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The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room

The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room
Have any blawgers seen an elephant in Chancery Lane?

I had the pleasure of attending the second #lawblogs event in London on 19th May.

The event has, not surprisingly, already been covered in blog posts by other attendees. The ones I have picked up on (there may be others) are:-

Michael Scutt: The Future of Legal Blogging

Dylan White: A tree in the forest and other important points from #lawblogs

Siobhain Butterworth: The death of blogging? Not for #lawblogs

Adam Wagner: Must lawyers blog and tweet?

James Wilson: The future of legal blogging

James Dean: Are law blogs for lawyers only? [NB The Times Paywall]

But was it all a bit ‘naval gazing-y’?

#LawBlogs Naval Gazing

A little bit, perhaps, but some interesting thoughts came from the room. I picked up on some of these as I tweeted live from the event:-

  • Exciting future #lawblogs
  • Explosion in legal blogging #lawblogs
  • Mainstream blogging – part of the conversation. Invites conversation/debate #lawblogs
  • Mainstream legal coverage gone downhill and online blawging taking its place #lawblogs
  • Blogging useful for why case ended up in court. Opens up the judicial process and not trial by media. #LawBlogs
  • Free access to legal advice. Something you used to have to pay for. Valuable resource. #LawBlogs
  • Can publish whenever you want. Not restricted by print cycle. #LawBlogs
  • Law of the land should be available to the public #LawBlogs
  • Can link to cases and statutes. # LawBlogs
  • If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make a sound? Are we vibrations or sounds? #LawBlogs
  • Is anyone reading our #LawBlogs ?
  • Some people may be blogging in a vacuum but others are not. #LawBlogs
  • Retweets of blog posts show the interest in them #LawBlogs
  • About Quality writing and not worrying much about what others think. #LawBlogs
  • SEO a lot of nonsense #LawBlogs
  • Is the blawgosphere testosterone fueled? #LawBlogs
  • Sometimes reflection would be better than immediate comment? #LawBlogs
  • Journalism not difficult. Need to understand what the reader knows and does not know. #LawBlogs
  • Lawyers possibly in better position to understand journalism than journalists are to understand the law. #LawBlogs
  • Twitter good for breaking stories. #LawBlogs

I tweeted after the event that there was no real chat at #LawBlogs on blogging for Business Development. The response to this from David Allen Green was “thank God for that”.

I had suggested it as a topic before the event to #LawBlogs’ very own Oprah, Catrin Griffiths:-

A question for #LawBlogs

To be fair to Catrin I posted my question on Twitter not long before the start of the event and she may simply not have seen it. Furthermore, I could have put my hand up and asked the question myself. However, the discussion did come to a very abrupt end when Joshua Rozenberg had to go off to appear on Channel 4. I felt there was plenty of scope for the discussion to continue even without Joshua being with us. It did, of course, do so but in smaller groups over drinks after the main event. Which was most enjoyable.

I do wonder though whether blogging for law firm business development is the elephant in the #LawBlogs room. Lawyers are running businesses or are working in businesses. Do law blogs not assist those businesses? Perhaps they are trees falling in the forest that no one hears. However, as brought out in my last post, ‘Do clients search for a lawyer?‘, someone may hear them when they need to and search for them. Is SEO really therefore ‘nonsense’ as suggested at #LawBlogs?

Anyway, there will be another #LawBlogs and I trust that ‘the Grand Dame of legal journalism and a superb and engaging chair of #lawblogs‘ (per Neil Rose) will raise the topic then.

It has been suggested by Siobhain Butterworth that perhaps for next #LawBlogs there should be no panel just 1 or 2 moderators and lots of contributions. Sounds like a plan. Catrin staying in the moderator role with, if need be, an additional moderator (Siobhain perhaps) and an open floor. Alternatively, perhaps the moderator(s) plus  a panel of blawgers who will discuss the elephant? A big screen showing the #lawblogs Twitter stream would be good so that questions could be taken from those not able to travel to London for the event.

In the meantime what do you think? Is blogging for law firm business development the elephant in the #LawBlogs room?

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  1. Another great prompt for discussion Brian.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what other make of this, but my view is that blogging for business development isn’t mentioned in these discussions because, at the moment, it is not a significant motivator for most legal bloggers in the UK.

    It can’t be doing any harm to the practices of, for instance, David Allen Green or Adam Wagner, for them to be known as expert bloggers in their area, but I would be surprised if business development was a significant prompt for them to start and continue with their blogs. Most UK legal bloggers seem to be motivated at the moment by an interest in their subject area and are using blogging as a platform to get their ideas and thoughts out into the public arena – sometimes correcting public misconceptions about their area of law. It is also notable that many prominent blawggers, such as Tim Bratton, LegalBizzle and Charon QC, do not work in private practice and do not have a traditional legal practice to promote.

    One indication for me that business development is not a major reason for blogging in the UK is the dearth of good “official” law firm or chambers blogs. Most blogs of interest seem to be run as side projects by individuals. If it was all about business development then surely it should be done in-house on firm or chambers’ websites. I wasn’t able to get there, but I imagine that most of the attendees at #lawblogs were individual lawyers, rather than law firm marketers.

    I’m sure there will come a time when UK blawgging will become more about business development. I get the feeling that a lot of US blawgging is done in this way at the moment – but when that comes I will be looking back with nostalgia at the “good old days” when people blogged just for the sake of it, or out of interest in their subject area.

    1. Thanks Laurie

      I agree that it may not be a significant motivator for most legal bloggers but it could be a significant spin off for them and perhaps one that encourages them to continue blogging.

      You mention the dearth of good “official” law firm or chambers blogs. I would agree. I often wonder why law firms that employ good blawgers (who blawg in their own right) don’t encourage those blawgers to blawg for the firm. Perhaps they are oblivious to this activity and the potential benefits of it if more aligned to the firm.

