History of the Law Blog

Rise of Law Blogging and Legal News on the Internet

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 Once the “blog” became an entity on the internet, a wide variety of topic-themed blogs arose. In the early 1990s, some of the first blogs dedicated to legal content were created by lawyers who were interested in giving written commentary on legal issues they considered newsworthy. For example, in 2002, Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe, a husband and wife team who are both lawyers, founded SCOTUSblog. The blog “is devoted to covering the U.S. Supreme Court comprehensively, without bias and according to the highest journalistic and legal ethical standards.” Anyone who is interested in U.S. Supreme Court cases can turn to SCOTUSblog for information about writs of certiorari, oral arguments, and decisions. Indeed, as the founders of SCOTUSblog explain, “the blog generally reports on every merits case before the court at least three times: before argument, after argument, and after the decision.”

A few years later in 2006, Above the Law was founded and began posting a wide variety of stories about legal news law schools, and issues of interest to law students and lawyers. Some sources describe Above the Law as a legal website, while others have referred to it as a “legal gossip blog.” It has provided many different types of readers, over the last nearly 15 years, with information about newsworthy court cases, law school rankings, and other related information.

Online Marketing for Law Firms and the Blawg

As news blogs grew in popularity through the late 1990s and early 2000s, various companies began creating and using blogs to market their businesses. Law firms, too, started to get in on the action. An article published in DC Bar in 2005, designed for lawyers in the Washington, D.C., area, began with the simple question: “Do you blog?” At that point in time, blogs were not particularly common for law firms, yet some lawyers had begun to recognize their marketing potential. In 2001, Denise Howell, a technology lawyer, was one of the first attorneys to start this type of legal blog and coined the term “blawg.” Get it? It’s a blog about the law—a “blawg.” Yet four years later, many firms needed a nudge to get started on blogging.

However, blogging has caught on relatively quickly for lawyers and firms, especially as they learn to market themselves in new ways through social media and internet technologies. As more law firms began creating their own blogs and drafting legal content, marketing companies started to think about blogging platforms designed specifically for those law firms. While many firms use Hubspot, Wordpress, Wix, and other platforms that are not law-specific, a number of platforms have arisen that are in fact designed particularly for law firm blogs, such as AttorneySyn, JurisPage, and MyCase.

State of the Legal Blogging Industry Up to the Present

120px-Eñe_on_keyboard_-_greyRecognizing the industry of the legal blog, Above the Law created a conference designed specifically for legal bloggers, marketers, law firms, and anyone else involved in the industry of the “blawg.” The Attorney@Blog Conference started In 2014, and it has featured many kinds of panels and participants. For example, the conference has provided CLE courses for lawyers on-site, as well as panels of interest to specific groups of attorneys like the LGBT Bar Association. Yet it has also offered panels for businesses, marketing firms, and technology companies that could have a stake in the world of legal blogging.

Currently, the American Bar Association (ABA) maintains a list of active legal blogs in the U.S., described as the ABA Journal Blawg Directory. To give you a sense of the expansiveness of the legal blogging industry in the U.S. alone, the directory includes more than 4,500 law blogs that are “continually updated.” Canadian legal bloggers may know about the “Clawbies,” or annual awards given to Canadian legal blogs.

In 2020, legal blogs have become popular among lawyers, law students, journalists, legal commentators, and public readers more broadly. If you’ve seen any news stories about the relevance of certain U.S. Supreme Court cases, for example, you might have run a quick search for a case only to see a website like SCOTUSblog pop up as the first link in the list to click. Or, if you’ve looked on the internet for information about a particular legal issue, you may have been directed to a law firm’s blog, seeking to interest potential new clients and to establish the firm’s expertise in that particular area of the law. In short, legal blogs are extremely prevalent on the internet in 2020, and they’re visited by many different kinds of readers. Some of those “blawgs” are intended to expand public knowledge, while others are designed as marketing tools for a law firm. And those aims, of course, are not the only ones for creators of law blogs.

Ultimately, if you are involved in the legal industry in any capacity, developing a blog can be beneficial in various ways and ultimately may reach thousands of readers. More than ever before, legal blogs give readers an opportunity to gain information about legal issues and law firms with just a few clicks.

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How to Start a Legal Blog

Register Your Domain Name

A basic and essential first step for any law firm blog is to register a domain name for your legal blog. Before you do so, it’s important to understand why you need a domain name. A domain name is the unique address for your law firm’s blog. It’s the web address that any user will enter into the browser bar to search for your legal blog, and it’s the web address that will show up in that browser address bar when someone clicks on the homepage for your blog. For example, a domain name might be something like: MyLawBlog.com. You might be asking yourself: isn’t this my website? It’s important to know that there’s a difference between a domain name and a website. The domain name is the internet address for your website, while your website is the content that people can read (i.e., your blogs).

