blogging annual report 2014-page0001

The drone-y little stats monkeys at WordPress have done it again, providing a wealth of detail about this blog’s performance in the past year. You can read the complete report here.

Here’s a little of their overly kind blogbabble:

“Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. There were 623 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 183 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per day.”

Nice, right? But as I am committed to transparency, I must admit: The numbers disappoint me. And that is because blog readership is down.

I can hear your jaw hitting the floor, your disbelief is so palpable: “A nichey law blog, in Arizona, not garnering readers? Get out!”

(You can click to see the annual reports from 2013, 2012, and 2011 to see for yourself.)

Setting aside your hurtful snark (yes, I can detect it), there are a few reasons for the decline (from a high of 130,000 views in 2012 to last year’s 66,000):

  1. Not enough puppies and kittens
  2. Low-quality posts (or maybe too much law-ishness)
  3. Busier, less curious readers
  4. Facebook sucks

I am wagering my money on options 2 or 4. As a writer, I always have to be willing to look to myself first for reader disengagement. But then there’s Facebook …

Facebook’s own little algorithmic bots constantly vary the processes by which they prioritize and make visible people’s posts. I have heard from many mere mortals such as myself who have seen their readership plummet: Posts that formerly would garner 300 views now result in 17, or 11, or 4. And because Facebook is one of the places I post my blog every day, the impact has been severe.

The “solution” offered by Facebook’s dark lords is pay for play: Facebook paid ads will get us all back where we were, they claim.

Well, for those of us with little budgets and even less inclination to participate in the FB scam, I’m back to my other solutions: Ever improving my writing and composition, and, of course, more puppies. Here you go, and Happy New Year.

Legally speaking, these Corgis are not law-related at all. You're welcome, Facebook.

Legally speaking, these Corgis are not law-related at all. You’re welcome, Facebook.

Five years ago, this law blog started as a novel. Thanks and I'm sorry.

Five years ago, this law blog started as a novel. Thanks and I’m sorry. (Photo by mpclemens)

Five years is a long time to do anything—especially write a daily legal blog. But it was November 2009 when I launched this blog. How to celebrate?

Well, I won’t urge you to go back in blog time and to read old posts. But I will note this blog’s literary roots.

In case you don’t know, I started this blog as a method to publish a legal novel—written all in one month, November 2009, as part of a national novel-writing effort.

At the bottom of this post, I’ll share some links to a few chapters of the book. But before I do, here is how I previously described the adventure:

“Originally, in November 2009, this blog launched as a portal for my novel-in-progress titled ‘The Supremes’. It is a tale of a firm comprised mainly of retired state supreme court justices. They thought working together would be a great idea. Oy.”

“The novel effort was part of a national write-a-novel-in-a-month event. See here for more information on that crazy venture.”

nanowrimo novel writing postcard“Since then, I have blogged about law and law practice in one of the most, um, colorful states in the Union. Day in and day out, fascinating people and topics come to the fore, almost yearning to be transformed into blog posts. And so I oblige.”

“My novel was in memory of lawyer-author Peter Baird, who was a great friend and influence to many others, whether they were lawyers or writers. He died suddenly in late August 2009, and he will be missed.”

“Each novel chapter opens with a quotation from the respective portion of the United States Code. There are 50 ‘titles’ (chapters) in the Code, but we’ll see if there are 50 chapters. Time will tell.”

Here are the first few chapters. If you want to read more … I bet you can figure it out.

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

ABA blog question and data (Chart via Bob Ambrogi's Law Sites Blog.)

(Chart via Bob Ambrogi’s Law Sites Blog.)

Recent data from the American Bar Association suggests that fewer lawyers are blogging than have in the past. What this means … well, it could mean a few things.

Many folks—myself included—have advocated for the power of a blog to alter an attorney’s work life. Will a blog transform your law practice and rake in the clients? Probably not. Just like any tool at your disposal, this one can serve your particular needs—but you still have to identify what those needs are.

The hard work of determining your blog’s goals may have resulted in disappointment in the results—which were never clearly aimed for in the first place.

