Brown

Technorati.com claims that at the end of last year, over 57 million blogs were active on the Internet. Marketing experts argue that despite this substantial number, blogging (or "blawging") is a necessary activity in the branding of a law firm's uniqueness.

Blogs are user-generated Web sites in which entries are written in a journal style, but the comments are displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs were created to provide the latest news on a particular subject, but most sites operate as personal diaries describing the interests and concerns of everyday people. Social media has been transformed now that blogging is being used as a corporate tool, with lawyers turning individual clients into members of communities.

Law firm blogs build and strengthen relationships through the sharing of knowledge in specific practice areas. Law blogs also are used to announce such things as verdicts and firm success stories, legal articles and reviews, and changes in legislation. Marketers say this is the newest way to talk to target audiences, providing a friendlier venue for client communication. Consultants fear that numerous voices and opinions projected through a firm's Web site could create a perception of disorganization and chaos.

Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog.com believes that legal commentary and insight is critical to every law firm's success.

"Law firms should no longer worry about being taken seriously when blogging," he writes. "Americans are accepting blogs as part of the fabric of our society."

O'Keefe's statement stems from concerns that important issues are being treated carelessly when discussed in a casual forum such as Web logs. To that end, advisers suggest that law firms continue producing newsletters, e-alerts and annual reports, and to treat blogs as an expansion of Web site marketing. When managed properly and written correctly, legal blogs can project author articulation, industry intelligence, and technical sophistication.

Too much of a good thing causes problems though, as in the case of a New Jersey law firm, which nearly lost its insurance coverage due to blog material. The carrier told members of the firm that they could not cover the firm's Web site if blogging continued, viewing the ongoing conversations as a liability since content could be perceived as legal advice.

With all of the necessary disclaimers in place, a legal blog can help a lawyer build professional credibility and expertise if reliable, quality information is posted. The outcome is the achievement of client loyalty, a return on an investment of time. As one critic argued, Web blogs are easy and inexpensive to start, but extremely difficult and time consuming to maintain. The jury is still out on a firm's financial gain after launching practice blogs, but when compared to the publication of glossy brochures and firm magazines, one thing is certain: Talk is cheap.

Brown is the managing member of and senior writer for The Write Word LLC. Once a legal marketing executive, she now works as a communications consultant, teaching courses in English grammar, business correspondence, public speaking, and professional etiquette. For more information, visit www.thewritewordllc.com.

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