Is Blawging for business purposes black and white? That appears to be the view of many commentators on my post on The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room. There are blawgers and there are flawgers. That is there are the ‘serious’ law bloggers who do not dream of blogging for business purposes and then there are those who blog purely for those purposes and no other.
David Allen Green seemed to see the divide simply in terms of blog headlines suggesting that there were blawgers “who think there could be an elephant in the room” and others who “would never use such bloody awful piece of business jargon”. David obviously has not noticed that The Time Blawg is actually about the business of law and hence it will not be unusual for business terms to appear in this blog. Whether we resort to populist TV (other than Dr Who of course) or resort to pornography in our headlines to gain readership of our posts remains to be seen. However, surely a blog will stand on its content (as indeed Jack of Kent clearly does) and you cannot simply differentiate blog posts based on the headlines used without reading the content.
I do not consider it to be as black and white as some portray. As Tessa Shepperson’s recent UK Blawg RoundUp demonstrates there is a huge variety of different types of law blogs and law bloggers. I will offer my view on those types and how each may relate to business development.
The Student Blawger: This law blogger is starting out on the road to becoming a lawyer. They may be blogging about their experiences of University life and/or commenting on legal cases that interest them. They are not in it for business purposes as they are not yet in business. However, the fact that they are blogging builds their personal brand (I have given a talk on this topic to the Diploma in Legal Practice Students at the University of Glasgow: IT and Marketing in the Legal Profession). This could assist in employment prospects and generally from a business development point of view further down the line as the blog matures to one written by a solicitor or barrister/advocate rather than by a student.
The Academic Blawger: There are not so many of these around. However, those that are will not be selling legal services as such. The academic blawg will build the academics personal brand much in the same way as the student blawg does. It could lead to the academic being asked for quotes for newspaper or legal journal articles. It may lead to them being asked to provide a legal opinion on a matter by a solicitor. Business development possibilities exist but are perhaps not being exploited as they might be, as yet, by academia.
The Anonymous Blawger: No one (or very few people) know who they really are. Their Blawg certainly does not give it away. They like the mystery. They are not selling legal services. If their blawg is popular (this type often is) they may be able to sell some advertising space on their blawg if they really want to. They probably don’t want to. If they did that might be the height of their business development (if you can truly call it that). Their anonymous profile will be raised much in the same way as the student or academic blawger but the effect of this will be much less. That could all change of course if this type of blawger decided to reveal themselves.
The In-House Blawger: A lawyer who has escaped or perhaps never worked in private practice. They work in-house for a company or perhaps a public body. Therefore they have no real business development purpose in blogging. However, there will be the personal branding benefits, already discussed in connection with Student and Academic Blawgers, and also personal development benefits. They are likely to engage with other lawyers who share interests that they do and who could well be lawyers that they end up instructing when the need for out of house assistance arises. All of this could benefit the business or organisation that they are employed in, all be it perhaps inadvertently.
The Occasional Blawger: Someone who tried blogging a few times and might return with the occasional post (there again you may never see them again). They were perhaps originally there for the love of it but they now seldom find the time for it. As a result their blog will not be read that often and will not be on the radar of other blawgers. However, their older blog posts may well be found by people searching for the area of law they blog in and the potential for business development (whilst diminished) will still be there.
The Journalistic Blawger: This blawger keeps us up to date with what is going on in the legal world. They produce very regular updates (perhaps several a day). They may be doing it for the love of it (see next entry) or they may be operating a business on the back of it or with the blawg being part of that business (perhaps in addition to a printed news journal). They will derive a good readership and as a result will be likely to have the ability to sell advertising space. Some may even be behind a paywall deriving revenue every time they are read.