A very good roundup of the ABA’s new data is written by Bob Ambrogi. Among his mentions:

“Blogging was down among lawyers in all firm sizes except those in firms of 10-49 attorneys, where the percentage of lawyers who blog rose a point from 5% in 2013 to 6% this year. Among solos, the percentage who blog dropped from 12% to 10%; among those in firms of 2-9 attorneys, the percentage dropped from 11% to 8%; and in firms of 100 or more attorneys, the percentage went from 10% in 2013 to 9% this year.”

One interesting element of the ABA’s queries relates to its asking lawyers whether they “personally” maintain a blog (see chart above). Well, what else would they do?

As I have mentioned before, a debate exists over whether a lawyer’s blog is just another marketing tool, which no one (let alone potential clients) expects is penned by the lawyer herself.

Others (like me, for instance) see the blog as an opportunity to share your own thinking. It is not just like a lawyer bio, which we know a PR pro wrote. Neither is it like a brief, which everyone understands was drafted with the assistance of partners, associates and clerks.

As long as lawyers believe they can “farm out” the drafting of their own insights and legal perambulations, I’d wager that the decline in blogging may not be a bad thing.

What do you think?

 

This past week, two lawyers contacted me, asking how to be included in the Arizona Attorney Blog Network.

Fortunately, they contacted the right guy. After a few questions and a quick view of what kind of content they were posting, they were listed on our site.

But then I wondered, as I often do: What do those lawyers and law firms get out of the blogging experience? What are their goals for using the medium? And do they feel they’ve been successful?

(I know; I could simply ask them those questions. Well, they really just wanted us to post their content without a lot of jibber-jabber. But maybe next time.)

I admire those lawyers who opt to blog. They not only carve time out of busy practices; they also weather the critique, overt and covert, of others, who insist that blogging is either a time-sink or an ethical minefield—or both.

If you’ve ever wondered about the same issues, and if you think the answer is to abandon blogging, take a look at an interesting post from the U.K. Titled “Are Blogs Any Use to Law Firms?” it examines some of the elements that may make a blog not worth a lawyer’s time.

But if you’re nodding in agreement, you should pause your head-bob to read Joe Reevy’s complete post carefully. No; he’s really not saying that blogging is a waste of time—quite the opposite. Instead, he makes concrete suggestions that may yield more positive results for your legal blog.

If you consider and implement Reevy’s three strategies for success, you will likely see a spike in engagement with your audience. And that—not just increased billings—is what it’s really all about.

Lawyer-Word-Cloud

Keep up with what’s happening at the State Bar Annual Convention by following us on Twitter! Get short, timely messages (including photos, speaker presentations and more) from Arizona Attorney Magazine’s staff. If you, your firm or employer are active on Twitter, just insert the hashtag #azbarcon into all of your Convention tweets to allow them to be read and searched by fellow attendees and the entire legal community.

The Twitter links will take you to updates in our Convention Daily—news items and photos that will appear on the magazine blog, Facebook and Tumblr pages, and in our News Center:

For more detail, click on the image below for gigantification.

Twitter at Convention flier 2014

Letterpress BlogAttorneys looking for a strategic edge in a tough economy should take a few minutes to read how some New Hampshire lawyers are enhancing their practices and raising their profile.

Their solution? Blogging. And the lawyers interviewed by the talented Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association share the reasons that a law blog makes the difference. Here’s part of the story opening:

“‘I thought [blogging] was a great idea, but I figured other people must already be doing it,’” says [attorney Kysa] Crusco. ‘When I went home and did a web search, it turned out that there weren’t many, if any, family law blogs. The nhfamilylawblog.com URL was available, so I reserved it and contacted Lexblog. They got my blog up and running, and I started writing. I was able to see an immediate effect in articles that I posted and the potential clients that were calling for a consultation.’”

Kysa touches on what continues to be a surprise to me, 15 years after the first law blog was launched (though there’s debate on who was first): The surprise that, all these years later, relatively few lawyers write a blog. And that is a missed opportunity.

Let’s examine the necessary elements:

  1. There are 26 tools—if you count every letter of the alphabet.
  2. There is some modicum of writing ability.
  3. There is some practice knowledge.
  4. There is a small (and shrinking) technology aspect.

We already know that lawyers avoid math, not words, and every lawyer I know possesses a large amount of practice knowledge. So … what’s the boggle?

Typically, it comes down to a misunderstanding of strategy or—more particularly—differentiation. Here’s what I mean.