Next, you’ll need to consider whether you want a separate domain name for your blog or whether you will want a subdomain within your law firm’s website. A separate domain name would be something like the example above: MyLawBlog.com. A subdomain or subfolder within your law firm’s website is a bit different. If your law firm already has the domain name SmithLawFirm.com, then a subdomain for your blog would be something like blog.SmithLawFirm.com, while a subfolder would have an address such as SmithLawFirm.com/blog.

There are benefits and limitations to both approaches. Both can have backlinks to your other blog posts and can link to your law firm’s content. In some cases, a subdomain or subfolder can be better for search engine optimization (SEO), but the American Bar Association (ABA) and local ethics rules for marketing or advertising may place additional limits on blogs as subdomains or subfolders as opposed to stand-alone domains.

Set Up Web Hosting for Your Law Firm’s Blog

After you’ve registered your domain name, you will need to set up web hosting for your legal blog. If you already have a website for your law firm, you may know a little bit about a web host, or a web hosting service provider. In brief, a web hosting service provider is a business that houses your website and allows it to be viewable to readers on the internet. A web hosting service provider gives your website a “home” of sorts on the internet. Without a web hosting service, it can be difficult for potential clients to search for your website or to locate any of the blogs you will be posting. Accordingly, without a web hosting service, your blog may not reach its intended audience.

In sum, a web hosting service provides the technology that allows the content you are creating to find the readers you are imagining for your blog posts. There are a wide variety of web hosting service providers from which you can choose. There are some web hosting services that require you to have purchased a domain name in advance, while others allow you to buy a domain name from the web hosting service. Like we discussed above, you’ll want to think carefully about whether a separate domain name is best for your law blog, as opposed to a subdomain or subfolder connected to your law firm’s website. For many firms, making the decision to start a blog can be a catalyst for overhauling your law firm’s website and working with a better web hosting service provider.

Know the ABA, CBA, and Local Rules for Blogging Ethics

Now, we want to move beyond some of the technical matter for creating a law blog to developing content. The American Bar Association (ABA), the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), and other national organizations for lawyers have ethics rules and requirements when it comes to advertising or marketing, and many of these ethics rules apply to law blogs. In addition, the state or province in which you are licensed to practice law likely has its own set of ethics rules pertaining to marketing and advertising.

You do not want to run afoul of the ethics rules that limit what you can put in a law blog. Most of these rules relate to promises you might make to potential clients about outcomes, revealing information about past cases without obtaining consent, or advertising expertise in an area of the law without requisite certification. 

Develop a Roadmap for Your Posts

Certainly, you can simply begin writing a legal blog with content for your firm once you have the technical aspects in place, from registering a domain name to setting up web hosting for the blog. Yet the best law firm blogs—as with any business blog—are those that begin with a clear framework in mind. When you prepare for a negotiation or get ready for a trial, you know how important it is to have an overarching narrative in mind with key points you want to get across to your audience. The same is true for your law firm’s blog. As such, you’ll want to think through a roadmap for the content you want to create before you actually develop it. As you put together a roadmap, you should also keep in mind that nothing on a blog is set in stone. Unlike print publications, you can make revisions to improve the content along the way.

  • Know why you are starting a blog for your firm: When you are in the early stages of starting a law blog and are beginning to think about the type of content you want to create, you should keep the “why” in mind—why are you blogging? Your blog topics should speak to that “why” in distinct ways, and you should think about different types of blogs that can help you to reach your goals. For example, some blogs may be “evergreen” posts that are not time-specific or newsworthy, but rather answer potential client questions that your readers may continue to have for many months and years to come. On the flip side, you may consider blogging about newsworthy legal issues that could draw clients interested in joining a new class action claim, for example, to your firm.
  • Consider your reader: Always keep your reader in mind. If you are blogging for potential clients, you want to think about the persona of that client and what type of information that potential client is seeking. You can also take advantage of certain “readability” tools, for example, provided by your web hosting service to ensure that your content is suited for your reader.
  • Think about your voice and tone: As you consider your reader, make sure your voice and tone have that potential client in mind. Most likely, a potential client without any background in the law does not want to read legalese. Rather, most potential clients will want to know that you have the requisite knowledge to assist them while also being able to explain legal issues and answers to legal inquiries in a straightforward fashion.

Creating a Blog Calendar

You should create a blog posting calendar in which you think about the specific content of your upcoming blogs, and in which you schedule them to post. As we mentioned above, you’ll want to have a roadmap that helps you to target your ideal reader. In so doing, you will want to plan out a series of blog posts that provide answers to questions your reader may have, inform your reader of specific legal issues they may be seeking out, and ultimately clarify why your firm is in an excellent position to assist them.