The Love for it Blawger: They enjoy it, there is no business connected to it and they never set out to derive business from it. Tessa Shepperson put The Time Blawg into this category in her recent UK Blawg RoundUp. I am a lawyer whose primary personal area of expertise is Property Law with a niche in crofting law and servitudes (easements). The Time Blawg is unlikely to result in any new clients knocking on my door for such services. I blog at The Time Blawg because I am a lawyer who runs his own law practice and has an interest in the business of law. Blogging on that topic makes me think about the business of law in a way I might never do otherwise. It helps me decide what business practices to introduce at Inksters for the development of that business. So unwittingly it perhaps becomes a business development vehicle of a kind. Blogging on this topic does of course raise your profile as someone who may be able to share their knowledge on the topic in question. This could result in being asked to provide quotes for articles in newspapers or in the legal press or to talk at seminars or conferences. There may be a fee paid for such speaking engagements. The general profile raising involved could well ultimately benefit Inksters as the firm name is associated with me and recognised as a law firm in Scotland that it may well be worth placing business with. Advertisers may wish to pay to appear on The Time Blawg (I have been approached and so far declined). Thus a blawg that was originally ‘for the love of it’ and nothing else could well become something more and one that includes business development without you really knowing or wanting it.
The Membership Blawger: This blawger is certainly doing it for business purposes. You must subscribe (i.e. pay) to access their content.
The Legal Marketer Blawger: Some blawgers don’t seem to like this type of blawger. Don’t know why myself. Their business is selling marketing advice to lawyers. Many lawyers are certainly in need of such advice. The fact they are selling to lawyers does not make them more of a flawger than a lawyer selling legal advice to a client. Many marketing blawgs are well written with original material that raises issues for, and generates, discussion. Surely what any good blog should do. Yes, they are doing it for business purposes. But they may well love doing it as much as any other ‘love for it’ blawger does.
The Blawger who recognises the business advantages: This blawger enjoys blogging. They may be the ‘for the love of it’ type. But they also recognise that blogging brings with it business benefits. They are perhaps more likely to be business owners of law firms who appreciate the need (more so than the ‘technicians’ who work in law firms) for business development. This blawger will write good law blog posts. These may well be more client centered than directed at other lawyers. This blawger is likely to be active in engaging on other blogs by commenting on posts. They will probably engage on other social media platforms such as Twitter. They don’t ‘sell’ in a direct and blatant way but their online activities will certainly enhance the business development of their law practice.
As Bob Burg, commenting on Chrissie Lightfoot’s book ‘The Naked Lawyer’ in ‘Lawyers (And All Service Pros) Can Give Themselves The Edge‘, remarks:-
Here’s what I’m saying: You are in sales, my friends. And, selling is giving. It’s giving “time, attention, counsel, education, empathy and appreciation.” More than anything, it’s giving a value-based experience second to none; one that totally overshadows the invoice, regardless of how large the invoice is.
The Blawger who recognises the business advantages of blawging knows this. The “time, attention, counsel, education, empathy and appreciation” will be apparent in their blog posts and other online activities. This will be in stark contrast to the Flawger (who we will come onto shortly).
The Blawger in business development denial: Probably the ‘technician’ referred to in the last category. They think that being a lawyer has nothing to do with generating business but all to do with doing it, doing it and doing it. The following paragraph from ‘The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It’ (by Michael E. Gerber, Robert Armstrong and Sanford Fisch) sums them up (substitute “blog” for “practice” and, if you are not in the US, “lawyer” for “attorney” and you will get the picture):-
Many attorneys justify their evasion of their responsibility to run their practice as a business on the ground that to focus on “business” is somehow immoral or unethical for an attorney. They tell themselves that there is something impure, inelegant, or even unprofessional about thinking of their practice in business terms
However, their blog probably does produce business development opportunities. They have a heightened profile. They are asked to contribute to other publications and talk at seminars/conferences or on the radio/TV. Their name is out there as an expert in their field. Work is derived as a result but they just cannot see or refuse to see the part (which may be a small one) that their blog plays in all of this. Nicole Black highlights these benefits in her recent post: I Heard About Blogging on NPR…:-
Blogging served me well in so many ways. It allowed me to network with other lawyers from across the country, many of whom I still keep in contact with even to this day. It also showcased my writing skills and showed that I was up to date on changes in my field despite my time off from the law. I always tried to blog about topics that interested me and, because I did so, I very quickly found a voice. And from there, readers, and business, followed.