      You mention Adam Wagner. Interestingly he blogs as a team with other members of 1 Crown Office Row. Their UK Human Rights Blog is clearly branded as a 1 Crown Office Row blog. Perhaps an exception to the dearth of good “official” chambers blogs. I think we will see more of this. Barristers (Advocates here in Scotland) are very well placed to produce blogs. This can only aid business development for those Barristers/Advocates whose readership is highly likely to be potential instructing solicitors.

      Many of the “official” law firm blogs that are springing up lack the passion of the ‘real’ law blogs. Often they are produced by Marketers and the content is designed purely for SEO purposes. As Charon QC mentions (below) this usually stands out a mile and as a result they are not likely to gain the respect of the blogs by, as you point out, those that blog “just for the sake of it, or out of interest in their subject area”.

      I don’t think we will have to look back with nostalgia. The good old blogs will survive and good new ones will arrive. They will stand out from those shouting out. They will also gain a more significant business development advantage as a result, even if their blawgers don’t want to admit it.

    2. Surely there won’t be a large apetitite amongst small or large firms.
      2012 may be a difficult year with LSC cuts hitting hard to civil and criminal firms and so people may be focused on profitability than pandering to the media.

  2. Laurie A – I welcome lawyers who do work in practice blogging – and enjoying a higher profile as a result – provided they provide a genuine commentary on law and engage. Most of the practising law bloggers do.

    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.

    I hope that more practising lawyers blog with enthusiasm on their specialist subject areas. David Allen Green, Adam Wagner, the UKSC team blog – to name but a few well known bloggers – provide a valuable service to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Long may it continue. If they happen to enjoy a greater reputation and obtain instructions as a result…why not?

    I don’t practise law. I am a law teacher – and, in a past life, an entrepreneur with an interest in legal education. Some projects worked. Others didn’t. That is life. First in doesn’t always win. Ironically, after helping BPP Holdings PLC (Charlie Prior, particularly) set up BPP Law School, I set up the world’s first internet law courses. They worked well and it was a fun project. We were also one of the first to use online downloadable materials in law. We were too early and lost. Not enough critical mass.

    Now… I amuse myself by blogging. Sometimes I write sensibly. Most of my podcasts are serious – but then I have to escape.. and take a left field view…

    Ironically… I get nearly seven times the traffic for the left field view nonsense… particularly my Muttley Dastardly LLP creation and other parodic commentaries !

    My logs for those posts reveal readers from the world of law at a remarkably ‘high’ level.

    Perhaps they are just checking to see if…… ?


    I don’t give advice to law bloggers. I don’t think there should be rules. I will always encourage people to have a go at blogging..and, above all, to enjoy it. Not much point, otherwise…and readers will suss you out very quickly if you don’t and are just doing it to promote a biz?

    1. Thanks Charon

      No rules is good. Those that enjoy it are those that are most likely to reap the benefits of it.

      It is noticeable that those just doing it to promote a business rarely get the exposure that ‘real’ bloggers do , Muttley Dastardly LLP excepted of course 😉 That exposure will undoubtedly have potential business benefits even if this was not the initial intention of the blogger.

  3. That’s not an elephant, it’s a tumble weed.

    Law blogs are and always will be a showcase for the individual and their personalities, but the offshoot of this can only be beneficial to a legal firms business development, even if the two are unconnected at the beginning.

    As I have written before, I like to throw pebbles into ponds and see where the ripples go.

    I see the ripples in this particular pond of law blogs overlapping with the legal firms business development.

    The can quite comfortably complement each other whilst being seperate entities.

    It is true that we abhor the blatant marketing of a law firm in law blogs, but we sometimes find this is done in a passing comment on a blog, or soft marketing, sometimes without realising we are doing it.

    There are many facets to law blogging and there is a wide range of legal subjects/areas to blog about, but marketing should be left to the business of running a law firm and not a concern for law bloggers, some of which do not practise in a firm.

    So I don’t think that this is an elephant in the room, it’s a subject that’s sitting in the adjacent room and gently tapping on the wall in order to let someone know that it’s there. Some people have heard it and are curious to see what it looks like.

    1. …but some people have their ears covered and cannot hear the tapping 😉

      Thanks Miriam

      Whether it is an elephant in the room or a tumble weed next door there will remain blawgers who will not see or hear it.

      I increasingly find that throwing pebbles results in ripples that you would not have imagined. I am sure that this is true for many blawgers but there remains a reluctance in admitting the fact that their blogs aid business development. Perhaps this is the old fashioned view that ‘lawyers don’t sell’. They want to see themselves as lawyers and not sales persons.

      I recently read on a law marketers website: “In spite of what some folks will tell you, a sale is made every time you interact with a potential client or referral source. Either you sell them on why you should be their lawyer or they sell themselves on why you shouldn’t.” (Dave Lorenzo’s Rainmaker Lawyer)

      Blogs facilitate interaction with a potential client or referral source and could well result in a sale. Law bloggers who do practice in a law firm should not lose sight of this as each blog post they write could be marketing the services that they provide at their law firm.

  4. Absolutely what Miriam Said! I don’t see it as an elephant in the room (always an odd and illogical expression anyway, because if there really was an elephant in the room – the first thing people would say is…er…blimey, why is there an elephant in the room??!!)

    But I know what you mean Brian. I wasn’t at law blogs (I hope to be next time) but I suspect people maybe equate business development with spam or other unsubtle and irritating marketing. I blog mostly for the fun of it, but as a self employed consultant I would be disingenuous if I didn’t own up to hoping there would be a bit of profile rasing at least – after all, we’ve all got to eat.

    But I don’t see it as marketing, or business development – just letting people know I’m still around and hopefuly saying something people want to hear. If they dont, they can always ride the elephant!

    1. Thanks Jon

      But is letting people know you are still around and hopefully saying something that they want to hear not marketing and business development? When we speak at a conference or write an article for a legal publication we are making people aware we are around and providing them with, hopefully, useful information. That surely is marketing and business development. Why should blogging be any different?

  5. An excellent topic for discussion, Brian. Browsing the #lawblogs hashtag from afar, I was, too, rather surprised not to see more discussion of the business developments from blawging.

    “Is SEO really therefore ‘nonsense’ as suggested at #LawBlogs?”

    I was, in particular, surprised to read the suggestion that SEO is nonsense. While content is always going to be king and the primary focus should remain on good content, SEO should not be ignored by the professional services firm looking to drive better, relevant traffic to their site and, therefore, more enquires leading to clients. Having spent several days optimising a London law firm’s website, I would hate to have my SEO work called “nonsense”.

    As for the present state of legal blogging, I can see a fair amount of law firms having their own blogs or, at the very least, expert legal content capable of being turned into blogs. Perhaps it’s because many law firm blogs are called “blogs” and not “blawgs” that they don’t readily spring to the attention of the blawgosphere? I would like to hear further thoughts on this taxonomy point.

    Also very much looking forward to tomorrow night’s tweetup in London. See you there.

    Best wishes

    1. Thanks Gavin

      On the question of SEO I have already posted the following link in the comments section on my ‘Do clients search for a lawyer?‘ post. However, it is relevant here also. It is a great post from Great Jakes: Is SEO snake oil? Here’s the truth about search engine optimization for law firm websites.

      The post finishes with the following advice:-

      “Here’s what it boils down to: SEO is no marketing shortcut. For SEO to be successful, you’ve got to think of SEO as simply one more means of getting your thought leadership work (articles, blog posts, case studies, videos, etc.) in front of prospective clients. In other words, it’s just another way to help build your reputation as an expert.

      So, if you want to win clients through SEO, write and create more (and better) content. And then perform some basic optimization of articles and blog posts. It’s that simple.”

      So whilst not nonsense, as suggested at #LawBlogs, SEO is perhaps less important than some might suggest. You do, of course, acknowledge that “content is always going to be king and the primary focus should remain on good content”. I think that if you do concentrate on the content the SEO will, to a large extent, take care of itself. If, however, you concentrate too much on the SEO the content will probably suffer as a result.

      I don’t think whether a law blog is called a blog or a blawg makes any difference in springing it to attention. It is, again, the content that will do the trick. A “blawg” is a term that lawyers are more likely to comprehend whereas a potential client may be happier with a “blog”. If I were creating a blog targeted at lawyers (as indeed this blog is) I would perhaps call it a “blawg” (as indeed I did with this blog). However, if my target audience was potential clients I think I would stick with “blog”.

      It was good to see you at the Tweetup in London and also the other night in Glasgow. Looking forward to our social media panel discussion at the SYLA Conference next Friday.

  6. I think while trying to ignore the elephant, the bowl of apples and oranges was also overlooked.

    The point is, there are many types of law blogs, but I think you can put them into 2 broad categories: firstly, the bloggers who blog for fun, to inform, to join in the debate, to basically have an outlet – such as David Allen Green, Lucy Reed, Legal Bizzle, Legal Brat et al.

    Then there are those who blog for marketing purposes.

    DAG gave his view of that at the event, and the granddaddy of legal bloggers, CharonQC, gives his view above.

    Blogs for law firms are, being brutally honest, largely modeled for marketing purposes. I am not saying there is anything wrong in that, and if it has an SEO impact, and drives traffic to your site (where hopefully, occasionally, they may convert into a paying client), well, super.

    But those blogs are very different from the likes of Charon, David, Lucy et al, and events like the Legal Blogging one leans towards attracting the non-marketing style bloggers, who do not per se, have ‘needs’ from these events, other than to spend a pleasant evening in the company of others who share an interest.

    The bloggers who blog for marketing purposes do have needs. They must know about SEO, they (presumably) must have a desire to steer clear of controversy, and they are largely talking to a different, usually lay, audience.

    Perhaps in the future there will be an event for those with the marketing style blogs. But for now, yes, SEO is ‘nonsense’ to those who are legal bloggers in the strict sense of the term as opposed to people who write about law for marketing purposes.

    1. Milly

      No! You are missing the people like Brian who like to blog (and tweet etc) but also see it as contributing significantly to their business development. Business blogging is not a dirty word. It does not mean faceless corporate blogging or marketing blogging; it means individuals blogging in support of their businesses. Brian does that, I do that, most small businesspeeps (that’s most lawyers and even barristers and journalists) do that. It’s rarely a primary motivator but you can’t ignore the fact that blogging is good for business – hence Brian’s post!

      On this topic I’d recommend reading (the now somewhat dated) Naked Conversations http://www.amazon.co.uk/Naked-Conversations-Changing-Businesses-Customers/dp/047174719X


      PS. I volunteer Brian for the next #LawBlogs panel

    2. Thanks Milly

      My comments in response would echo those of Nick Holmes.

      Legal Bizzle and Legal Brat (as in-house lawyers) do, of course, have less concern about the potential business development purposes of their blogs. However, were they to be looking for a new position I am sure their blog (on their CV) would do them no harm from a personal business development point of view.

      I would be surprised if David Allen Green and Lucy Reed have not seen some business benefits from blogging. Their profiles will have been raised as a result and it will have led to other profile raising opportunities all of which could well result in business being referred their way that may not have been so referred were it not for the blogging. Indeed I reckon their blogging will be more effective in bringing in business than those that you say blog for marketing purposes (see Charon QC’s comments above).

      Lucy Reed promotes the fact, on her blog, that she can provide “advice tailored to your individual circumstances”: Need advice? Would she do so if she did not see the business development potential of her blog? Lucy also sells her book via her blog and sells advertising space on it. Looks like business development to me and absolutely nothing wrong with that. Lucy is, after all, a self employed business women.

  7. I started blogging initially in February 2006 as the Landlord Law Blog, because I liked the idea of writing about things that interested me and commenting on my subject area (residential landlord and tenant law). I did not take it very seriously, did not blog regularly, and did not stick particularly to my subject.

    In about 2009 I started reading about the power of social media and took the decision to develop my Landlord Law Blog to support my legal business (and set up a separate blog http://www.solicitorsonline.co.uk for the non landlord law stuff).

