It’s surprising how many good legal blogs there are out there. Lawyers are one of the few professions where good writing seems to occur naturally.
Now, if you tell your legal staff that, they’re likely to look around going “What, me, a writer?” But it’s true; the level of literary skills necessary to practice law puts you ahead of many professions out there. Lawyers spend a lot of their time thinking about the correct, precise way to say things, which is the foundation of legal English semantics. It also happens to make for educational, informative content.
At the same time, legal blogs that aren’t necessarily done for content marketing are still good blogging just for the fun of it. When a lawyer blows off steam, stand back! It’s illuminating to see a side of someone they don’t show in client meetings or in front of a bench.
We’re going to explore some of the best legal blogs we’ve discovered, on both a professional and a recreational basis. Use these as jumping-off points for your own law firm digital marketing strategy. We’re going to explore many different approaches one can take because the law field is huge with ample niches that make interesting blog topics.
Why Won’t Digital Marketers Shut Up About Blogs?
We admit it, we get tired of hearing ourselves saying it. “Content is king,” blog blog blog.
But here’s a chain of arguments that form the incontrovertible conclusion that blogging must be part of your digital marketing strategy:
- You need to reach people where they spend the most time: the Internet
- Google is the main search engine of the Internet
- Google operates by having users type in text and then matches that text to web pages
- The only way Google can do that is by finding web pages with lots of words on them
And not just any words, but relevant words. Here is Google’s own Matt Cutts, probably one of the most brilliant computer engineers of our time, giving you a very concise example of the importance of a blog.
Let’s go over that again: Site A was getting no traffic and used its website as a virtual brochure. Their text was mostly nothing but a sales pitch. Site B was in the same industry but got a top ranking. They had a lot of content on the site that was informative about what they do, how to do it, and why things are how they are in their niche.
Users aren’t going to type generic marketing boilerplate terms into the search engine. They want to know the answers to their queries. This works the same way for every industry. Type in “how do I bake bread?” Bam, recipe blogs! Amazing system, isn’t it? As the internet has evolved, and the adoption of voice assistant technologies has increased, search queries have become more natural.
Of course, the most useful and informative resources on the web for a given industry get cross-linked and re-shared and cited whenever anybody asks a question on Quora or Reddit. They get bookmarked and shared on social media. Google uses this activity to rank how useful a site is to users, so it knows to bring that link up to other users with the same query in the future. And thus is born the concept of a “thought leader,” a recognized expert on a topic.
If you didn’t realize, what I just described is how blogging supports search engine optimization (SEO). To ensure that you rank at the top of the search engine result page (SERP), you need to create content, like blogs, to get there. When you create relevant, in-depth, and high-quality content that actually answers people’s questions, you’ll be able to secure the top spots on the SERP. The quality of your content, links from other websites, the actual time spent on site, are all queues that tell Google that your webpage is worth reading. We’re not going to dive into SEO in this article, but you should read “What are the Benefits of SEO?” to learn more about how SEO can help you attract more clients.
So, now we’re going to explore some legal thought leaders on the web. Let them be inspirations to you and your business marketing plan, but also appreciate the rich diversity of the legal niche and the many ways it can be made interesting.
We swear, Google didn’t intend to launch a secret global conspiracy to turn every business owner into a journalist. It just worked out that way. If your business came along back when radio first came out, your battery company would be saddled with managing George Burns and Gracie Allen. All you have to do now is write a few paragraphs once a week. You’ve got this!
#1 THR, Esq.: Lawsuits of the Stars
THR, Esq., is a sub-blog of The Hollywood Reporter, maintained by senior editor Eriq Gardner. It covers lawsuits and other legal squabbling within the entertainment industry. The stories covered range from the gravely serious, like Harvey Weinstein’s many accusers, to the lighthearted, like the dispute over Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars series or a dispute over a mashup work combining Dr. Seuss with Star Trek.
The sometimes-fun stories illuminate the intricacies of media law in all its variance, including copyright, FCC communications, IP disputes, First Amendment rights, performer contract disputes, and fair use laws. The Star Trek / Dr. Seuss mashup lays out the case where Dr. Seuss Enterprises charges that the work violates its copyright, while defenders of the crowdsourced project counter that it counts as a legally-protected parody. The laws governing mashups pertain to other kinds of media, such as when a music artist samples tracks in another musician’s song for their own song. It’s the kind of new media story we never would have seen twenty years ago.
