interesting content shared amount family, friends and colleagues via different social media platforms. If they like it as well, the compounding effect promotes your content*s reach farther and farther. That*s one of the great benefits of social media.
If you*re getting serious about enhancing your blog*s web traffic, look into how web metrics, such as Google Analytics, can measure your traffic and views. Who are your readers, where are they coming from, and how long are they reading your work? At a minimum, learn how SEO works to optimize your blog*s position on search engines. And lastly, don*t forget to link back to who you and your firm is for your readers. Is there an *About the author* section with clickable links?
Just to Be ClearBe careful what you wish for, you might just get it. While we praise the benefits of social media to engage in dialogue with readers and the public in general, it must be done with extra caution when attorneys are at the helm.
As it*s put in the ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 10-457, *the lawyer takes part in a bilateral discussion about the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship and has the opportunity to limit or encourage the flow of information. For example, the lawyer may ask for additional details or may caution against providing any personal or sensitive information until a conflicts check can be completed.*
Some typical disclaimers used by attorneys include:
* *Past results are not a guarantee of similar results for others.*
* Language conveying that the blog is not intended to convey legal advice.
* Language conveying that the blog does not create an attorney-client relationship.
* *You should contact a licensed attorney for assistance with your legal needs.*