Ask the Experts
Question: Why should we blog? We have a website. Clients hire lawyers because of a relationship, not because they see you on the Internet. Besides, a blog can be pretty self-aggrandizing. Other lawyers in the firm think the partner who blogs is just building a following so he can go off on his own.
Tina Emerson: Clients do hire attorneys because of relationships, but you have to consider how those relationships are built. Does the client know you personally? Does the client know another lawyer who knows you? Is the client a friend of a friend? Whatever the reason you are hired, someone or something has communicated to the client that you are the right choice. Blogging is an easy way to communicate to potential clients and to those who refer you that you are a thought leader in your area of practice.
A website bio, while important, merely communicates who you are, gives a brief description of what you do and tells the user how to reach you. A blog adds depth in a way a website cannot. You can update your readers on industry news, comment on public cases, all while offering a small window to your personality.
Blogs also serve as a way to pull readers into your website to explore other areas of practice the firm offers. This is not self-aggrandizement, this is marketing. Promoting individual attorneys who have a unique set of skills is a boon for the firm and for the lawyers who blog. Remember that blog entries can be posted on your social networks as well.
As for the lawyer jumping ship? Attorneys leave firms and start their own practices every day. Don’t let the fear of losing a star keep you from letting it shine at your firm.
Tina Emerson is marketing director at Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC, a full-service firm headquartered in Columbia, S.C. With 15 years of B2B communications experience, she leads the marketing and business development efforts for the firm’s offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. She serves on the publications committee of Strategies – The Journal of Legal Marketing. Follow her on Twitter @tfemerson.
Jim Jarrell: I agree that clients base their hiring decisions on their relationships. But how are those relationships built and cultivated? By doing work, you say … and you’d be right. But before we slam the book shut on this discussion, consider what you’ve just said: Clients hire you because of your relationships. They may find you via the website, but what does that website say about you that it doesn’t also say about the 100 other lawyers in your practice group, or the thousands of other lawyers at other firms?
In a market where there are (at times) hundreds of law firms touting the same services, performed by lawyers who all have the same degrees from accredited law schools, clients want to see that you truly understand their industry, their legal problems and their business —and they want to see it in ways that are more compelling than the standard boilerplate language on your website. You know, the language that says “at [insert name of firm here], we understand your industry, your legal problems and your business.” Blogging gives you the opportunity to broadcast that insight and engage your audience with meaningful commentary on the issues that affect them. It gives you a platform to separate yourself from all the other lawyers on every law firm website. And when done properly, a blog can resoundingly declare your expertise without you ever having to claim you are an “expert.” This is the very root of developing a brand identity. That recognition of you as someone who is out in the marketplace blogging about the issues that affect them will have way more impact on your audience than a flat, uninspired bio on your law firm website. It’s not self-aggrandizing at all, it’s differentiating.
Jim Jarrell is a marketing & business development representative for Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA, in Cleveland, where he is responsible for planning and implementing strategic marketing and business development plans for several of the firm’s Practice Groups and regional offices, as well as firm-wide strategy for responding to client requests for proposals and information.
Stacy A. Smith: Why blog? Because it’s smart business. Lawyer blogs have developed into an essential component of business development for law firms. Blogs have become a tool for lawyers to create and cultivate relationships with clients. Blogging is a simple way to keep your clients and potential clients abreast of current issues and developments in the law, promote yourself, your services and your law firm, and establish your professional reputation as an expert in a niche area.
Kevin O’Keefe, the founder of LexBlog, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg Law. He was asked whether blogging increases law firm revenue — specifically, whether blogging is responsible for the $1 million increase in revenue for the top 200 grossing law firms that blogged vs. the top 200 law firms that didn’t blog. While O’Keefe said that he believes blogging is a factor in the revenue jump, he also observed that those law firms have forward-thinking, proactive lawyers who are being empowered by their firms to practice business development creatively, including online through blogging. Those factors combined are the key to the revenue increase.
Blogging is also a quick, less expensive means to engage and develop relationships than traditional marketing methods. Your blog can reach an audience far beyond the confines of your geographic area in minutes, providing your niche expertise to thousands worldwide every day.
Is it possible that a lawyer will use a blog to build business and go solo? Yes, anything is possible. The same lawyer could build a book of business using traditional methods and still leave. The benefits of blogging outweigh the what-ifs.
Stacy A. Smith is the firm administrator and director of marketing and client relations at Carter Conboy, a full service law firm with offices in Albany and Saratoga Springs, NY.
What’s Your Question?
No, not every law firm has a professional marketer or business development coach on staff to answer questions. So send us your questions via email or use the comment section below, and we’ll pass them on to the experts at the Legal Marketing Association. Watch for the best ones here in Ask the Expert.legalmarketing.org The Legal Marketing Association provides professional support and education as well as opportunities for intellectual and practical information exchange.
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