advice you can use — short and to the point — every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 technology  research  practice

  • Practice

With the 10 year anniversary of Wise Law Blog rapidly approaching  this April, my thoughts have turned recently to the nuts and bolts of law blogging.

There are numerous articles online about the virtues of law blogging, and all the benefits becoming a blogger can bring to you and your firm.

These positives include increased profile, better optimization for your firm’s website, and the genuine professional advantage of being current and engaged in topics of interest to you and your clients.

There is somewhat less guidance online, however, on “how to blog.” Not surprisingly, this is a question new writers often struggle with. I thought I would provide a couple of Tips therefore, on law blogging itself.

So here we go, with tips on becoming a law blogger.

  • Both Blogger and WordPress provide free platforms for blogging. The set up is intuitive and simple, and should not be an obstacle to anyone who has managed to make it through law school.
  • Keep it simple. Do not try to write a textbook within every blog post. People who are looking for textbooks will read textbooks. Pick one narrow topic, address one recent issue or developments in the law, and describe it concisely in plain, readable English.
  • Many of the best blog posts are short, often no more than five or six paragraphs. Some excellent blog posts can be only one or two sentences long. Less really can be more. Try it!
  • Clever headlines attract readers, but you should take care to ensure your headline has some relationship to the content of your article.
  • While I would not propose a specific “formula” for writing your blog posts, do consider including the following information:

1. Identify the legal development your post relates to – e.g. “In a landmark decision yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that….”

2. Explain why this development matters, and give examples of the changes that may flow from it – e.g. “The Court’s ruling brings major changes to the law of ___, as we have known it. As an example, Canadians will now be able to…”

3. Include an excerpt from the relevant court ruling, press release, or other primary document your blog article is describing. Try to limit your excerpt to a paragraph or two.

4. State your opinion about this development. Is it a positive or negative? Consider the possible ramifications of this development and employ your crystal ball to let your readers know what may lie ahead.

5. Close with a personal observation or pithy comment that brings it all home to the reader.

6. Always include hyperlinks to all cases, statutes, releases and journalistic materials you are citing. Ensure the hyperlinks are programmed to open in a separate window, so that your reader will not lose her place in your article if she travels to another site to view one of your references.

7. Give credit where credit is due. If you became aware of this development because of another blog article or newspaper story, give a bit of link love to the original writer. At its best, blogging is a dialogue between various writers, each providing a specific insight and often commenting, pro or con, on the opinions of other writers on the same topic.

A few other pointers:

  • Don’t plagiarize, post photos or graphics you are not authorized to use, or run afoul of the ethical duties that remain applicable to you, online and offline.
  • And fergawdsake, don’t even think about letting a ghost writer near your blog!
  • Avoid sweeping, general comments about the macro state of the law. There will likely be at least two dozen cases at least partially to the contrary. Be careful.  Be accurate.
  • Be considerate of your reader by being interesting. The purpose of a blog post is to educate, entertain, or even provoke. Your post is not intended to be a substitute for prescription sleeping medications.
  • Don’t worry about the Google machine when you write. Avoid keyword stuffing and other similar tricks. They tend to make blogs robotic and unreadable, and they don’t really work as optimizing strategies, anyways. If your content successfully addresses your topic, the important phrases and keywords will naturally find their way into your content in a way that Google and humans alike will appreciate.
  • Finally, be yourself. The more you write, the more comfortable you will be utilizing your new, online voice.

The most engaging blogs are those where readers come to have a personal connection with the writer. Those are the blogs that people naturally return to, because they are interested in the writers’ takes and thoughts on legal developments as they happen.

Good luck and happy blogging!

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto