A legal blog can be instrumental in drawing in prospective clients, but a bad legal blog can actually do more harm than good. Here are three reasons your blog could be hurting your law firm – and eight ways to write a good legal blog post.
When law firms launch a new website or redesign an existing site, they usually include a blog section. After all, you can't attract new clients without one, right?
In fact, if you're not blogging the right way, it's better not to blog at all.
3 blogging practices that cost you clients
Over and over again, lawyers make the same mistakes when it comes to blogging. Even the most successful, respected practitioners are prone to falling into bad blogging practices.
1. Using blog regurgitation services
You have probably seen them, even if you don't realize it. Several prominent legal publishing and marketing companies offer blog writing services that are little more than regurgitations of trending stories online. These blogs are mass-produced in assembly line-style content mills.
One of the easiest ways to spot these blogs is looking for the supposed author. If a blog is published "on behalf of" a firm or a lawyer within the law firm, a blog content mill is almost certainly behind it.
The problem with these regurgitated blogs is twofold. One, the writers are rarely lawyers. Instead, they are given a rigid set of guidelines, a few keywords and a minimum word count, then set loose to scrape up any news story with a modicum of relevance to a lawyer's practice area.
Two, they add very little value to a lawyer's practice, or to the world in general. Although the ethical implications of these services are debatable, there is no question they delve a bit too far into the realm of poor taste. If the idea of having your loved one's death in a car accident recycled over and over again on countless law firm websites across the country makes you cringe, imagine how the family members of these victims feel. As the gatekeepers of the justice system, lawyers can – and should – do better.
2. Never (or rarely) updating your blog
Visit half a dozen law firm websites and you're likely to see more than a handful of blogs that have not been updated in over a year.
Many lawyers start out with good intentions. "I'll blog once a week," they tell themselves. "How hard can it be?"
It can be incredibly hard. Blogging is not like legal writing. It's much more informal – something many lawyers struggle with. Blogging is also a time-consuming endeavor. To do it accurately and efficiently, you need to invest time and effort.
If your blog is collecting cobwebs, it's not doing your business any favors.
3. Writing your blog like a legal treatise
If, at any point, your blog contains the word "heretofore" in any way other than as a commentary on why you should never use the word "heretofore," it's probably hurting your business.
Potential clients aren't reading your blog to be impressed by your vocabulary. In most cases, they don't care where you went to school, or how many accolades and peer-review ratings you have accumulated. When a prospective clients read your blog, they want to know one thing: Can this lawyer help me with my problem?
If your toilet is backed up, you don't want a plumber to show up at your house and give you a technical explanation about water pressure, stop valves and the history of waste treatment in America. You just want someone to fix it, preferably at an affordable price. You want your plumber to be an expert, sure, but you need him to communicate in a way you understand.
The 8 hallmarks of a good legal blog post
Your legal blogs should convey trust, competency and reliability. They should be professional, but not too stuffy. They should be informal, but not sloppy.
It's a tall order. One of the best ways to rate your blog is by running through a checklist of best blogging practices. Here are eight things to look for.
1. An effective, optimized title
The blog's title should appeal to search engines and readers alike. Readers have short attention spans. Just how short, you ask? Try shorter than that of a goldfish, which is about eight seconds.
The title may be your only opportunity to grab their interest. There are a few ways to achieve this. An effective title provides unique information, offers to answer a question or generates a sense of urgency.
2. User-friendly language
Formal legal prose may work well in an appellate brief, but it's rarely appropriate for a blog post. Most readers won't give a second glance to a blog that reads like the Restatement Second of Torts. They are far more likely to stay engaged when a blog summarizes a complicated or boring legal concept in relatable, everyday language.
3. Solving a problem
Remember your overflowing toilet? People looking online for lawyers or legal information usually want answers to specific problems. The mother searching for "dog bite child Dallas, Texas" probably isn't interested in reading about the elements required to prove negligence, no matter how authoritative and well-written. Show the same mom a blog explaining the liability of dog owners in Texas, however, and you may just get a client.
Internet readers scan website content and decide within eight seconds whether to invest time in reading a blog. Ideally, any reader should be able to read just the headlines and know exactly what your blog post is about.
5. Short blocks of text
Long blocks of text intimidate readers who are accustomed to scanning news and social media. If your blog looks like hard work, people are going to dismiss it and click away. Short sentences and short paragraphs don't require much time or effort to read. Your blog should make readers want to stay, not jump ship at the earliest opportunity.
Keywords should be woven semantically into the content without compromising readability. Readers notice when you stuff keywords in places they aren't meant to go. If you have to shoehorn a keyword in, find another way to include it.
7. Internal links
Linking to your internal website page content within a blog post gives readers a road map of information and resources. Internal links also establish you as an authority on your subject and boost your SEO.
8. Approachable tone
Many lawyers are understandably cautious about using informal language or humor in their blogs. Car accidents and divorces aren't funny subjects. Naturally, lawyers worry they will seem callous or unprofessional if they use humor in their blogs. Your blog doesn't have to be frivolous or sarcastic, but a little wit and personality can go a long way toward humanizing you and making people see the person behind the webpage. Clients look for lawyers who are trustworthy. Personalizing your blogs can be the first step in establishing a sense of trust with a new client.
Solution: Work with legal blog experts
They don't teach blog writing skills in law school, and few law schools today touch on the importance of marketing for lawyers.
As an attorney, you are busy enough running your law practice and working for your current clients. You know attracting new clients is critical to your success, but you don't have much time to do it. Hire a legal content marketing expert who can create optimized, well-researched blogs that bring new clients to your practice – so you can focus on running your practice and your business.