No one at my law firm, nor any of my attorney friends, really “gets” yet why I do this blog, or as some in the legal biz like to refer to it — in an effort to differentiate us from those who reveal the most intimate details of their personal life in the most scandalous way possible — “blawg”. They understand that I like to write, but in the end, what does my blog/blawg have to do with actually getting clients? And why else would you spend the time doing it anyway?
I’ve had this blog/blawg up since mid October of last year, although according to my “hits”, basically nobody much noticed at all until sometime in November. So I think in all fairness I can claim that I’ve only been doing this for about three or four months. However, I now regularly have almost twice as many hits (daily, weekly, or monthly) than my law firm’s website and generally come up far higher on subject matter Google searches. If all goes well, I hope to get to 10,000 total hits by my birthday in late May. But again, what does that have to do with anything? And especially why does this matter to clients?
I began this blog/blawg with the idea that all of us are depending more and more on the internet and the web to get more and more essential information about pretty much anything affecting our personal and professional lives. I noticed that I was resorting to the internet more and more frequently to find forms and other resources to help me answer questions posed by clients — and perhaps equally, if not more, importantly, I was finding useful information and referrals at an exponentially expanding rate. And I reasoned that, if I was finding the web an increasingly more beneficial and genuinely downright useful (not to mention exceedingly cost effective) resource, the people and companies I hoped to attract as clients must be doing the same thing.
From there, it was an easy decision to find a way to be where these prospective clients are. Serving those prospective clients by actually providing some useful information about legal issues thay might be facing is both fun and rewarding for me. In addition, in doing the blog/blawg over the last few months, I have become even more convinced that blogging/blawging has made me a far better and more useful lawyer to my current and prospective clients. Here’s why:
1. Knowledge Entreprenuer. I find time to actually go research those extra questions of clients to which I don’t quite know the answer. Why? Now I think in broader terms about what I want to know and can offer to prospective clients. What better source of inspiration for blog/blawg posts could there possibly be?
Case in point – clients frequently ask my advice regarding what legal entity they should have for their business. I have general factors they should consider, but when it comes to the effect of self-employment tax, I have usually been content to refer clients to their CPA. Recently, I decided that this seemed like a terrific topic for my blog/blawg so I went to a seminar, read up on it, made a few phone calls to some subject matter experts I could access, and finally got it figured out so I could write a respectable post (forthcoming) for the blog/blawg — and provide pragmatic advice to my clients.
Who paid for that? Well, it was me and, indirectly, my law firm because I spent the time to learn this, but didn’t bill any client for that time. Who benefits? Every client I have from now on that wants to know all the factors worth considering in making this decision.
And this I think is one of the greatest benefits of hiring a blogging/blawging lawyer. We’re naturally curious and love to learn new stuff — how better to satisfy this than by actually exploring the questions that clients seem to ask most often! The blogging/blawgging attorney is just going to know MORE about more issues because they have a concrete personal stake and commitment beyond the needs of any particular client to find stuff out. And if I already know something, you the client won’t have to pay me to go find out.
2. Communication 101. You’ll have a fairly good idea whether you’re going to understand a word I say or write and actually be able to use any of the expensive advice you pay me to give you. Let’s face it – in most cases, it doesn’t much matter if I’m a brillant legal genius if you can’t make any sense out of what I’m telling you or comprehend how to implement the counsel and advice you’re paying me to provide. If you are able to “connect” with what I write in my blog/blawg, then at least you know you’ll get something of value when I communicate with you in writing, and hopefully face to face as well.
3. Authenticity and “Real Voice”. One of the really “neat”/”cool” (OK, I’ve been around a while and don’t really know the current “hip”/”in” phrase) things about blogs/blawgs is that the authors get to show at least a little personality. Some of us are a little better at this than others (law is a rather conservative field) and I think I’m still finding my “authentic” voice, but blogs/blawgs are conducive to a level of informality. So, when you read my blog/blawg, you as client get at bit of a “sneak preview” of what I’m really like. And if, as is likely, you’re going to be spending some time with me once you ask me to represent you, that’s got to be useful info. BTW, I hope to be more irreverent in my blog/blawg in the future – it’s a process.
4. Quality and Competence. There is at least some ability to actually assess the quality and competence of your would-be lawyer to be. Those of us who blog/blawg are “out there”. You can take what we’ve written and ask your favorite friend attorney (who you don’t want to hire because you don’t want to mix personal and business or for some other reason), CPA, financial advisor, etc., what they think — or even research us on the web by seeing what other folks have to say about the same topic, or even about we’ve said about particular subjects. I’ve heard, and I suppose it’s true (and I know it is with me and doctors), that clients generally can never really evaluate whether their lawyer actually knows anything so they try to decide that based on other factors. Well now they can. And I would suggest that those of us willing to chance that scrutiny ought to be high on the list of any client.
5. Commitment to “the Law” Made Practical. Most of us would rather deal with someone who isn’t just “in it for the money”. We all believe that someone who ultimately cares about the product or service being provided “just because” it’s what they enjoy doing will offer superior service. Well, no one cares more about “the law” “in the real world” than lawyers/attorneys who blog/blawg. Who else would bother? We really are the folks who became lawyers because we were philosophically attracted to the questions law poses and tries to address every day. However, unlike our brethren and sistern who became law school professors, at the same time we desperately yearned to be always “relevant”.
Now, most of us have come to terms with the fact that our everyday existence and value to anyone has nothing much to do with the fundamental questions that attracted us to the profession in the first place. But we actually still do think about those questions from time to time and blogging/blawging may be a way for us to focus on those questions in a way that will ultimately benefit society at large, as well as clients in particular instances. Blogging/blawging is fundamentally more practical and pragmatic than traditional legal scholarship in the form of footnoted articles in law reviews and journals. Yet I think it has a place that will become more obvious over time to both those in academia and to the clients who only want to know what they should do today.
So there you have it. The blog/blawg IS fun for me to do, hopefully offers something of value to others, and makes me a better and more effective lawyer. What other reason would anyone need to do something? And why would you the client want to have anyone else looking after your important questions and concerns?