    I still enjoy doing the writing and I think that is important. However the blog is now a very important part of my business. A lot of people in my field read it, and it is very deeply dug into the search engines for all sorts of landlord and tenant related phrases which helps raise my profile. I can’t prove this, but I am pretty sure that many of my Landlord Law members first found me via the blog.

    Mostly I use the blog to provide informative and educational articles for the public and commentary on relevant news items, but I do also have purely promotional posts from time to time, for example to tell readers about new services and products.

    I agree that market speak blogs are probably a turnoff rather than an asset to a business. However I think a well written and entertaining blog which also promotes the main business cannot be other than a good thing. In fact I think it is an excellent marketing tool. And one, moreover totally within my control.

    I suspect that many people starting out, are where I was in 2006, and will probably (if they enjoy the writing – which is VERY important) move more to using their blogs to support their work.

    1. Thanks Tessa

      Law firms who want to blog need to avoid letting their marketing department or outsourced marketers do it for them and get their own lawyers blogging. That is clearly why it has worked so well for you and other lawyers who blog with business development in mind.

      Thanks for the mention in UK Blawg Roundup #7 – and the future of legal blogging. An excellent roundup and an interesting look at “whether blogs are just a frivolous fancy, or whether they can be a serious support to a law practice”.

  8. Laurie, Millie and anyone else who sees a fundamental separation between “marketing” blogs and the “other” ones I would say this: Everyone is blogging to raise their profile and reputation whether as individuals or as businesses. Maybe seo is more relevant to certain blogging purposes than others, but so what.

  9. My name is spelled ‘Milly’. And as a lawyer, one would hope you would realise it is terribly dangerous to presume anyone’s motive for any behaviour.

  10. Milly apologies for misspelling your name. I am not sure that being a lawyer has anything to do with my conviction that people are in the main blogging to raise their profile and reputation. There is some boost to the ego involved, if nothing else for some people. So, I do think everyone is selling something ultimately by blogging.

    1. Well, this is all very interesting. Can I just stick my oar in to say that if I was promoting anything, even if it were only myself, I wouldn’t have chosen to blog anonymously?

      I have various motives for blogging: because it’s fun in a way that work isn’t; to practice writing (as opposed to drafting); to work through ideas that I don’t have time to discuss in my working day; and to exorcise some of my stress. I won’t pretend that positive feedback doesn’t stroke my ego a little, but it’s not why I started or why I carry on.

      In any event, I may be a special case (or, at least, I’m often told that I’m special). I think that the meaningful distinction is between blogs that are simply an extension of the newsletters and emails that law firms have been sending for yonks, and blogs that engage and inform beyond a mere summary of the latest legislative developments. The latter, including those (such as this one, or Shireen’s) that are linked to an identifiable firm, offer real opinions and discussion, and aren’t afraid to provoke where appropriate.

      I don’t care if those blogs are written mainly for business development – if they’re good, they’re good. If this was on Twitter I’d write THIS –> pointing at Tim’s reference (below) to Charon’s “no rules” principle.

      1. Thanks Bizzle

        Well said.

        Does it surprise you at times how a small bear can achieve such a high profile? Perhaps not: following in the footsteps of Pooh and Paddington 😉

    2. Thanks Shireen

      I think that perhaps many bloggers start out not realising that their profile and reputation will be raised in the way that it is. This may not be their initial motive for blogging but it very likely will be a consequence.

      There are a number of criminal defence lawyers who blog and tweet and maintain that they get no business from it and that is not their motive for blogging/tweeting. It is probably unlikely (although not impossible) that their particular client base will find them in the first instance through this route. However, I would think it highly likely that their profile/reputation will be raised in the eyes of other lawyers who may well refer business their way. I think there is, indeed, a lot more selling going on than most law bloggers want to admit. Still not sure though why this lack of admission exists.

  11. CharonQC’s “no rules” principle sums up blogging for me. If it’s a personal outlet, great. If it’s for business development, fine too. The first two #LawBlogs have been thoroughly enjoyable evenings. The next one does however (in my view) need a theme or a hook to move the event on from talking about “why I blog” or why law blogs are a “good thing” (which they undoubtedly are). That’s difficult though, because once there is a theme the audience is potentially narrowed by interest area. Maybe it could have a debating format, a kind of “This House believes” kind of thing, “that blogging is not for business development”, for example, or that “Blogging is no place for Big Law” (ie deliberately provocative statements to promote discussion). I’m confident the event is in more than safe hands with both the excellent founder chair and panellists and I look forward to the next one, irrespective of theme or format.

  12. I can only speak to the ‘academic’ side of (proper) legal blogging, as that is all I have experience of. It has never been been particular popular in the UK, and I think that stems from the scholarship model we have, which is quite different to the US: our works, our thoughts, lies in journals and behind paywalls. American jurisprudence is almost always available for free, on SSRN and elsewhere. US scholars are, in short, used to giving away their analysis for free; we are not. I do not know if that applies in some way to practitioners as well.

    I also do not know about all this ‘business development’ stuff – that certainly has never been a factor behind http://conflictoflaws.net. For me, it’s always been about content. No more, no less. As to SEO, I regard it as nonsense. Any modern platform, with some very basic tweaking, should be set up to provide you with good ranking in any search engine as long as your content deserves to be there.

    1. Thanks Martin

      Always wondered why more academics don’t have law blogs. It seems like an ideal medium for them.

      I believe many practitioners will think like this also and not want to give away anything for ‘free’. Surely though demonstrating knowledge and expertise in an area could lead to an instruction from a client who needs that knowledge or expertise to be applied to their particular problem.

  13. It’s a “Who’s Who?” of commentators above. The idea of business development in blogs clearly touches a nerve.

    I’m less of a purist than David. I don’t worry all that much about the motivation behind any particular blog. To draw a parallel with an unrelated field, I’m not in the camp that thinks it’s a disgrace that Air Traffic Control might be privatised. After all, every time you climb onto a plane, you’re putting your life in the hands of commercial interests. The aircraft are built by Boeing or Airbus, the engines by Rolls Royce or GE. So far as I can tell, BA, Virgin and Ryanair are all ruthlessly commercial.