You probably think that potential clients can distinguish you from other lawyers in your practice area because, um, you went to a good law school. Or because you were in the Order of the Coif. Or served as Assistant Managing Editor on your law journal.

Of course, none of that distinguishes you (except to your mom, who always asks what was up with that “Assistant” in your title).

What does distinguish you is something that is wholly unique. No, not your fingerprint or hair whorl. I mean—writing.

The “creating content is hard” worry may be a significant one to you. But remember that more and more people will gauge your abilities not by your resume, but by a smidgen of content on your website. And they will devour that content; if it’s helpful stuff, they will come to you for more.

New Hampshire Bar Association logoThose who want to buy legal services are not seeking a terrific writer, so don’t let that put you off. But they do seek a person behind the website. They want to hear how you think.

A blog can do that. Sure, it takes a commitment of time. But at least it’s not math.

I was particularly intrigued by some of the findings of the New Hampshire Bar:

“To research this article, Bar News reached out to Bar members to submit information about their blogs and we have compiled a selective list. We also have conducted numerous searches on Google—just as many potential clients do—to find New Hampshire lawyers’ articles and blogs. The results were disappointing. There are only a few freestanding blogs offering timely advice that showcase the ability of lawyers to plainly explain current questions of law. Unfortunately, many blogs or articles on law firm websites are either out of date or populated by content designed not for readers, but for search-engine robots.”

blogging cartoon via AMP

Blogging: It’s just not that hard. (click to enlarge.)

I wonder what my results would be if I were to search for Arizona lawyer blogs. This past year, we did start a Blog Network on which any Arizona lawyer may add their link (and where we currently have more than 60). But there must be more out there.

And before you abandon blogging plans as a fad or idea that doesn’t gel with the profession, remember, as Dan Wise writes, “While SEO techniques are helpful in the 21st century world of digital marketing, certain old-fashioned values still apply: Success comes to those who prepare carefully and commit themselves to a strategy for the long haul.”

Sound like you? I thought so. Now, go back and finish that New Hampshire story.

Please contact me if you ever want to talk about blogging. I’m curious how it affects your practice.

Amtrak writing writer residency

On offer: The chance to ride the rails and write about it.

How many of you would like to engage the creative process while never having to consider acquiring life’s annoying essentials, like food and shelter.

If so, there may be a few opportunities for you (and me).

The news stories I link to today not only engage the artist in most of us; they also are perfectly matched to Change of Venue Friday, that casual day when no one really wants to read about the new rules of arbitration (or whatever else is cooking in the legal profession).

So I invite you to kick back and enjoy a vision of yourself as an artiste, accompanied by your own financial backers.

The first story is one you may have seen: Amtrak is looking for writers. That’s right; your benevolent backer would be none other than America’s passenger-railway system.

Here is a news story that explains Amtrak’s plan to plop writers into a cozy berth from which they will trip the light linguistic.

If you’re ready to board that train, here is a link to Amtrak’s own blog, where you can get more information and complete their application. And yes, there is a dining and adult-beverage car (we are writers, are we not?).

(And for you attorneys still hesitant about blogging: Amtrak is blogging, which is the sound of you officially becoming a super-late-adopter.)

Here’s the serious skinny:

“Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.”

“Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.”

Sign me up! (And yes, that means I’m applying.)

If a less rollicking journey is what your writing arm requires, consider Detroit. That’s where a nonprofit called Write a House is creating a unique “writer’s residency.”

As this news story explains, the organization is repairing vacant and blighted homes to give them to writers.

I was intrigued to see that it was an editor at the marvelous Curbed, the real estate site, who was one of the founders of Write a House. Well, if an editor is involved, it must have been well vetted! (No kidding, we editors have got it goin’ on.)

Pertinent info:

“Write A House will accept applications from working, “low-income” writers in the spring, who will be asked to send writing samples and a letter of intent. The judges include former National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, poet Major Jackson, writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton and editor of the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publishing house Sean McDonald. Writers from all over the world, or living just a few miles away, are all encouraged to apply.”

Well, if my Amtrak train makes a stop in Motor City, I’ll stop by your house and we can trade writing stories. In the meantime, let’s apply ourselves!

Have a wonderful—and writerly—weekend.

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