The three things I tell every law blogger I talk to
This is the lamest humblebrag that has ever existed but I’d put even odds on me having read or perused more law blog posts than anyone ever. For the better part of a decade, I wound down every workday perusing the posts that flowed out from the community at LexBlog—more than 1,000 blogs producing upwards of 200 posts a day.
I’ve seen what stands out and I’ve seen what’s worked for lawyers—sometimes the tune of life-changing success.
It isn’t law-specific. It’s stuff I try utilize myself, almost never writing about the law. Here’s what I got, three things I relay to almost any lawyer I talk to looking for the fundamentals.
Write to the medium
This is a blog post—on a blog. That’s where I’m writing this. It’s where most people are writing online, even if they don’t specifically use that term.
It isn’t a whitepaper. It isn’t a newspaper article. It isn’t a legal brief. It isn’t a memo. It’s closer to an email than anything, honestly.
- Write like you talk. I’d go so far as to say write like you talk over one beer. Nobody’s going to knock you for writing in too understandable of language, and the amount of people capable of reading your writing expands dramatically. If you use footnotes or complex case citations in your writing, you’re doing it wrong.
- Break up your posts. Most content consumed online is consumed around doing something else (work, watching TV, commuting)—so it’ll be judged quickly. Make it scannable by using headers, lists and images. Like this one.
- The best posts are 400-700 words. This one is too long.
- Your posts don’t need to all be your own idea. It can and should frequently be “Here’s this interesting point I saw, here’s a quick quote that summarizes that point and here’s two paragraphs on why I think it’s interesting.” Blogging is more curation than creation.
Close to half of the law blog posts I read, maybe more, follow a common theme—they’re responding to litigation, regulation or legislation. Here’s what happened, here’s what it means, here’s how it impacts you.
And that’s fine, but it can’t be the entirety of the content your produce.
- This is a real basic concept but is frequently overlooked—if you want people to read what you write, you have to write stuff people want to read. Write about interesting things!
- People frequently view the world through the lens of their profession. For example, if I see President Biden’s new WhiteHouse.gov launched, what I as someone operating in digital media think is “Oh it’s on WordPress, it’s accessibility compliant, bet they have the Gutenberg editor” where an immigration lawyer is going to the “Priorities” page for language on potential policies. It’s the same when looking at a newspaper or social media or something in real life—bring those random thoughts and observations back to your blog.
- Identify trends or news stories that exist outside your blog’s subject that could spread to or influence the area you cover. As a lawyer, identifying risks and opportunities is your job, so may as well get content out of it. Dan Schwartz of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog is the king of this.
When people start blogging—hell, sometimes when they’re 18 months into it—they write a bunch of content and just hope it reaches or draws in the right people. You want to control what you can control.
Think about who you want to know you exist and who you want to know your blog exists—and go about accomplishing that in a very deliberate way.
- You can literally write a post for one person, or one entity. It’s honestly a great way to reach more people. Because if the post resonates, if they like it, there’s a good chance they’ll share it—with an audience that is bigger and denser with the people you want to be in front of.
- Very closely related, literally everyone likes being told they’re smart or doing a good job. Everyone. They like it even better when they can point people (bosses, colleagues, competitors) to a third party publicly saying they’re smart. Respect what someone’s doing and want to connect? Write about it.
- Always follow content with hand-to-hand communications. When you share something on social, be sure to @/mention the people you cite and are trying to connect with. DMs are fine, too. Citing a journalist you’d like to cite you for a quote in the future? Their email address is usually at the bottom of a story and a “Hi there, I really enjoyed your coverage of ______ and referenced it on my blog, providing a little more context. If you have any questions now or for reporting going forward, holler.” goes a long way.
- Lastly, interviews make for great connections and easy content. It can be as simple as firing off an email to someone you don’t know or want to know better and saying “Hey there, have like 10 minutes to answer three questions with a couple sentences?”
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Like I mentioned above, this post is too long. But, hell, it could also be a book—with thousands of words on each broader point and tactic. We’ll leave it here for now.
Now to email it to someone I owe it to.