By Jim Dedman
The enthusiasm of a new law blogger is unparalleled. When a lawyer decides to blog, he or she has much to say and to offer potential readers. Often, the new legal blogger already has several – perhaps even half a dozen – potential posts in mind. In fact, it is that initial multitude of post ideas which prompts the desire to create a blog in the first place. But, inevitably, as days pass, weeks go by, and weeks become months, the initial joy of blogging – like most other things that once made us happy - becomes a chore. Sadly, the once promising blog evolves from a labor of love to a non-billable business development task, which typically falls to the bottom of the stack. After all, non-billable work – particularly tasks which do not involve direct contact with actual or potential clients – must come second, third, or even fourth to other such plans. This is why so many blogs die early deaths and why the legal blogosphere is full of blog graveyards.
Is there a solution to this problem? Or are most lawyers merely dilettantes fated to become deadbeat bloggers? How might lawyers guard against these issues?
There are potential remedies, yes.
First and foremost, you should ensure that your legal blog maintains a regular posting schedule. Giving yourself any discretion at all in the frequency of your posting will allow you to delay and procrastinate, and as we all know, delay and procrastination are the best friends of the busy lawyer. It need not be daily, it need not be weekly, but it must be regularly. Ideally, the legal blogger would update the blog at least once or twice a week. However, if that is not possible, one post each week, on the same day of the week, would be acceptable. Such an approach allows readers to know exactly when the site will be updated. Monthly is probably the worst of the permissible options, and anything less than monthly is really more of a newsletter than a blog anyway. Whatever the case, a regular posting schedule is a must. Stick to it.
It’s not easy being a solo blogger. Remember, though, that you can enlist friends and colleagues, from your firm, or from other firms, to assist you in this effort. If it is too much to post more than once a week, but you would like your blog to be updated more regularly, invite some contributors to join you in the enterprise. There are many group blogs that have operated for years and update frequently with the assistance of multiple authors, including The Volokh Conspiracy, and of course, I must mention my own firm’s blog, Abnormal Use. Spreading the work around lightens the burden on yourself, but it also ensures that the posts are different enough from each other in tone and style to keep the site interesting enough to its readers.
Ah, but you ask, how can you guarantee that your contributors will, in fact, contribute? That is the key question. If your firm has made a commitment to the blog, then participation can be a factor in discretionary compensation at the end of year, including bonuses or other reward plans. If associates are required – or strongly encouraged – to write articles legal publications, contribution to the firm’s blog can be made an option to meet that requirement.
If you are working with other lawyers at other firms, really, there is an honor system of sorts. The manager of any group blog composed of writer volunteers faces a tough task in that he or she must constantly follow up with contributors who may be tardy or delinquent in submitting their posts. One can’t be too forceful, either, because the volunteers are, well, volunteers, and if the task becomes to much of a hassle, they will simply abandon it, leaving the editor manager in a worse spot than before. But there can be rewards of sort for participation in the enterprise.
Really, though, the best way to motivate one’s blog and writers is to find lawyers who are writers and enthusiasts of writing first and foremost. They’re out there. Find the ones who use to write for their college newspaper or who may have once maintained personal blogs. Locate the people who derive joy from writing and the rest will come easy. But don’t stop there. Make efforts to promote their submissions, as well. Simply placing their article on the blog and waiting for readers to happen upon it is not enough; you must tweet a link to it on Twitter and post the submission on your blog or firm’s Facebook fan page, if any. Make certain that these writers know that you are doing that so that they can re-tweet or share your original Facebook post on their own Facebook wall or other favorite social networking sites. Finally, promote their work to other bloggers and websites. If you think a larger more popular blog may be interested in your writer’s post, forward it along with all deliberate speed. If you let your writers know that their posts are getting attention – and if you make certain that they get attention because of your efforts – then the enthusiasm that your writers maintain will continue to increase.
And as long as that enthusiasm remains, the blog should be fine.