Monday, January 3, 2011

Is Blogging Worth The Effort?

As you ring in the New Year, you have undoubtedly made a list of things you want to accomplish for 2011.  Perhaps one of the items on your bucket list is to start writing your own legal blog.  Some will tell you its a great way to improve your law practice.  Others will tell you it's a complete waste of time.  So which is it? 

Well, it depends on what you want to get out of the experience.

Critics and curmudgeons will tell you that writing a blog will rarely lead to direct client referrals, so why bother. They maintain that, when calculating your hourly rate into the time spent writing a blog, the end result is not quantifiably worth the effort. Programs like Google's Ad Sense, meant to generate revenue for the blogger, will not materialize into vast riches. So if blogging doesn't lead to client referrals or real money in your pocket, what's the point? Is it simply a waste of time?  

If you are thinking about blogging for a quick fix to get more clients or to make a quick buck, you will probably be disappointed and it will be a waste of your time. If you have the patience and wherewithal to see the long term potential benefit to your practice, you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.  

I'll be honest.  In my own experience, I cannot think of one client I have received as a direct result of my blogging efforts.  I would venture a guess that the same is true for most legal bloggers. Although it could happen, you should probably not expect someone will approach your firm simply because they read your analysis of recent changes in bankruptcy regulations.  But what about that reporter that is doing a story on bankruptcy and needs a quote from a local attorney.  

While I have never had a client tell me that they came to my firm as a result of reading my blog,  I have had several clients "discover" our law practice by way of interviews and quotes about our firm in local media.  Those interviews came thanks to our blogging efforts. Remember, an article written about your firm's efforts will gain you more results than the biggest yellow page ad money can buy.  And it won't cost you a nickel.  

I recall one example that lead to some great exposure for our firm. I had done a post on the illicit practice of law by notaries in the Polish community.  In many Latin and European countries, the position of "notario" or "notariusz" meant the person was an licensed attorney.  My blog warned that some unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the similarity in the terms.  A local reporter picked up on my post and interviewed me on the subject.  The exposure began a relationship with the publication that I enjoy to this day. Whenever the paper needed a blurb from an attorney, they often turned to me.  

Soon, other media outlets began contacting us.  A city newspaper asked me to pen a legal issues column for them.  That was followed with a request from a Polish language paper to do a Polish version of the column.  My advice column now reaches an estimated 25,000 readers throughout New England.  I noticed clients began coming in to our office with clipped copies of my column.  I could trace it all back to that one blog post about notaries.  

In another earlier blog entry, I discussed how jackass law students often turned into jackass attorneys.  The goofy post was picked up by the Connecticut Law Tribune and led to an interview. Other legal sites began linking to the article.  My blog's exposure increased and I was asked to contribute articles to various publications.  The exposure varied from the nationally distributed Technolawyer newsletter, to the Wisconsin Lawyer Magazine to even a Canadian legal service that sent my post to virtually every Canadian law student.  All for being a wise ass.  An Asian business law magazine reprinted one of my posts.  Other posts were linked to bar association websites in states like Maine, Hawaii, and Ohio.  
I guess my point is that there are some things you simply cannot quantify in dollars and cents.  The results I see from blogging are in my daily practice.  For example,  it can be a real ice breaker when a prosecutor or a judge chats you up about one of your recent posts during a pretrial conference.  It's nice to hear that a fellow attorney saw you in the law tribune or happened to read one of your blog entries.  It can open the door to an exchange of business cards and the possibility of future referrals.  More importantly, if you write about a particular practice area, it can help establish your reputation as an expert in your field.  And why not?  The more research you do in your posts, the better versed you will be in your area.  

Now, I cannot promise you will achieve the cult-like rock star status that has been thrust upon me. Frankly, you don't want it.  (the groupies, the constant requests for autographs)  But, you may actually find blogging an enjoyable use of your time.  It's an open forum.  You can write about whatever interests you.  And it doesn't hurt to get your name out there into the collective consciousness.

Blogging has been a great stress reliever for me. It helps me when I read that other practitioners have similar problems and pressures. Reading other blogs, I often pick up tips that I use to improve my own law practice.  I learn about developments in my practice areas.  
I learn about new legal software. I have met new colleagues in my field.  

I don't view blogging as a chore.  I look at it as an opportunity to improve myself as a lawyer.  My legal research has improved.  My writing has gotten better.  Frankly, I am a better attorney as a result.  
So is blogging worth the effort?  If you are doing it to make a few bucks off ad clicks, probably not.  If you want to improve your law practice, absolutely.  

For 10.5 Good Reasons to Blog, I encourage you to read one of Attorney Cliff Tuttle's posts on the subject at his venerable legal blog Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk.

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