Scott Limmer

Scott and Oscar talk about legal bogs and how to develop one for your practice. In today’s marketplace, a legal blog provides content to your website and also allows clients to see how you write and take positions on areas of law. The hosts provide talking points for you blog and give advice on how to create a worthwhile legal blog that will be looked at favorably by clients, prospective clients and other lawyers. Quick tips include:

  • Make sure the articles express your voice and viewpoint. Bland generic, boilerplate articles will not generate the interest or attention you will want.
  • Set time aside to blog at least once a week. Old stale articles will make you look like the blog is an afterthought.
  • Keep SEO in mind. Have a web designer and SEO specialist give you pointers on how to make your blog more searchable and drive it to the top of search engine requests for the key words that focus on your practice.


Episode transcript

INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice, two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

SCOTT:                      Hi everybody, this is Scott.

OSCAR:                      Hi everybody, this is Oscar Michelen. Welcome back to Reboot Your Law Practice. We want to thank you for the communications and emails that we have been receiving about the past podcasts you listen to. We want to remind you to please if you like us, like the podcast on iTunes. Give us a star rating. Write us a review. Let us know if you think there are ways we could be doing better, tell us what you liked, offer perhaps even podcast topics, but thanks for the feedback and we would like to see some of that feedback on our sites. That would be great Scott, what’s the topic for today?

SCOTT:                      Last week, we talked about niche practices and how you can get involved in a niche practice and how you could put yourself out there and make it successful. What we didn’t talk about is how to support that niche practice. We talked about general networking but if you’re going to have a niche practice or really any practice when you think about it, you have to be able to show people that you are educated in the law that you are practicing. You need to show potential clients, you need to show prospective business referral partners there are a lot of different ways to do that but what we’re going to talk about today is blogging.

OSCAR:                      The good term, if you will, to kind of cover all of that is demonstrating competence. You want to try to have folks look at your social media presence and feel comfortable that they are with a person, with a lawyer, who is a thinker in this field, who has an opinion in this field, who has voiced that opinion and who can be seen as an authority on it. A blog is certainly one of the good ways to do that. Scott, when did you start blogging?

SCOTT:                      I started blogging for real probably about six, seven months ago. I started writing articles for my criminal blog and I started writing articles for my special education blog – two completely different types of writing. The articles for the criminal blog, they are more like news articles. That’s how I decided to do that criminal law. I didn’t want to just write a ‘how to’ about criminal law or this and that. I thought that would be interesting to hit on, interesting topics in the news.

Special education though on the other hand, I write kind of simple 2-3 paragraph blog entries that hit on main points – what is special education, what are accommodations, what are modifications – just trying to give some basic information to the prospective client.

OSCAR:                      Yeah and myself, I started probably about a couple of years ago. It started out it very, very slowly and initially, I didn’t have a plan. I just wanted to write about topics that are interesting me that I thought would interest people who were looking for lawyers and would maybe generate attention to the website and bring people in into me just because either they like the opinion that I voiced or they were looking for that particular topic. Over the 2+ years I would say that I have been really serious about doing it, I have developed more of a voice to talk about how lawyering affects those popular cases or those topical cases that I wrote about.

I have a separate thing that I do on a site where we blog about IP but my main blog which is called Courtroom Strategy focuses mostly on the function of lawyering and how legal issues are presented. The thought there was because so much of what I do is litigation based, that’s the voice, that’s the authority I wanted to be seen in and it’s a bit of a different niche practice than yours which is more of a substantive niche but it has worked. We’ll talk later on through this podcast about some of the specifics but the one thing that you need to bear in mind is that you’re not just going to start a blog, put it up on the internet and then all of a sudden, you’ll be contacted by CNN as authority in your area. It’s going to take some time to build credibility.

SCOTT:                      Let’s go back for a little bit. You said a few minutes ago that you started writing your blog but you didn’t have a plan. While we advocate having plans for most things, writing a blog is the kind of thing, it’s nice to have a plan but truthfully if you wait to have a plan, you may never start.

OSCAR:                      Right, exactly.

SCOTT:                      When I started, I got a sight on some, I don’t even know, blogger.com or something, I just started writing. I don’t even know where those posts are now but I had to start doing something and just by doing something and getting in the groove, you start moving along.