While THR, Inc., is not marketing for a law firm, we’re putting it upfront because it’s an example of how lively and colorful talking about the law can be. If your firm touches anywhere on media-related litigation, this could be your blog (well, a similar blog like this). Just reporting news within your industry and applying a lawyer’s-eye view to the ins and outs of cases can make the subject come alive to the public.
The legal industry suffers from a bit of an image problem in the public’s mind. People think of the law as a dull topic, to be avoided until circumstances beyond your control literally drag you into a courtroom. You tell people that you’re reading a legal blog and they’ll imagine it’s somebody droning about tort reform or whatever. But THR Esq. turns that around to The Simpsons and Fortnite dancing, fun stuff!
#2 TaxProf Blog: Not As Taxing As You Would Think
Now, let’s talk about not one but two subjects that most people would want to avoid, and then add them together. You get TaxProf Blog, a legal blog about tax law maintained by professor Paul L. Caron at Pepperdine’s school of law. Say the phrase “tax law” out loud at your next social gathering and see if people don’t scoot away from you just an inch. But that’s one very good reason to blog this topic. With the exception of people who’ve moved to the Principality of Sealand or otherwise declared themselves sovereign, taxes impact us all, as do the laws under which they’re collected and spent.
The blog does wander a bit in topic, sometimes talking about general tax topics or general legal topics without necessarily delving into the intersection between the two. But a quick skim is an eye-opening experience, with subjects like the political controversy over the Earned Income Credit, the impacts of a federal government shutdown on tax policy, or the pretty scary tale of the campaign of coercion against a Colombian consumer advocate who proposed a 20-cent tax on pop.
It turns out tax law stories do make for good headline news. No doubt, your local Facebook activist has probably shared stories about Wal-Mart’s alleged overseas tax havens or pharmaceutical giant Pfizer-Allergan’s alleged attempts to set up the same.
News that impacts us all is fascinating to the more socially-aware, even if it isn’t in the most exciting topic. Many a law professional has some spark of passion that started them on their career path in the first place; they wanted to fight injustice, side with consumers against big corporations, or preserve the integrity of the Constitution. Sharing the relevancy of that field with the audience today helps them see why it matters to you, and how it impacts them.
Don’t be afraid to take the most boring niche legal specialty in the world and write about it. Digital audiences actually thrive on learning about these specialized niches. In fact, it’s far easier to become an industry thought leader in a little-discussed niche. Every year, there are people who need legal help with their taxes (those radio commercials you hear about tax relief are advertising to them), so the subject is very relevant to them and there are very few resources to find.
#3 SCOTUSBlog : Big Court, High Stakes
The Supreme Court of the United States is definitely no stranger to the news headlines. SCOTUSBlog is regularly cited as one of the best law blogs, even winning the ABA’s Silver Gavel Award and the Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media. Visit any legal blog (web parlance: “blawg”) old enough to practice the old-fashioned art of linking to one’s blogroll, and SCOTUSBlog is likely to be on the list.
Obviously, covering Supreme Court news is a field ripe for compelling stories and attention-grabbing headlines. Topics include qualified immunity and police involved in shootings, the issue of faithless electors in a democracy, and the law as applied to mobile robocalls. Of course, there are political issues discussed on every other page, since we are talking about a major branch of the government, after all.
With such a high-profile blog with so many contributors, it is difficult to recommend that a small practice try to emulate this example. It is, however, a gold standard to strive for.
Perhaps you don’t have the resources or skills to cover the federal Supreme Court and win Peabody awards, but there are 50 state supreme courts that could be covered in a similar fashion. There is also no reason why you can’t work off the publicly-available docket of your local county or municipal court and offer commentary on cases compelling to the public. In fact, doing so would give your website a bit higher profile when it comes to local clients seeking a law firm.
#4 Popehat: Irreverent Fun
This is one of those “lawyers blowing off steam” blogs we were talking about. Popehat is led by Ken White and a team of assistants, originally aimed at discussing free speech / First Amendment issues, but has eventually turned to a snark-party about all law in general. These days Ken White does more spots on other blogs and links to them from his own.
