If you are trying to ramp up a new solo law practice, you know it’s important to have a web presence. To make your website impressive and to attract traffic to your site, you need good content on topics that your potential clients care about. You can accomplish both of those goals by incorporating a blog into your website.
When I encourage new lawyers (or experienced lawyers looking to change their practice area) to blog, they often get that “deer in the headlights” expression. “I’m just starting out. I’m not an expert yet!” they lament. I’ve written before about expanding into a new practice area and about how to get the experience you need. I’ll share with you now what I tell my clients about how to start blogging even before you feel confident as an expert.
1. You probably understand your client’s questions better than an expert. Several years ago I attended a meeting of small business owners at which the featured speaker was an intellectual property lawyer. The audience listened attentively and asked a lot of questions. It was a great opportunity for that lawyer to build some potential client relationships. However, he gave complex responses in legalese that didn’t answer the questions asked, leaving his audience confused and frustrated. After observing several rounds of broken communication, I finally raised my hand and helped the lawyer understand what a questioner really wanted to know. Then later I raised my hand again to translate his answer into plain English for the befuddled questioner. The lawyer just couldn’t seem to dial back to novice level in order to communicate effectively. You, however, as a newcomer to the practice area, can still remember the questions and misperceptions you had, and write about them.
2. Start with FAQs. Every website needs a Frequently Asked Questions page. Clients want it and it can help your SEO (search engine optimization) because it is likely to contain the very words they search on. FAQs are easy to write. They don’t require a lot of introductions, transitions, conclusions or even imagination. Just repeat the questions that people ask a lot. If you don’t have clients yet, think about the questions you might have had at first, or start asking your non-lawyer friends (you still have some of those, right?) what they don’t understand or would like to know about your subject. You can give short responses and include 5 to 10 questions in an article. Or you can give more in-depth answers and make each one a separate blog post.
3. You don’t have to write something groundbreaking and brilliant. When you hang out with people who share your interests, education and experience, you might start to believe that everyone already knows what you know. When I lived in France years ago, I encountered fresh leeks in the grocery store for the first time. Feeling adventurous, I bought some and opened my “Recipes from Provence” cookbook for instruction on how to cook them. The recipe for “Leeks in Vinaigrette” literally said only, “Everyone knows how to make this.” Well, I didn’t even know what that tasted like, much less how to make it. Remember that your potential clients didn’t go to law school, or if they did, they are looking for answers to questions outside their expertise. They just want answers and solutions to problems, not a thesis.
4. Curate the opinions of other experts. If you’re new to the subject matter, instead of expounding on a subject, you can write a post comparing and contrasting the opinions expressed by multiple experts and influencers in their writings. You can use the post as an excuse to contact those experts to interview them for a quote to include. That will get you on the radar of the high flyers and perhaps let readers know that you soar among them. If you’re still too shy to call for a quote, you can at least tweet or email the authors a link to your post, letting them know you referenced their work. Writers like to know that they have readers who appreciate their efforts and spread the word about them. Your post will serve the added purpose of helping you build your network of potential referral sources.
5. Learn from other experts. Follow the thought leaders in your practice area on social media and read their blog posts. Join LinkedIn discussion groups and other online forums on industry issues. Read industry trade publications. Those are probably the easiest ways to stay abreast of the current issues and distill the pertinent information into digestible portions. Many law firms and bar associations also publish white papers and CLE presentations online. You can learn enough to write a blog post without ever leaving your desk.
6. Summarize and translate into plain English the impact of an important case. If a second year law student can write a case note for the law review about a significant new case, then surely you can describe its import to a layperson. Keep it practical and don’t include a bunch of legal citations. Just tell your audience how the case impacts their lives and what they should do to protect against it or take advantage of it.
7. Research a narrow issue and write about it. Every lawyer knows how to do legal research. Or at least they did when they graduated from law school. As a second year lawyer in a big firm, I was assigned to research an emerging issue in securities law that impacted a client. It was a gray area, and I fretted and felt inadequate over not being able to come up with a yes or no answer. My concerns were assuaged considerably, however, when a partner later asked if he could use my legal memorandum for a CLE presentation. I would not have dared to suggest that I was qualified to be a CLE speaker, and yet I was the author of a CLE paper.
8. You don’t always have to give an answer or express an opinion. Although you can spark a lot of interest and attention by taking a controversial stance, that can backfire by offending potential clients. Many of the most interesting issues of the day are complicated and nuanced. You can interest your readers by simply highlighting the issues and the arguments for and against various positions. Many will appreciate your objective approach. You can invite your readers to share their perspectives in the comments below. A blog that engages interaction from readers attracts more attention and gets shared more.
9. Include stories and case studies. A story can help simplify a complex issue or drive home the urgency and importance of your advice for clients. Stories make your writing more interesting and memorable. They can also make you seem more human and approachable. You can describe events from the news or from your practice. Of course, you must take great care not to violate client confidences by including too much detail. Consider submitting any case studies to your clients for approval before publication. If clients are really happy with your service, they might even authorize you to use their names with regard to some case studies. That augments the credibility.
10. Draw from the headlines or the funny pages. Commenting on current events or pop culture can spark entertaining blog posts that get circulated widely. By way of example, the Ford & Harrison law firm published a long-running blog “That’s What She Said,” which analyzed the labor and employment law gaffs on the comedy television series “The Office.” A number of legal bloggers have asked the question, “What would Atticus Finch do?” Your blog post could be based on a scene in a movie or novel, a New Yorker cartoon, a viral YouTube video or anything else that causes you to ponder the legal implications in real life.
Hopefully by now you realize that you have more to offer than you originally thought. You may be just the lawyer to bring a fresh perspective to your subject or to discuss it in a voice that your clients resonate to. Please share your experiences in the comments.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.