Are Lawyers’ Blogs for Lawyers or Clients?

“That was great.  I didn’t know all that was happening.” Said the coordinator of a recent panel discussion I participated in.

“Really?”  I thought to myself.  “How could you not have known US patent law is changing?”

So I asked, “Isn’t that why you wanted me to speak to your organization today?”

Well, it turns out the answer was “No.”  Because they had no idea patent law was changing, they had expected me to give a generic IP 101 talk.

This recent conversation, and many more like it over the past few months, has me rethinking the purpose and effectiveness of the legal blog.

I know.  It’s a crazy thing for me to write on a legal blog, so let me explain.

Who are you writing for?  

If you could handpick your audience, what type of people would they be?

Now ask yourself, does my ideal audience differ from the one that is actually reading my content?

These are important questions that every blogger needs to ask, but I think it’s particularly true for attorney bloggers.

Why are you writing content?

I know this might be difficult to hear and it’s a lesson that I am reluctantly learning, but here goes.

Regardless of who you think your audience is, you may actually be writing for other lawyers.

How do I know?

My ideal audience is small business owners.  At times I will write content directed to other attorneys, but the blog isn’t for attorneys.

However, if I look at my list of followers and subscribers, it’s split into two main categories: lawyers and people I know, and the number of lawyers far exceeds the number of friends.

Of course, small business owners could be reading my blog, but I have no evidence of that.

In fact, based on the evidence I have, I suspect my ideal audience is not reading my blog (or any other IP attorney’s blog.)

Why is this a problem?

The information that I’m trying to convey, like the information a lot of you are trying to communicate, may not be reaching the audience who needs to hear it most.

If they aren’t reading what we have to say, our ideal audiences aren’t learning about the upcoming changes in the law, or the new ruling that will have an impact on their lives, or how to make their lives and businesses better through the help of an attorney.  They’re not learning about the 3 preventative measures they should be taking now or the 5 things everyone needs to know about XYZ.

In my case, the overhaul of the US Patent system requires a substantial change in the behavior of the inventor.  If they don’t know they need to change the way they do things, they could lose their patent rights.

And the more conversations I have, the more bewildered I get.

How could they not know? 

The information is out there.

The intellectual property legal community has been writing about these changes and the impact they will have on small business since before the law was passed 18 months ago.  Every day over the past year, I could read dozens of articles on the topic.

Most of it is written for the benefit of the lay person.  In other words, attorneys are trying to get this information into the hands of the people who need it most.

So why is there such a lack of awareness?

It’s not like they hadn’t heard about some of the recent events in intellectual property law.  They all knew about the so-called “Smart Phone Wars”.  They all could tell me how bad software patents are and they hated patent trolls for stifling innovation.

They could regurgitate what they read in the main stream media.

And here’s what I learned.  

1.  The average person is getting their legal news from the main stream media.

2.  If it’s not interesting, they don’t read it.

With the sheer amount of data and information available, few people go in depth on any topic.  They skim the headlines, maybe read a few articles, and that’s it.

They’re not seeking out lawyer blogs to get the details or the other side of the story.

While every major media outlet covered the enactment of the AIA, the average person passed over the article entitled “Congress Passes America Invents Act” assuming that article was information for their lawyers only.

On the other hand, articles about Steve Jobs going “thermonuclear” on Google for patent infringement were widely read and discussed.

Lawyer blogs discussing legal matters aren’t sexy enough for the vast majority of people.  

Even though IP lawyers are writing prolifically about the impact that the AIA will have on business, their little blogs are never going to get the readership of the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, or Tech Crunch, who for better or worse are setting the tone for the intellectual property discussion currently happening in America.

So, how do we make sure that the information is getting to those who need to hear it?  Do we need to start writing for these mass media publications too?

I’m not sure what the right answer to this question is.  All I know is our message is not being heard through our blogs and articles, at least in the IP community, and that makes me nervous.

We’ve got some work to do.  I’m just not sure what we can do.

What are your experiences and thoughts?  Are you preaching to the choir?  Is this unique to IP or does this apply to other legal fields as well?

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®.

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5 comments on “Are Lawyers’ Blogs for Lawyers or Clients?

  • Hi Kelli,

    I am glad you wrote this article. I have long said that lawyer’s blogs and overall websites should be trying to connect with clients not other lawyers. Unless, of course, the actually purpose is to connect with other lawyers. If the purpose is to educate your potential client base and obtain clients, then writing in legalese with boring titles that only other lawyers would enjoy is not going to accomplish that. I agree with you that people want to be entertained. There is so much info out there competing for our attention, the articles have to be relevant, educational, entertaining and at a minimum, easy to read – which is tough for a lot of us lawyers who are trained to draft briefs not write fetching articles with catchy headlines.

    I serve small businesses and write a blog geared towards them and in plain English. I try to make it entertaining while still providing the legal information they should know about. My blog does have mostly small business owners and entrepreneurs in the audience, evidenced by the comments written and the people signed up for my mailing list.

    One of my recent articles is called, ‘How to Not Get Screwed When Quitting Your Job to Start a Business (Part 1)’ and a recent video post was entitled ‘What Can I Do When Someone Copies My Website?’ — I could have easily made the titles something like “Restrictive Covenants in Employment Agreements” or “How to Write a DMCA Takedown Notice” but my audience would not read that. The goal here is to speak to small business owners the same way I talk to them in real life and to use headlines that are similar to what they might be searching for in Google. I find that this method works for me.

    But I must admit, it did take some time to get more in tune with my voice and develop a writing style that makes the articles both enjoyable to write and to read. And it did take some time before my mailing list was filled with small business owners and entrepreneurs rather than friends and lawyers.

  • Kelli, great post. I guess we really need to ask who is our real audience. I know my writing has been geared to the general public, but I suspect there are a lot of attorneys who are looking at my blog.
    Trying to make posts less technical is always the issue for tax attorneys or IP lawyers.

  • Great points! At our firm the target audience for our blog are the clients and their families. We try to educate our audiences on ways they can reduce accidents on the road, or ways to spot nursing home abuse at a home their loved one is staying. I absolutely agree that legal matters are not “sexy” enough for the average reader. That’s precisely why we target a different audience. Thanks for sharing this.

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