    If bloggers decide to write nonsense piped down direct from Planet Management or spout theories from their Ladybird book of marketing, the audience is discerning enough to spot it right away. I just disregard it, like spam e-mail. On the other hand, if a blogger comes across as an interesting person, with something to say, I’ll happily read them without too much concern about their motives. If it makes their law firm look good, fine.

    For myself, I don’t have a personal business development objective in blogging, notwithstanding what Brian says about personal brand. If I need to interview for a job, I doubt that CEOs and company Chairmen are reading this stuff (though that may change in the next 15 years).

    I blog and Tweet because I enjoy the debate and the free exchange of ideas (without the traditional hierarchies you find elsewhere). I originally started Tweeting and blogging for a specific reason. Alastair Campbell persuaded me (at a meeting which LegalBrat and I both attended) that there was an entire generation coming through that we would fail to reach if we weren’t engaged in this medium. I bought that.

    It’s gratifying to see that a lot of people reading these blogs and Twitter feeds are currently law students. I hope that some of them will consider a career in-house. Voices like Legal Bizzle’s, Legal Brat’s and LBCWiseCounsel’s would have encouraged me. Meanwhile, the debate is a lot of fun.

    1. Thanks Tom

      The Who’s Who continues below. No sign of the #LawBlogs panel making an appearance yet though. Are they still ignoring that elephant I wonder 😉

      The Personal Brand I refer to also has potential consequences other than when you may be looking for another job. You are likely to encounter other like minded solicitors through blogging. As an in-house solicitor you may have the need to seek external advice from time to time. The relationships you build through blogging and other social media activities could lead to identifying very suitable candidates in this regard. All assisting the development of the business that you are part of. Again it is unlikely to be the motivation for blogging but it is a potential consequence of it. One of many.

      From my experience lecturing and tutoring on the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow the tweeting/blogging students are very much in the minority. Only 4 were Tweeting and 2 blogging out of 165. They were all on Facebook though! This might change but for now we old timers (encouraged by Alastair Campbell et al) are leading the way.

  14. Hello, my ears are burning. Interesting discussion. I agree with much of what Milly (Amanda) says.

    And since there is speculation as to my own drivers, I can say (and have said elsewhere) that business development is not the primary reason I blog – I blog for the reasons Milly suggests. However, I do indeed see the business development *potential*, albeit little in the way of concrete “results” – if by that you mean instructions arising from it. The “Need Advice” section on the blog is experimental – I’m sure there is potential for the blog to drive instructions my way, but I’ve yet to achieve it! I’m not holding my breath.

    I do find however that my name sticks better than it might have amongst solicitors – and that can’t be a bad thing. Other benefits are that blogging and social media and the content of some posts is a good conversation point for people like me who find “networking” over drinks and nibbles a bit excruciating (yes lawyers can be shy), and that clients are often reassured about the person who is representing them if they have done a little internet research and found the blog – lay clients are often interested to talk about the blog and book.

    Yes there is some advertising revenue, but I need that in order to partially offset the loss of income arising from blogging when I could be doing other paid work. It is not the most profitable aspect of my business, if indeed it is “profitable” at all when you think of hourly rates etc. So yes I’m a businesswoman and I generate income and good PR where I can, the blog and book being part of that – but I like to view it as a social enterprise rather than a purely profit making exercise.

    Like the blog, I have written the book because I wanted to and because I felt it needed to be written, but I knew from the start it was never something I was ever likely to make my fortune on and the writing of it is something that has taken time away from paid work. It has business development potential just like the blog, but a big part of it is about social engagement and responsibility, doing what I can for transparency and access to justice.

    I’ll happily take the business development advantages that come along with my blogging and writing, but engaging in dialogue and disseminating information are far greater reward for me than business development.

    And I am definitely going to come to the next lawblogs event – got stuck in court and missed the last one. V disappointed!!

    1. Thanks Lucy

      The name sticking amongst other lawyers is a good by product of blogging and other profile raising activities. As a result work may well come your way indirectly via solicitors and not directly via the blog. The blog no doubt played an important part in the process although this may not immediately be clear.

      I mentioned in my reply to Gavin Ward (above) the post from Great Jakes: Is SEO snake oil? Here’s the truth about search engine optimization for law firm websites. In that post the following path is suggested:-

      1. A prospective client Googles a highly specific search phrase, such as “impact of 2010 financial reform act on credit unions”.
      2. That person lands on an article or blog post you’ve written on that exact subject.
      3. They read your piece and are impressed with your insight.
      4. They surf your website and notice that you specialize in the exact legal micro-niche that concerns them most.
      5. They sign up for your newsletter and subscribe to your blog.
      6. Over the next few years, they follow your blog and read your newsletter. Perhaps they also hear you speak at a conference. The more they hear from you, the more respect they have for your legal insights.
      7. They hire you when a need arises.

  15. As someone who has been writing about law from the edge of the political niche, I’d say that the death of blogs is always exaggerated; it is change not death.

    People drop in and out for any number of reasons, and the ones who keep going have found a sustainable model in that it gives them a way of self-support via establishing a marketing profile, or a body of expertise.

    One point not mentioned on the thread is that a personal blog can do wonders for corporate people wanting their own brand (but don’t tell the management in those terms).

    I’m quite interested in the tension between ethics of law, and a professional legal ethic which requires that the law professional be as effective a hired gun as possible, regardless of the nature of the client.

    In that context, how do we develop the overall ethics of law? My answer would be: politics.

    1. Thanks Matt

      Don’t think we will see the death of law blogs any time soon. If anything they are very much alive and kicking. They may well, as you say, be changing.

      Many lawyers with personal blogs have created a personal brand that in certain circles could be more powerful than the brand of the law firm that they work for. I think that the law firms in question are often oblivious to this and could be doing more to harness the blogging power under their noses.

