Lawyers and Blogging

An edited version of the following appeared in my Bits and Bytes column in the December 12, 2005 issue of Law Times News:

A blog or weblog is an online journal or newsletter that is kept on the Internet and updated frequently (usually daily). Blogs may contain original articles on a particular topic or may include a quote or link to a news story along with the blogger’s commentary. There are currently over 20 million blogs on the Internet with about 70,000 new blogs being created every day.

Although many of the popular search engines can be used to search material posted in blogs, a numbr of blog specific search tools have also been developed in order to provide more timely results. One of the better tools is Google’s BlogSearch (blogsearch.google.com/). Yahoo has also a blog searching capability in its news search tool (news.yahoo.com/). In both cases, it is possible to read commentary on news almost as it happens.

Blogs can be read on the web by visiting each individual site as one would do with any other web page. However, a more efficient approach is to use a blog reader or aggregator program to gather headlines from blogs of interest. Alternatively, personalized portal pages offered by Yahoo (my.yahoo.com) and Google (www.google.com/ig) have blog aggregation functionality and may be used to monitor both blogs as well as traditional news sources. In fact, many non-blog news sources (including Law Times News at www.lawtimesnews.com) now offer “RSS feeds” that can be used by Blog aggregator programs to conveniently monitor such publications for new articles.

In addition to being useful to monitor new developments, blogs can also be used as a marketing tool. Being a technology geek myself, one of my favorite blogs is published by Mark Evans (evans.blogware.com/blog), a journalist who covers the telecom and technology sectors for Canada’s National Post newspaper. Mark has done a great job of using his blog to expand his reputation by publishing relatively short daily news items without diluting the value of his longer and more in-depth news stories that appear in traditional media.

Blog publishing also appears to be catching on with lawyers. There are already Canadian legal blogs on bankruptcy, family law, employment law, immigration, elder law, franchise law and other practice areas. The trick to success is to pick a specialty topic, start early and post frequently.

An example of a Canadian lawyer who has found success in blog publishing is David T.S. Fraser of McInnes Cooper. David went live with his Canadian Privacy Law Blog (www.privacylawyer.ca/blog) on January 1, 2004 and has accumulated over 1,500 postings. His blog is visited by about 3,500 unique visitors each month and he’s developed a following that visit regularly.

According to David, the advantage of clients that find him through his blog is that they have issues that are related to the area in which he practices. He’s generated paying work from all over Canada and even from the United States, although he acknowledges that he also gets a lot of requests for free advice.

“For lawyers, I think blogging is just an extension of what many lawyers have already been doing for ages. Lawyers have always written articles, books, and produced current awareness services. Blogging is just a new way of doing these things” says David Fraser. “It takes less time than most people think to run the blog. I would already be spending time keeping up to date on new developments, so that isn’t any new investment of time.”