Someone has to say it: some legal blogs really suck. Not only are they lame and boring, but they can be a drain on the firm. They suck valuable time and energy from the marketing/business development team and from the attorneys contributing to them.

Regardless of their quality, legal blogs are here to stay. Over 82% of the top AmLaw firms are embracing blogs as part of their marketing efforts. That’s not counting all the large, medium, small firm blogs out there. Blogs can increase business development, establish relationships, generate revenue, and be used as effective marketing tools. Or they can be an immense waste of time, energy and money – let’s just be honest here. A stale blog or a truly terrible site, does not serve the firm or the authors.

But if a big practice group or a top rainmaker comes to you and says, “I want to blog,” what are you to do?  As someone who talks blogs for a living, “I want to blog” are literally the best words I can hear. I get fired up. I want to talk strategy and ask about your niche, who are your influencers, what are your goals and how can I, oh, how can I help you make this awesome… (insert fist pump happy dance)

Nothing stops that little dance of joy faster than hearing the five following phrases. If you’re considering starting a blog for any of these reasons, it might be worth a pause:

  1. “Well, our competitors have one, so we need one”
    So what? They also use blue in their logo. Are you going to change your logo color?I’m all for beating your competition, but to start a blog just because your competition has one is doomed to fail. There is no passion or excitement in blogging to beat someone else’s blog. You aren’t showcasing your expertise or authority. Without passion, authority, and a unique perspective your blog is probably doomed.
  2. “We want to rank in the top 5 in Google searches.”
    What do you want to rank for? Got specific terms? (And please don’t say employment lawyer.) What will ranking on the front page do for you?It is certainly possible that blogging will push you to the top of the search rankings, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Being found in search really only helpful if your audience can’t find you another way. A better way to blog is to engage your audience. Write valuable content for them and then share it with them. Write content that someone else might want to share with a friend. Search rankings are fine but if you’re not engaging, they won’t help you much.
  3. “This seems like a quick easy way to show off my expertise.
    Oh, about that. Quick and easy, huh? Define quick? Define easy?   While I don’t think blogging is hard, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. Are you going to commit to keeping the blog up? Are you going to be consistent in posting your expertise? Are you going to share your posts out so that you build your audience up? Blogging is not hard and if done right, it doesn’t have to be a huge time investment, but make no mistake, it’s still a commitment and it can take up to a year to see real traction.
  4. “I need a spot to post case summaries.” 
    Ugh… I died a little inside. Let me ask you, when was the last time you got EXCITED to read a case summary? When was the last time you got SO EXCITED you shared it out with all of your closest friends and colleagues? Case summaries are fine but they’re boring and no one really wants to read them – including (maybe even especially) other lawyers. Anyone can write a case summary – it is not a value add. Your content should be doing the thinking for your readers. Provide takeaways, recommendations, next steps, proactive analysis or don’t bother.
  5. “We want to increase traffic to our website/practice group pages/attorney bios.”
    But why? Does your website/PGP/bio bring in tons of work? Does your phone ring off the hook after someone reads your practice group page or all about your JD? 

    Don’t get me wrong, a website done right can absolutely help to build credibility and trust with a firm or attorney. However, building trust is not the same as converting clients. AND more traffic doesn’t actually mean more clients, it just means more people have eyes on the site. Your blog has the ability to show your personality, your expertise and showcase your value as a problem solver. Using it as a tool to boost your traffic to a website seems a little short sighted.

I love blogs and I think when done right, they are immensely effective tools for building up your business. When they suck, they tend to suck up time, money and resources as well. If you’ve got someone who is looking to blog, I’d recommend asking them why and making sure that their answer is something along the lines of:

  • Because I want to better connect to my clients and potential clients
  • I’m fired up about (insert issue here)
  • I want to do business development better
  • I want to use the blog to network better
  • I think a blog is cool and want to learn about how to use it as a BD tool
  • I follow a bunch of blogs and I think I can do this

Really, there are a million reasons why blogging is a good idea and a million reasons someone would want to blog. As a marketer, if you’re given any of the 5 listed reasons above – I’d recommend having a conversation about what it takes to make a blog successful. The internet doesn’t need another lame blog.

Image provided by Unsplash user Andy Tootell