As you develop the roadmap for your blog posts, you should integrate your posting calendar. As with any good piece of legal writing, you’ll want to think about the order of the blog posts and the way in which they related to one another. Do not schedule your blogs to post all at once, but instead consider a calendar in which 2-3 blogs post each week.

Write and Publish the First Blog Post

The final step in starting a blog for your law firm is simply writing and publishing your first post. If you do not see immediate results from your law blogs, you should not necessarily worry. Blogging is a long-term investment, and it can take months (and sometimes years) before your content begins to generate the type of interest you want, and in the end the investment in time and energy will be worth it. Many marketing firms offer services to law firms seeking to expand their internet presence and can discuss your options with you for getting your law blog started.

Different Types of Law Blogs

Evergreen Blogs

What is evergreen content? If you’re familiar with evergreen trees and other plans, you may know that they have their name because, appropriately, have foliage during all seasons and are always green—hence the name “evergreen.” Similarly, evergreen blogs or evergreen content is material that is always relevant, or always feels applicable to a reader who encounters it for the first time. Evergreen content doesn’t get “stale” in just a few weeks or a few months. Rather, this kind of content can be developed by writers and accessed by readers for years to come. Any legal blog should have at least some evergreen content if it wants to continue drawing readers to the site, and relying on older blog posts to continue driving that traffic. Blogging does not typically have an immediate payoff, but it certainly pays off over time. For example, you may post a blog in June 2020 that only gets a handful of clicks or “hits” in the weeks and months immediately after you post it, but within a year or two, it could be one of the most widely read blogs on your site that drives thousands of readers to your blog on a regular basis.

With that idea in mind, what does evergreen content look like for a legal blog? As you might imagine, evergreen content will be different depending upon the type of blog or website where it appears. Typically, evergreen content on a law blog will contain information that will still be relevant to readers a year from now (or even longer). Evergreen articles or blogs for a criminal law firm, for example, might include topics like “Understanding Misdemeanor and Felony Penalties,” or “Consequences of a Driver’s License Suspension.” For business law blogs, evergreen content might contain articles with topics like “How to Choose a Business Structure” or “Choosing Between a C-Corp and an S-Corp.” In theory, the information contained in these types of posts will not change, and it will remain applicable.

Newsworthy Topics and Trends in the Law

You might also want to include blogs about newsworthy topics to help readers locate your firm if they’re seeking information about a recent legal issue or change to the law. When you create blogs about newsworthy topics, you can also attract clients who may be searching for information about that news issue. For example, a lawyer who runs a personal injury law practice that focuses on nursing home neglect might want to plan blogs about recent allegations of elder abuse against facilities in the same geographic region. A resident of that facility, or a person with a relative in that nursing home, might run an internet search to find information about abuse allegations against that particular facility. If your law firm’s blog has a post about the allegations against that facility, your post might come up in a search, and you may be contacted by a potential client who wants to learn more about options for filing a lawsuit against that facility.

Newsworthy topics can also lean more toward trends in the law, such as recently published studies or decided cases, or new legislation in your area. For example, if you run a family law blog in your state and a new study on divorces appeared in a peer-reviewed psychology journal, you may want to craft a blog post discussing that article. Other family law attorneys, as well as potential and current clients, may be interested in learning about the study. Similarly, for example, if you are an employment lawyer, it can be beneficial to blog about new employment law statutes or cases in your state in order to show other attorneys and potential clients that you’re engaged in dialogue in your field. These kinds of blogs can demonstrate that you’re constantly engaging in relevant legal issues and are up-to-date on changes in the legal field.

When you’re blogging about newsworthy topics or trends in the law, it’s important to be quick. Unlike evergreen content, this material will not remain “fresh” for readers as the evergreen posts will. As such, you should be thinking about these types of blogs as timely posts that can help to draw traffic to your firm’s website while the topic itself remains newsworthy and relevant.

Firm Updates and News

Some legal blogs will also have posts that include updates about the firm, and news about lawyers working at the firm. These types of blogs can be helpful for attracting potential clients, as well as for attracting new lawyers to the practice. For example, a blog post about a firm update might alert readers that one of the partners was named to a community advisory board, or was selected as a “Super Lawyer” or “Rising Star” in the area where the lawyer practices.

These types of blogs can be particularly helpful for attracting potential clients who may have already done a bit of research into your firm. In addition, posts that provide information about firm updates and news can also appeal to other lawyers who are thinking about moving from a larger firm to a smaller or midsize firm like yours. Indeed, if you’re currently hiring new associates, or if you’re looking to expand your firm, brief articles that provide information about the firm and its successes may also help you to grow your business.