OSCAR:                      Exactly and remember, there are various sites, Blog Spot, Blogger, etc. that you can kind of get a platform immediately. I would generally recommend at least starting there. It gets you an idea of how other people write and what other topics are being discussed and it gives you a nice easy way to start. I think eventually, you will be better off moving that blog to either your law firm page or, like I do, a separate site that is linked on to your law firm page. That may happen after two or three blogs, that may happen after a year or whatever, that’s your call to make but I think eventually, that’s where you want to end up – having a standalone blog that is either hosted on your firm page or linked to your firm page and not connected to a general blogging platform. Do you agree with that?

SCOTT:                      I absolutely agree with that. I think having it on your site when you can go there or certainly a very quick jump back and forth to your site is absolutely what you need.

OSCAR:                      One of the questions that people ask all the time is…

SCOTT:                      Why do I need a blog?

OSCAR:                      Well, why do you blog is what we’re talking about. All right, let’s start with that. I was going to say how often should I blog but we’ll cover that next.

SCOTT:                      There are a couple of people that I said, “Hey, you got to start blogging” and they look at me like I’m crazy. I’m not even talking about like older guys. People who are even tech savvy like, “I don’t get it. Why should I write once or twice a week about what I’m doing? How is that going to help me in any way?” It can help you in so many ways. It’s a lack of understanding. It’s exactly what you said a few seconds ago, you’re not going to write three articles and you’re going to be on the front page of some news magazine and everyone is going to be quoting you and saying how smart you are.

It’s a very slow process and there are a couple of goals you have by writing a blog. One of the goals is what we talked about. You want to show your prospective clients, your potential referral business partners that you are educated in this field, that you know what you’re talking about, but it also helps your web search when you are blogging on a consistent basis and Google is scanning your page and sees that there is new content on your page, they are -whatever, however their algorithms work – they are going to push you up a little bit higher.

OSCAR:                      Right and that’s important to remember which is that if you’re going to do this right, you’re going to want your web person to give you some advice on how to make the blog searchable and findable. A simple tip I didn’t even know this until I did just that. I had my blog, didn’t ask for any help, put it on my own separate page, and so then finally I said, “I’m not getting a lot of views.”

SCOTT:                      Because Google wasn’t even scanning it.

OSCAR:                      Correct. So my web designer said, “The first thing you did wrong was your banner is not a Word doc format. It’s a PDF.

SCOTT:                      So it’s not even searchable.

OSCAR:                      Right and I said, “What was that?” I mean, he might as well be speaking high Latin or Ancient Greek and then all of a sudden, he said, “Hey, you should put some tags in.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Write these words in the article. Incorporate them in the article and then put tags.” Lo and behold with some SEO advice, which did not affect the quality of the bog, it just affected the way the site works, it started coming up more and more. I started searching incognito on Google for the topics that I wanted and lo and behold, the blog was picking up.

He said when you can put an image on there, if you can link to a video, now you want to make sure you get the rights to do that, you want to make sure you’re picking images that you have the right to. For example, when I write about a court case, I like to take a picture from the court’s official site of the judge maybe who wrote the decision, that’s a public picture that I could take, things of that nature. You want to make sure that you’re using copyright material in the appropriate manner but there are ways to get your blog active. Ask your friends to follow you. Ask them to like it. Go look for it, search it. That will work in the algorithms.

On top of that which goes back to what I was going to discuss is how often do I have to write? Do I have to write everyday’? For this to work, you have to be interesting. The writing has to be interesting. You have to be interested in what you’re writing. If you make it a chore and say, “I’m going to write every day,” you’re going to last a week, you’re going to last two weeks. My own personal target is I try to write at least once a week. I prefer to do it twice a week if I can but I set my goal as once a week. Sometimes if you look at my blog, I’ll do three in a week because interesting things come up and I could write a quick article or quite frankly, I have more time.

The other thing that you could do is when you do have more time, you can space your articles out. Park them, write the draft, and then publish them once every week or once every two weeks. If you are away on vacation, you have more time and you want to write. Write four or five pieces and then park them.

SCOTT:                      Right. You definitely want to make sure that you put your content up on a regular basis. You want to do it once a week, once every two weeks, something on a regular basis.

OSCAR:                      However, if you’re going to write about something topical, then you’ve got to put aside that minute to write about that.

SCOTT:                      Write about that, Absolutely.

OSCAR:                      That’s not your choice. You have to get it up. If you want to talk about a headline type of a case, something strikes you or a case happened that is right in your wheelhouse, right in your niche, prioritize the time. Put aside something else that you could put aside. Don’t eat lunch that day. Write that blog, get it out there, and then put it on your Facebook page, put it all over, and you will be surprised, it will start spreading.

