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Pretend the legal blogosphere is outer space. You’ve got the stars, which are bright and interesting, but then you’ve got the things you want to stay away from, like the black holes. Those stars – the interesting blogs – they shine a lot of light, and you enjoy looking at them. But the black holes – they’ve got an awful gravity that’ll weigh you down like a bowling ball. And where’s this awful gravity come from? Boredom.
Too many legal bloggers are too boring. Robert Ambrogi recently noted that fewer lawyers have blogs (according to an ABA survey), and I say “great!” That means fewer boring legal blogs. It’s natural selection at its “bloggiest” – you know "Survival of the fittest blogger."
For those toughing it out, trying to create more starlight and less dead weight, here’s 4 tips on being a less boring legal blogger:
Robots are great if you like science fiction, but for legal blogging, ugh! Many legal blogs sound top-down like of a machine product. Technical, academic, and overly structured. You’re giving your readers a law school textbook, and they don’t want that, at least not every day. Sure, this type of writing has its place, but at 100% efficiency? C’mon, give your inner-robot a little personality.
Getting personal doesn’t mean opening the floodgates of your inner self. No need to post your love letters or those birthday pics of your kids. It simply means loosening up, talking a little about yourself, maybe writing in the 1st person. Attorney Martha D. Burkhardt often slips a little personality into her legal blogs. In “No, You Cannot See Your Niece,” Martha speaks both in the 1st person and provides readers with a small glimpse into her life. She writes:
I apparently have reached the time in my life where I’m surrounded by babies. In addition to three new nieces recently, I’ve also been working with several new parents….
And in her June blog, “Do You Know What You Want?” Martha opens with this:
This weekend I had the pleasure of my sister coming into visit and spending a lot of time with two of my youngest nieces. Watching my siblings and listening to them take care their children really reminded me why I got into estate planning.
At first glance, a lot of legal blogs look like this to me:
Blah blah 1st Circuit blah blah legalese. Blah blah more legalese. Blah blah much more legalese blah blah.
Kind of like those old Charlie Brown cartoons, where the adults speak and all you hear is a bunch of gibberish. In his book, “How to Write Short,” Roy Peter Clark mentions the practice of “reading at a glance.” He says:
When you practice that single glance [of the entire text], you can begin to make predictions about how the reading will go.
Predicting is what I do when I “first glance” a legal blog. Too long? Maybe I’ll just skim it. Too wordy? Maybe I’ll quit after the first paragraph. Too technical? Maybe I’ll look elsewhere for the info.
The cure is to offer that first glance something eye catching and creative, whether it be an imaginative intro, a strong image or something better. Adam Banner of the Oklahoma Legal Group did something better. He created an infographic of the “Best Legal Movies of All Time” – an infographic that caught the eye of multiple sites, including LexisNexis, Above the Law and Screen Rant.
Get a Little Gritty
Stop walking on egg shells when you blog. Of course, you don’t want to offend your potential clients, but it’s okay to have an opinion, and an entertaining opinion at that. Quit writing x + y = z and start writing x + y = “This stinks!”
Two legal bloggers who are good at the gritty: Eric B. Meyer and Jon Hyman, both employment lawyers. Take for instance the final paragraph in Meyer’s recent blog, “Final Score: HIPAA 1 - Retaliation 0.” No soft and cuddly in this:
Failed lawsuit aside, I'm gonna say that Aldich's termination was a blessing in disguise. Having to endure your boss allegedly asking you to destroy litigation materials to cover her ass doesn't sound like my idea of a great workplace.
Eric’s just calling it like he sees it, and his bluntness is engaging. It’s the same for Jon, who expresses his feelings in this blog post, “The difference between alcoholism and drunk under the ADA”:
You are seldom in the wrong for firing an employee who’s drunk at work. It’s plain sad that we need a federal appellate court to remind us.
Jon doesn’t go vanilla; he lets you known that this stinks. He could’ve stopped with the first sentence, and the ending would’ve made sense, but it would’ve been sterile. Jon goes a step further. He pokes you in the chest with his finger and tells you “It’s plain sad ….”
John … Eric, I’m listening.
Honest is Awesome
Not calling anyone dishonest here – we’re all perfectly ethical. But sometimes, a blogger steps out from behind the curtain and lays it all out there, warts and all. It glues me to the computer screen and makes me yell, “You broke the mold!” And that’s good reading.
Want honest? Read Dustin Manwaring’s blog post “Deprioritize your professional advice.” Probably one of my favorite legal blogs ever because Dustin doesn’t say “hire me,” he says “wait to hire me.”
I want entrepreneurs and startups to succeed and putting limited resources toward paying me up front doesn’t bode well for being a long term client …. I’d rather see potential clients wait a few months so I can better help them make an informed decision …
Basically, Dustin’s saying that if you pay me now, you’re hurting yourself. How’s that for honest (and interesting)? It definitely got me listening.
Another lawyer who makes my point is Pete Reid, but he makes my point via video as opposed to blogging. Pete recently shot a commercial that’s arguably the greatest lawyer commercial ever. It’s clever, and it’s the antithesis of most lawyer commercials (no brooding attorneys, no balloon-sized dollar signs, no 30 second diatribe on protecting your rights). But it’s also honest because it portrays Pete as something more than a lawyer: he comes across as fun, funny and probably a heck of a good soccer player. I’d bet that he’s not only a great lawyer but a great person too. He’s honest about himself, and that’s somebody I’d like to connect with.
Read my other post on boring blogging: #1 cure for your bad legal blog: Quit being boring
Get your readers to involve. Host activities and polls also so that it doesn't get boring along the way. These can also help you increase your followers.