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Writing Blogs with Clients in Minds

When you’re writing blogs with clients in mind, you are likely thinking about ways of attracting new clients and supporting interest from existing clients. For both potential and existing clients, you should be asking yourself: what kind of information are these readers seeking, and how will they find that information? In other words, what content do potential and existing clients want, and what keywords will they enter into an internet search to locate that content?

Not all potential and existing clients will be searching for the same type of information, of course. When it comes to attracting potential new clients, you should start thinking like that potential client who is seeking out legal representation. The type of content you produce will depend upon the type of legal field in which you practice, as well as the reasons that a potential new client will be seeking legal representation. For example, if you are a lawyer who routinely handles large-scale class action claims and are seeking new clients for a data breach class action claim, you can imagine that a potential new client might be seeking out: 1) information about lawsuits pertaining to that class action in the news; 2) general facts about how to file a class action lawsuit; 3) attorneys who are well reviewed by other lawyers and previous clients; and 4) contact details for attorneys in their specific area who are managing class actions.

So, what types of posts might attract those potential clients? You can imagine that some blogs about news stories pertaining to class action claims for data breaches might be of interest to a potential new client, especially if it can bring that client from knowledge-gathering about class action lawsuits in the news to your law firm’s website. At the same time, potential new clients might want general information about how and why to file a class action claim. As such, evergreen content on class actions might appeal to a reader. For instance, you might consider a couple of blog posts with information on “How to File a Class Action Lawsuit,” or “Who Qualifies for a Class Action Claim.” If you’re hoping to target readers in a particular geographic region, you should include geographic keywords in that evergreen content. Finally, blogs about firm updates or lawyer awards can help to show a potential client that your firm is engaged in the field and is well respected among lawyers in the community. Of course, any blog content should give potential clients a way to contact your firm.

Existing clients may be looking for similar information, yet they might be searching in a slightly different way. For example, an existing client might want to know that you are staying up-to-date on the legal topic. Newsworthy blog posts, as well as some of that evergreen content, may appeal to existing clients. Moreover, blogs that highlight firm achievements can also solidify an existing client’s knowledge that they’ve hired the right lawyer for their legal issue.

Writing Blogs with Other Lawyers in Mind

While you may be hoping to reach clients with your blog, you might also be thinking about the ways in which other lawyers may be engaging with your posts. In most cases, legal blogs written with other lawyers in mind are designed with a couple of potential purposes. First, blogs can allow lawyers to engage in dialogue with other practitioners on a particular issue, such as a new piece of legislation or a recent case ruling. While legal scholars might engage in this kind of conversation with one another through law review and other journal articles, practitioners may develop this kind of discourse through blog posts. Accordingly, if you’re writing a blog with the aim of attracting other lawyers for purposes of research and scholarly conversation, you might consider analytical articles that discuss recent changes to the law.

At the same time, you might be imagining a reader who is also an attorney considering a firm change. In other words, if you’re hoping to attract new talent to your law firm, you might demonstrate your expertise in a particular area of the law, or your frequent engagement in contemporary and relevant legal issues, by writing posts to show potential hires that your law firm can provide a fresh and exciting work environment. Lawyers at very large firms, in particular, might want to move to a smaller or midsize firm in order to handle significant cases and to develop stronger relationships with clients and colleagues. You can keep this type of reader in mind when drafting posts about legal trends and legal analysis.

Regional Specificities and Law Blogs

As you think about your target reader, you’ll also want to be thinking in terms of geographic interest. If you’re aiming to gain new local readership and you’re thinking of “local” as being state-specific, then you’ll want to craft your blogs to be state-specific, as well. For instance, if you want to target potential clients in California and California alone, posts about issues in Florida or New York are unlikely to attract attention from clients who are running searches focused on California. Similarly, you may routinely handle appeals for a particular region such as the area covered by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. If this is the case, you’ll want to target readers in the region as opposed to in a particular state.

If you’re a nationally recognized lawyer and you handle cases across state lines, you’ll likely want to think less about state-specific or regionally specific posts and more about the subject matter. For example, you might be a class action attorney who handles cases from across the U.S. In a scenario like this, the regional focus of your blog posts may be less important than the specific subject matter. At the same time, you may also want to consider multiple blog posts on the same topic that target readers in a variety of geographic regions. For instance, you might write several posts pertaining to the potential for a class action lawsuit over a data breach, and each of those blogs might be focused on readers in a specific state or geographic region. As such, you could end up with multiple articles about data breaches, but each focused on a particular city, state, or province.

Finally, you’ll want to have an idea of what type of searches your regionally specific reader might run. For example, many American internet users who are searching for legal representation will use the words “lawyer” and “attorney” interchangeably, while most Canadian readers will search for “lawyer” as opposed to looking for posts about an “attorney,” a “barrister,” or a “solicitor.” The key is to know your intended audience, and to target your intended audience accordingly.