SCOTT:                      That’s the chance that you’re talking about. That’s exactly contrary to everything else we’re saying. If you see something, that hot thing, you put it up. You never know. You never know what will happen.

OSCAR:                      Exactly. It starts to become something that people who are already connected to you either through your personal or professional Facebook page, your Twitter, or whatever, will start looking for those articles and will even start sharing those articles, but please remember something, they have to be well written. They have to be your voice. No typos, no grammatical errors, you’re writing as a lawyer. You got to be on point and you got to have a viewpoint. You got to have a viewpoint and a position on why you’re writing about that piece.

SCOTT:                      It can’t be just canned material. You can’t write a three-paragraph blog about the dangers of driving while drunk and you can’t write about how you could handle traffic tickets really well. It’s what we’ve spoken about in every podcast. You need to be authentic and you need to give value. When I look at my blogs, the value I’m giving on my criminal blogs is hopefully I can entertain somebody for a few minutes or they could read something interesting about some topical news item, somewhat topical item.

With special education, my goal is to inform someone. The value that I’m giving is. “Hey, this is what this word means that you hear thrown around in school all the time. Now you understand it.” I’m being authentic with both of them and I’m giving different types of value, but I’m giving that reader some type of value.

OSCAR:                      And even occasionally, if you’re in the lull and you can’t think, nothing is happening in the area. You can’t particularly think of, all right, go to a static post like Scott was talking about – top three things you want to do in special education.

SCOTT:                      Right, in your voice.

OSCAR:                      Right and that’s okay as long as that’s not what you do every day. I get so many emails because I guess the popularity of the blog now from people say, “Hey, I’ll write for you.” There are companies that will do this for you. You pay them and they will put up canned material for you. That’s not going to get you anywhere except maybe your mom will say, “Oh, my son is blogging.” It’s nice.

SCOTT:                      It may help your SEO a little bit. If you’re doing something on a consistent basis even if it’s canned, it may help your SEO but in the long run, if you’re looking at the totality of your practice, it’s really not going to help you.

OSCAR:                      It’s not going to help you in trying to define your voice and find your brand.

SCOTT:                      Where you are.

OSCAR:                      Exactly. That’s what you’re really trying to sell and one of the main don’ts is don’t try to be somebody that you’re not because you’re not going to be able to write that article. It has got to be your authentic voice. It has got to be your authentic position and you want to be able to, within the blog, incorporate a practice mention. How does this area, how did you come across this area in your practice or why are you writing about this? Why does it interest you and how does it develop back to your practice? Unless you want to try to develop a career as simply a legal commentator, that could happen. I’ve had the good fortune that the blog has picked up traffic and I get called from time to time to be a legal commentator on things which brings it back to developing the practice but I wouldn’t count on that. I wouldn’t blog for that reason.

SCOTT:                      No, that’s definitely not your goal.

OSCAR:                      The goal is always got to be to develop your brand and build your practice.

SCOTT:                      Extend your influence.

OSCAR:                      Exactly and ultimately increase the business that’s coming to your practice. I also recommend just like we try to be very mindful on these podcasts of their length, how long are folks going to listen? How long can we going to talk about a topic? The same with the blog, you have to try to find the right length. Think of one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper is pretty much it. You want to have a focus on it. You want to look at a topic and be able to discuss it in a few paragraphs and not much more than that, right Scott?

SCOTT:                      Definitely. You don’t want to go too long. It’s funny. I actually read something the other day that said for your blog to get the most traction online that it should be at least 3,000 words. I found that to be a bit much.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, I’d be surprised at that. I think that’s overly long.

SCOTT:                      I don’t think the person I was reading was all that authentic, I would say.

OSCAR:                      In some ways, I understand where they are coming from which is how can you talk about the topic, state your opinion, deliver content without going there to 3,000 words. I mean, it can be done and it should be done. In talking about how long the blog should be, I’m reminded of something that my dad, he did a lot of public speaking, used to say, used to incorporate a lot in his speeches, he would say when discussing the length of a speech, he said it should be comparable to a woman’s skirt – long enough to cover all the important topics but short enough to keep it interesting.

He probably would get sued now if we would say that out publicly but I’ve heard him say that at least 20 times that I could think off the top of my head. I always got a good laugh despite its lack of political correctness but I think it’s a good formula to keep out the women skirt issue – long enough to cover the important topics., short enough to keep it interesting.