  16. I’m late to this particular party, but I’d join with Lucy and Milly in the discussion. What is more, I don’t blog under my own name and I’m keeping it that way.

    I will grant there have certainly been some enjoyable side benefits in terms of my personal profile since I was outed as being behind Nearly Legal a couple of years ago. Mine is not a large sector, so word of mouth did the rest. But that is categorically not why I do it (and is also why I remain pseudonymous on the blog). In terms of business generation, I have taken on a total of one case where I was contacted via the blog over the 5 years the blog has existed (although that was a cracker of a case).

    This is not to say that I’m vehemently opposed to a business development aspect to blogging, far from it, but one must acknowledge that it will inevitably shape the nature and spirit of the blog.

    Not only is it not why I blog, I find I have apparently taken active steps to avoid it playing a part in NL. The prime reason being that it would change – I think for the worse – the community that has grown up around NL and the spirit in which people engage with the blog. Even a sniff of me seeking a return from the blog would change its identity.

    1. Although, before I am accused of rank hypocrisy, I must confess that my bio page at my firm does note my involvement with Nearly Legal. No link back the other way, though.

      I can explain this by way of a large, if metaphorical, gun being pointed at my head at the relevant moment. I believe duress is a relevant defence.

    2. I was thinking about your reticence in being identified and nervousness about using or being seen to use the blog to drive business. I definitely agree that any whiff of sell would be both counterintuitive and counterproductive.

      I also think that for every one of the solicitors who are interested in what I do and engage with the discussions on the blog there is another who thinks its all self aggrandising baloney and who would be less likely to instruct me as a result. So I think what it achieves for me is to bring solicitors with whom I have a natural affinity into a conversation, and it helps to gel a relationship with an existing solicitor rather than convincing a new solicitor to send me a first brief.

      And as should be obvious to anyone who reads PT – much of the dialogue that goes on is with litigants in person and other non-lawyers, and that is something I want to continue for its own sake. It’s not a blog for solicitors, its a blog for anyone who’s interested. Solicitors can join the conversation if they like – or not.

    3. Thanks Nearly Legal

      Clearly (like Legal Bizzle) being pseudonymous is going to limit business development potential. Not sure though whether introducing a business development aspect will inevitably shape the nature and spirit of a blog. You do not have to constantly think that you are selling when posting and shape content as a result. As mentioned in comments above that just might be counter productive. Blogging about what interests you may interest others. If you are not pseudonymous those that might want your advice and assistance know who you are and where to contact you. If they do good and well if they don’t so what.

      1. But there you have your answer on the elephant in the room. In general, law blogs don’t actively consider ‘business development’ at all when blogging. It may be an incidental bonus, or not.

        Blogs produced with business development in mind are different creatures, not necessarily bad – although certainly can be – but different.

        1. I think there is as wide a variety of blogs to support business as there are the others. I tend to think of mine more as a sort of free magazine type service aimed at the sort of people who might end up as members of my online service.

          But even if you are a ‘pure’ blogger with no nasty commercial ambitions, I think the bloggers themselves will gain immensely from it. You for example I would image will have a MUCH better knowledge of all the case law in your field than you would otherwise. Which must make you a better lawyer.

          I also find that blogging on my subject keeps me more aware of what is going on in my field and sharpens me up. Comments also make me aware when my writing is ‘fuzzy’ and not clear enough. Blogging is good for you!

  17. It’s curious that those whose purpose in blogging revolve around marketing seem to have a propensity to ascribe motives to others that similarly involve marketing, by whatever name they want to call it. My theory is that this need to impugn the motives of others by projecting their own nasty purposes is to make them feel less dirty as they strut their stuff down the boulevard.

    Some of us write because it’s what we do. It may well have unintended consequences, but my experience is that blogging has never produced the ROI that those who do it to market want to pretend it does. But if it makes them feel sexier in their hot pants to believe the boys are staring at them with lust, then they are only fooling themselves.

    Though I’m only a silly Yankee blogger, of no consequence on the Brit law scene, I would expect that what’s happened in the US will eventually happen in the UK, where scores of cheap whores start blogs and form mutual admiration societies to promote their belief that they will become “thought leaders” and “game changers” to justify the time wasted writing posts that few read and fewer still care about. They will muddy up the blawgosphere and turn off readers who assume, as they ascribe, that all lawyers with blogs are nasty sluts trying to scam business from naive laypeople.

    And when the self-promoters finally realize that they’ve worn out the soles of their high heels and failed to get much bang for their bang, they will go away and leave the writers to write. How long it will take, and how ugly the blawgosphere will look with their dead shells of blogs left floating in the ether, is unknown. But for those of us who write for the sake of writing, it won’t matter.

    We’ll still be here. We’ll still be writing. Because we do not share your motivations.

    1. holy cr*p that’s depressing. But I see a lot of sense in what you say. I don’t know if it will be so explosive over here though, as we have your example to warn us off!!

    2. Thanks Scott

      Always good to hear from the other side of the pond. The picture you paint of what could happen over here is not a pretty one though. Substitute Blawg for Blob in this image perhaps:-

      The Blob Poster

      1. Nice analogy, Brian. Though my blob comes with smiling faces and backslaps. Always smiling, because people like people who smile.

  18. On anonymity, my strategy (MW is a pseudonym) was to quietly decloak, so that there could never be leverage on me, but to make sure that there was nothing which would be embarrassing anyway.

    Anything which I need to truly publish anonymously, I make sure is published truly anonymously, and I ain’t telling.

  19. Thank you, Brian, for stimulating the blogging debate.

    Brian and I tend to agree on all things social media. I also agree with Milly’s categorisation in to two broad camps; the fun and informative and the marketing/business blog.

    For my firm Clutton Cox, blogging is the most important facet of an overall marketing strategy which revolves around driving potential clients to my law firm website.

    Blogging in this context is one aspect of social media which will also include Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

    My website forms the HUB of all my firms marketing efforts, both on and offline e.g. email and landing page advertisements.