Popehat has been around for over 15 years as of this writing, curating a reputation as a sassy tart on the legal blog circuit. They rose to fame through coverage of the legal dispute between an online humor website and a webcomic, the FTC’s takedown of an online extortion scam, and the long-running saga of the legal field’s own disbarred circus clown, Jack Tompson. With archives extending back through that much time, it makes great binge-worthy Sunday reading. Pretty much every legal story that has had the Internet in an uproar over the 21st century is covered there.
What’s so special about Popehat? Anyone can theoretically run this kind of show, provided they have the restraint to keep the posts tasteful and always aimed at acceptable targets. Ken White is an actual, practicing lawyer even now, so this goes to show you can be the funny legal blogger and still have a career. Albeit, he did go incognito in the early days of the site. Blogs came out in about 2002, so this makes Popehat one of the earliest pioneers of blogging, period, let alone legal blogging. We can afford him, then, some discretion in not being sure of the rules of the blogging game early on. Popehat is senior enough to have claim to writing the rules.
At the same time, even if you’re tackling the kinds of trivial peccadilloes that the Internet tends to care about, you can still show off your J.D. with serious and insightful legal commentary. Whether talking about a video game fight or mocking conspiracy theories around a terrorist incident, you can still dish up a valid legal opinion.
#5 Canna Law Blog: Find a New Niche and Claim It
Last, we turn to the budding (sorry!), or rather fast-growing, cannabis industry. It still seems funny to even say that out loud, but various states in the U.S. plus Canada have legalized marijuana not just for medical use, but for recreational purposes as well. Since this created a brand new industry in which not a living soul is an expert, the firm at Harris | Bricken stepped up to produce Canna Law Blog, about the legal aspects of consumers and businesses in the cannabis industry.
And how fascinating this industry is! It turns out cannabis companies, from cultivators to dispensaries to directories, have the same legal needs as any other industry. They get subpoenaed by the Fed, haggle over non-compete clauses, and even file for bankruptcy. Which has to make us wonder, if you can sell actual drugs and still not make the business work, is the entrepreneur path really right for you?
Despite the subject matter, Canna Law Blog treats this industry with the seriousness it warrants. States which have legalized marijuana have seen billions of dollars in taxable revenue pouring in. Meanwhile, because of the complicated status of cannabis law (still illegal as far as federal law is concerned), the cannabis industry is under-served and struggles to deal with commercial necessities such as insurance or point-of-sale systems. This is practically the only site on the web even bridging the subject.
We’re putting this here as a clear example of jumping into an industry niche. It doesn’t have to be cannabis, nor does it even have to be that new.
Another example of filling a niche is GrokLaw, by paralegal Pamela Jones, a venerated legal blogger whose niche is litigation pertaining to free and open-source software. Maybe not the most exciting topic at first whiff, but she did trace the legal shaping of the technology we now know today behind the WordPress blogging platform and the Android mobile operating system, as well as high-profile cases between Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, IBM, and other Silicon Valley heavy-hitters. If you’re not a tech geek, you’ve likely not heard of GrokLaw, but tech geeks never miss an entry.
GrokLaw was launched in 2003, so it’s even more innovative as one of the first legal blogs on the Internet, at a time when most people didn’t even know what a blog itself was.
The lesson here is the same as Canna Law Blog: Do one thing very well, and you almost can’t help but succeed. There are dozens of legal niches in industries still waiting to have a voice. There are emerging cultures, start-up businesses, evolving industries, and subcultures waiting in the wings. They can get their proverbial “day in court” and have their day in the public eye on your platform, while you gain exposure and respect in the legal industry.
Are You Ready to Start Your Legal Blog?
Oh, so much! We have learned that the law can be entertaining, relevant, exciting, intriguing, or engaging. Most of all, we’ve learned that blogging in the context of content marketing puts a legal expert on the map like no other route to media fame in the 2020s. If your law firm runs a legal blog as a public information resource, that almost counts as “pro bono” work and your marketing budget at the same time.
When you blog, not only are you demonstrating your expertise, you’re also helping your law firm climb to the top of the search engine results page. Blogging is a fundamental component of any SEO strategy. When people hit the Internet, looking for answers to their pressing legal questions, they’ll find your blog. So, don’t think of blogging as a waste of time or something that you do for fun. It’s a tried-and-true marketing strategy that will get you more legal clients.
If you want to learn more about SEO, read our article “The Ultimate Guide to SEO.” Or if you want to talk about developing a digital marketing strategy for your law firm, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help.