SCOTT:                      What’s interesting to me is the key part. If it’s too long, nobody is going to read it. People’s time is valuable. No one is looking at your blog and expecting a magazine expose that would go on for seven or eight pages. People are looking for a quick hit of something interesting.

OSCAR:                      By the way especially when we’re talking about a new blog that you are launching. For example, if someone like Allan Dershowitz, someone like Nadine Strossen, [inaudible 18:24] if they wrote a lengthy piece, I’m going to take the time to read it because it’s almost now it’s like a lure.

SCOTT:                      But if I write a lengthy piece, they are not going to take the time to read it.

OSCAR:                      And that’s just a fact. You know what, get over yourself. You’re not there yet. You have to build that credibility, you have to get to that point where people are willing to invest reading something you wrote for two, three, four pages. You may get there, you may never want going to get there but you’re not there yet and so it’s going to be quick and to the point. I would recommend, folks, look at a friend of mine, Scott Greenfield, one of the first folks to start blogging.

SCOTT:                      One of the funniest folks to blog.

OSCAR:                      His blog is Simple Justice. I’m an early subscriber and I love it. I read it all the time. He’s right to the point, very short posts. He may do three short posts a day, by the way, sometimes but they are pointed, they are on topic, they are on point, and it’s his voice. You know where he is going and it’s a great read.

SCOTT:                      It’s almost, if you really think about it, it’s almost like a standup comic to a certain degree. You get a good little rift going and that’s that.

OSCAR:                      Once you get into the habit of doing it…

SCOTT:                      It becomes much easier.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, you’ll be reading the paper. You’ll say, “Hey, this is a good topic,” and you bang it out and you’re ready to go. You don’t have to keep reintroducing yourself in the blog. Once you develop these series of articles, you’ll find that people will know your voice and they will know what to kind of expect in your blogs. It’s also a good thing to incorporate in your marketing. By that I mean we now have a list serve where I will send the link to the blog to clients. “Here’s my latest blog about X.” That has generated them commenting on the blogs or even commenting back to me. It creates a lot of communication. It’s a new form of a newsletter that is a lot easier to do than actually drafting a nice newsletter and sending it to them in the mail, which by the way, they will….

SCOTT:                      Throw away.

OSCAR:                      Right.

SCOTT:                      Newsletters are something we can talk about another time or actually, we can just talk about it now.

OSCAR:                      It relates.

SCOTT:                      Newsletters are very interesting opportunity for people. I’m not ready to do it yet, probably in about a month or so but if you send a newsletter to people, it doesn’t even matter if they read it. It keeps you in their mind and what you do. There’s an appellate attorney that sends me something once a month. I don’t know who he is but I know he’s an appellate attorney and if I needed an appellate attorney, he might be the guy that I go to.

OSCAR:                      Right. I get one from Harry Plotkin who is a jury specialist and great jury tips. He writes Jury Tip Every Month. I look forward to it. I read every time I get it. I don’t always agree with it but it always makes me think. It always keeps me on point and from my perspective, I no longer do the newsletter. I now do the blog, which is essentially the same thing.

SCOTT:                      It’s the same thing, right.

OSCAR:                      Yeah and it helps you continue the communication with your client and with your customers that shows them a number of things – you’re competent, you’re capable, and you’re current. That’s extremely valuable in developing the practice.

SCOTT:                      Yeah and to finish up, just remember, blogging is like everything else we’ve discussed on this podcast. It’s an essential part of your law practice that you can’t ignore. It’s something that you can use to give value and be authentic and have your clients see that value and authenticity, and it’s something that you have to just start and see where it goes if you just start writing. Don’t say, “I don’t like to write” or “I’ll never write once a week,” just start. Get a paper and pen and start writing something that interests you.

OSCAR:                      It all develops back to the same thing which like you said last week, we talked about niche practices. Niche practices will develop to a niche blog, a unique voice, a nice area where you could fit in and separate yourself from the pack that allows you to start developing business, attaining credibility, and hopefully getting growth in your practice. Once again, this is Oscar. Thanks for listening. You can reach me at Oscar@LawReboot.com.

SCOTT:                      This is Scott. You can reach me at Scott@LawReboot.com. Our phone number, as always, is 516-900-4842. We’d love to hear from you by phone or email with any ideas or topics for the show. Again everyone, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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