    The most important thing I did when I first start blogging back in 2008 was to make sure my blogs were part of my law firm website

    Without a blog, a website is likely to remain no more than a brochure.

    Every blog I post is directed to my website to increase traffic

    The quality of the content on a website is crucial.

    Google loves content new and refreshed. The new world is now governed by the maxim “CONTENT IS KING”

    I have 8 separate blogs on my website although the main focus is on conveyancing

    The more potential clients know about you and what you are about, the better the chance you will be hired, and for the relationship to be a better one from the outset.

    The more traffic that is generated the more chance your work will be found: the more relevant the content you provide, the more able the search engines will trust your work and release it as targeted content to potential clients.

    And to achieve those goals the quickest route by far is blogging.

    The internet has subtly changed the rules of marketing so that it is not now so much- who you know, but more, what people know about you.

    By immersing myself in the exciting world of ‘Internet Marketing’ over the last few years I’ve been able to…

    Gain multiple first page positions on Google, the World’s largest search engine.

    I’ve ‘optimised’ my website so it attracts new potential clients, every day of the week.

    I’ve refined my marketing so much so, that I’m now able to win new clients within 2 hours of them visiting my website

    Google publishes my articles within 45 minutes of posting

    I’ve won awards and speak publicly at high profile Conferences

    And the Wall Street Journal interviewed me for my thoughts on Chancel Repair Liability

    All of that success is the result of effective online marketing and blogging

    There is definitely an elephant in the #Lawblogs room and it is staring right at you

    1. You were interviewed by the WSJ and this is a highlight of your legal career? You won awards? That’s the saddest, most pathetic thing I’ve ever read.

      So what are your favorite color hotpants?

  20. “I invite thoughtful comments, but please keep it civil and respectful”

    Not my words but the polite request for comments on the blog of SHG.

    Shame, such courtesy is not extended to other peoples’ blogs.

    1. I think you have done brilliantly Paul. We small firms need to work hard to survive in an increasingly hostile environment and blogging is one way which works.

  21. I’m with SHG on this – I do hope the flawging phenomenon does not take hold here in the UK to muddy the blawgosphere.

    By all means use your practitioner blogs to try and generate business by good writing, by providing interesting information, by engaging – but do remember that there are many law bloggers out there who write for pleasure and to develop their own knowledge and pleasure and do not do so for business.

    Flawg and Splawg and Dr Erasmus Strangelove will be on to it… count on it – and see what that does for your google references 🙂

    The general public likes nothing better than a bit of parody and ridicule… I am advised.

  22. Is everything so black and white Scott?

    Can people love to write, love to blog and get the added benefit of additional exposure in their industry?

    I happen to love to blog and love to write articles for the National Law Journal, but I must admit I am thrilled when these articles open doors for me to speak at events, help start conversations with interesting people and help me gain a far wider reach than I ever would have gained without my writing.

    I know Scott that you were disappointed when you brought in a six-figure client through your blog, because it didn’t jive with your philosophy, but whether you like it or not people are increasingly turning to the internet to find their lawyer.

    What’s wrong with law bloggers positioning their blogs in a way to attract those people?

    As for hotpants, I think red is the ONLY color.

    1. Mr Dayton, blogging for business is your business. And it shows all too clearly in your blog, which I’m not going to link to. I’d say your blog displays no love of writing at all, or indeed your subject. In fact it looks like exactly the kind of keyword driven SEO fodder that surely you must have noticed all the lawyers commenting above want to avoid at all costs.

      As such, I’d say your blog is the answer to your question ‘what’s wrong with law bloggers positioning their blogs in a way to attract these people’. Any blog with posts entitled “Five Linkedin Tips that Lawyers Don’t Know” shows exactly what is wrong.

      Moreover, you are not a law blogger at all and, I note, not a practicising lawyer either. Forgive me if I doubt your credentials for making a worthwhile contribution to this discussion.

  23. Credentials? Is that what qualifies someone to participate in this conversation?

    I never write for SEO, but I always try to write articles people will want to read. Maybe I’m unusual that way. It has worked, by the way. My LinkedIN article that you referenced is one of my most read of all time on the NLJ and has been picked up by Corporate Counsel Magazine as well.

    Who are you to claim that I don’t love writing? THIS is what’s wrong with law bloggers, people like you that insult and bully anybody that disagrees with them.

    1. I don’t believe that I insulted you. I merely described what, to me, came over from your blog, that it displayed no love of writing.

      If you do actually enjoy writing that stuff, so that you wouldn’t care (or more importantly stop doing it) if it didn’t get traffic or the attention of the NLJ (What is that? Some US journal?) or Corporate Counsel magazine (likewise?), then good for you. But I really rather doubt that this would be the case.

      As you arrived here proclaiming that there was no necessary contradiction between writing for the love of it and writing for marketing exposure, I went to have a look at your blog to see if it was an example of transcending the concerns that I (and many others) have.

      It wasn’t. And it reads to me exactly like the kind of marketing driven blog that turns me (and many others) off.

      So apparently you can’t practice what you appear to preach. Any other shining examples you could point us to?

      I note that you do now separate yourself from law bloggers. I also note that you claim you don’t write for SEO but don’t deny that the posts are keyword driven.

  24. I must say I think it is a little wierd that people should be aggressively negative about blogging to help your business. I mean why not?

    But if a blog IS going to help your business it will have to be well written in a clear and easy to understand style or potential clients are not going to read it – their eyes will glaze over after the first paragraph.

    I really enjoy writing things for the ordinary person. I love the law and want people to understand and respect it. I try hard to put things in words that, say, the Daily Mail reader will understand and relate to. Which is not always easy.

    This comes out of a general desire to ‘help people’ which is one reason why I went into the profession in the first place.

    This is my way of blogging. It helps my business, yes, but that is not the only, or even the most important reason why I do it.