Through my blog, I created a body of work that helped me obtain new clients, a regular column with The Daily Record, an opportunity to co-author Criminal Law in New York with Judge Karen Morris, and, eventually, in late 2006, I was offered an of counsel position with Fiandach & Fiandach, the law firm with which I continue to be associated.
Since then, my social media presence and my various blogs have been the key to every opportunity that comes my way. Because of my online presence, I am frequently contacted by potential clients in need of an attorney. If the matter is not a DWI-related offense, I refer it out to other knowledgeable attorneys in my area. Other benefits arising from my online presence include opportunities to author books and articles, speaking engagements and getting quoted in mainstream media.
The Flawger: The terms ‘flawg’ and ‘flawger’ were first coined by Antonin Pribetic in his post: ‘My Gift to the Social Media Law Marketers: The Flawg’. Antonin attributed these, in the main, to the Legal Marketer Blawger:-
Flawg”: noun. A legal blog without any substantive legal content that is created, monetized and promoted exclusively for profit. A Flawg will often contain posts about the latest legal tech gadgets, or the how to gain new clients through the awesome power of the internet, in the absence of anything remotely legal to discuss;
“Flawger”: noun: someone who flawgs. Usually, a non-lawyer/social media law marketer, (but also a disbarred/suspended/unemployed/underemployed/retired/or failed lawyer who quit) who writes blawg posts about how to write blawg posts, SEO, ROI, iPads, cloud computing, top ten lists, and enjoys attending law marketing conferences and twittering about using #hashtags.
Since then these terms seem to have gained traction as much towards lawyers or law firms whose blogs are “without any substantive legal content that is created, monetized and promoted exclusively for profit”. Charon QC in his ‘Postcard from The Staterooms: Law blogs – but no *Flawging*?’ put it like this:-
I’m not interested in the ‘Flawgs’ – blogs which merely highlight the brilliance of the law firm along the lines of *I was sorry to hear that Mount Etna killed thousands in Pompeii in AD 79 (substitute the latest disaster to taste) – meanwhile, if you need advice on conveyancing, personal injury or will drafting etc etc …contact us at…*
There no doubt will be certain legal marketers who would espouse the creation of such blogs by law firms. Those legal marketers are probably as much flawgers as the firms who follow their advice become. But there are legal marketers whose own blogs do not fit this criteria.
Nick Holmes in his blog post ‘What is a blawg?’ for UK Blawg RoundUp states:-
As blogs have become more common we find many law firms producing news blogs for client consumption and, particularly in areas of high competition, full-on “marketing” blogs especially designed to attract custom via SEO. That’s a perfectly valid use of blog software but it does not make what they produce blogs; they are marketing pap.
That definition from Nick is perhaps a good way of thinking of a law firm ‘flawg’. This type of blogger is only really in it for a perceived sale. They have heard that blogging is good for business development but they are not that interested in spending much time on, or perhaps even doing, it themselves. They will possibly buy content produced by others to place on the blog within their firm’s website. It will be heavily keyword laden with the only real purpose to be found as a result of SEO. There will be no real engagement by the blogger on other blogs or via social media. If they are on Twitter they will broadcast their blog posts and little else. They may even outsource their tweeting to the same marketer who is writing their blog posts for them. These blogs are unlikely to find themselves mentioned in Blawg Review or UK Blawg RoundUp. They are not going to be highly thought of or referenced by other blawgers. On the whole they will be ignored. They are more web content than blogs in the true sense. Many are perhaps flawging a dead horse in any event. The other blawgers I have described should lose no sleep over them.
As Charon QC said in a comment on ‘The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room’:-
What we don’t really want to see is the marketing schtik which some US blogs engage in. I can’t see these blogs succeeding. Most people can see through the schtik. It could even be counter productive.
My list of different types of law blawgers may not be an exhaustive one. It is what I have come up with. Some blawgers will fall into more than one of these categories. Do let me know if you think there are other categories or if, indeed, you think there are only two: blawgers and flawgers. I think that ultimately most, if not all, blawgs result in selling of a sort (even if that is just the blawger themselves rather than a legal service). Some blawgers protest too much on this issue me thinks. If you don’t want to flog don’t blog. What do you think?