    I don’t think you can put people into boxes and say some people are nasty marketeers and others are ‘pure’ bloggers who are OK. People are a mixture and so are their blogs. BTW I thought your blog looked quite interesting Adrian.

    1. Tessa – sorry, I’m having a generally bad day. But

      a) I think the point stands that if the blog is intended to have a business development purpose, that shapes the blog, whether or not it is the only or even primary purpose. Doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad blogs – of course not – and yours would be a shining example of a good blog resulting. And as you say, you write it with that purpose in mind.

      b) I object strongly to being told that I am doing marketing anyway, by people who apparently can’t conceive that one would do this for any other purpose or without that aim. Mr Dayton being a case in point, as if SHG having had a prospective client via his blog made a single iota of difference to his motivations in doing it and the way he does it.

      And c) as is usually the case, Charon (above) is right.

      Now I’m off to find some kittens to kick…

  25. Agree with Tessa; it’s an “angels on a pinhead” debate.

    “Blogging” is just how some people choose to use a self-publishing platform, and the community that gets created as a result. If others use it differently – fine.

    After all, companies have a personality in law. Why not online?

    1. I used to think that. I wanted to think that, because the flawgers seemed like nice enough people and I harbored no ill will toward them. But soon enough, I came to realize that it wasn’t just an alternative path, but a decidedly problematic one.

      They quickly devolved into deception, most notably about themselves, fabricating credentials and importance where neither existed. They wrote happy posts that were almost always wrong to some extent, because they wanted to be loved and admired, and writing about controversial or meaningful opinions would antagonize someone.

      Soon they started flooding the blawgosphere with deceptive self-promotional posts designed to mislead clients. This isn’t an acceptable alternate path. This is slime, and it gets on all of us.

      Like Nearly Legal, I can’t tell you how many times people have “told me” that I must blawg for marketing, because there’s no other reason to do it. And indeed, the vast majority of bloggers do it for that primary reason, and make all lawyers look like used care salesmen in the process.

      So no, blogging is not just a benign self-publishing platform. It can be used as a mechanism that brings disgrace on those who don’t blog to market as well as the writers of these awful, deceptive, slimy marketing blogs. To pretend it’s a “personality” issue is to delude oneself. A nice phrase, perhaps, but completely wrong.

  26. So far as I can tell, (almost) all those above who are against blogging for business development purposes do not run businesses and all those in favour do. QED.

    Also, many of the nay sayers seem to confuse “business development” and “marketing” which does not help.

    1. Nick, inasmuch as I am a solicitor in private practice and am generally keen for new clients to turn up and either give me money or give me a basis to extract money from the other side, you would be wrong.

      Plus I don’t think I am confusing business development and marketing, at least not as far as blogs go. But then you’d need to tell me what you mean by marketing and then I’d have to do the same and that is too tedious to contemplate.

  27. Dear god.

    Dear, dear god.

    What a depressing read some of these comments are.

    What a load of sheer presumption (“I know why you really blog, and if you deny it, then you’re in denial” blah blah) is being shown by some of the commenters, who really should know better.

    There needs to be no particular reason – or commercial motivation – to blog about law.

    It is an inherently interesting subject, at least in its practical – rather than academic – application.

    If you are doing legal blogging for commercial or marketing reasons, then fine: if you are any good, you will soon get readers and a following.

    And if you are crap, you will fail.

    The internet can be harsh like that.

    I have my own legal practice, which is new and relatively successsful. I also happen to be a reasonably well-known legal blogger. I enjoy doing both. But I do not do one consciously for the other. It is simply a happy coincidence. If anything, I use the legal side to promote my writing side.

    I blog just for joy of it.

    I enjoy responding to developing news stories.

    I like answering the eternal question: how the hell did this case end up in court?

    I get a buzz out of challenging self-serving media or politcal narratives when it comes to legal matters.

    I am not “against” blogging for business development purposes.

    Nor am I for it.

    I am simply indifferent.

    I think the best legal blogging comes from an urge to explain and engage using the internet medium. That urge can be prompted by a range of reasons, from the mercenary to the selfless.

    There is no one route to good legal blogging.

    But, having read the above, I think there is a distinction.

    There are legal bloggers who think that there could be an “elephant in the room”.

    And there are legal bloggers who would never use such bloody awful piece of business jargon…


  28. I agree with David adding that for me law is inherently interesting both in its academic and its practical application.

    I have no direct law business. I blog personally and professionally (in different places) motivated in part to explain some areas that people ask about, sometimes because an area takes my interest, sometimes to make a cheap joke about a bad law or bad process, and more frequently to worry about the pronunciation of the word “scone”. The latter posts tend to attract the most hits.

  29. Man alive.

    I merely suggested that we should acknowledge there is more than one type of law blog, and that one event would struggle to meet the needs of all law bloggers of whatever type. I am amused that it is assumed that I was being critical of marketing/biz dev blogs – I care not how people use their blogs, that is a matter for them. Of the blogs I read, I read either due to interest in the topic, or because of cracking writing, or both.

    I have a blog because a few devs I know were confused about cookie law and the articles they were reading online about it, so asked me if I would write something for them to explain it. That is how my blog came about; that is why the first few posts concentrate on issues that would affect them, and that is why the occasional post on those issues will crop up. I have nothing to sell them, it was simply a favour, to pay them back for all the help they give me with various things.

    My blog took a different turn when the whole Ken Clarke/Victoria Derbyshire rape row errupted. Basically, because I had the space available to me, I used it as a place to vent on that issue.

    I now largely use my blog to practice writing, and to rant about topics that annoy me (there are several). I don’t really consider myself a law blogger, although I have largely given up stamping my feet and objecting to being called one, as I think it is churlish of me to do so.

    I don’t use my blog to promote myself – although a lot of people know who I am, I am quasi-anonymous, and it is rare I give a client the URL, as in my line of work, I am not convinced it would assist (it is full of swearing, vajazzling and, lately ranting about feminists). My line of work? I write stuff for the internets. I am one of those content marketer/online community builder people. I just don’t take it onto Twitter or my blog.

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