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Why and How to Write a Blog About the Law

by Jim Moss on September 27, 2011

Just saying the words “legal blog” brings shudders about boring readings from long forgotten law school. I should know, I’ve been writing a blog for almost four years with fans who have taken the time to let me know what they think about it. I’ve become an expert on boring my readers with information that they don’t understand, rarely want to know, and would rather ignore.

Yet each year my readership, bored or not, increases. I attribute that more to people who have nothing else do, than my great writing style. (If you have any question about my writing style, several appellate court judges have commented on it.) I believe that any success is attributed to a very small niche and a very large audience that is not well served by any group or magazine. This provides great opportunities to educate, without having to overturn urban myths about my area of law: Outdoor Recreation. One thing I do know about my success is that consistency is as important as content.

When I first started writing I tried to post twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I skipped a week or missed a day, I heard about it. If I skipped three consecutive days, I heard nothing but saw that my readership dropped, sometimes by 50 percent. It’s not rocket science—as humans, we like consistency and patterns. Our pattern on Tuesday is we go to this website and read. I even have an app for Firefox that does that for me, Morning Coffee. I click on the icon in my toolbar, and it opens all the websites I want to review for that day. I eventually figured out that if Morning Coffee opens the same dead website a couple of weeks in a row, I remove it from the list and have forgotten it quickly. I want new information every time I go to a site. I go to the site when they tell me they have new information.

After two years, I increased my postings to three days a week, believing that my readership would deal with the third day being any day I felt like posting. They weren’t. No matter how well written or startling the post, if it was not on a Tuesday or Thursday, it did not get read. I was back to that consistency issue.

I’m now posting 4.5 days a week. The .5 is if I find something that is not really newsworthy or blog-worthy or in my narrow vein, but I want the world to know about it, I will post it on Friday. I have a set schedule. Monday I post a review of a case that has application to my readership. Tuesdays and Thursdays I post quick articles about some newsworthy event that is recreation and legal. Wednesday I provide a piece that is more opinion (mine) than substance. Friday, or .5 day, I post press releases, events, notices, or things that someone just might find interesting.

I use StatCounter to watch my daily readership. It is easy to use and does not require me to read two more books to understand. Monday is the day with the most readership of my blog. Normally, this is 30 to 50 percent more than any other day of the week. The exception to that rule is when I’ve attended a conference or meeting and handed out business cards. I’ll see a spike for several days after that, no matter what day of the week. My card has a QR code on it that takes you directly to my blog. (I got that idea at a CBA legal blog meeting. Thanks!) I don’t believe they want to go to my blog as much as they are just plain curious about that black thing on my business card. It is like saying, “free appetizers and cheap beer” to solo practioners. No matter what, they can’t resist so they go. A QR code does the same thing.

See!

The key of course is those off-day spikes and being able to capture those new readers and keep them. I wish I knew who was hiding that key or where that key was, because I could use it.

StatCounter does not track people who subscribe by email and RSS or through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, either. However, it provides a great way to get an overall view of when people read my blog. (Well, read might be overly optimistic. It might only track people who can’t find the site they were looking for an accidentally landed on mine, but I’m counting them as readers!)

As I stated, Monday has my most readership. Wednesday usually has the second most and the rest of the days have less. If I miss posting on a Monday, readership for the entire week drops by fifty percent or more for that week. Writing a legal analysis of a case, to be understood by non-lawyers and provides value  is the reason why most people come to my site. However, my ideas (opinions) are important to me and fifty percent or more of the posts have a comment. So even though most are there for purely a legal opinion, several hundred suffer through my opinion every week.

If you check and update StatCounter throughout the day, you can see when people read your blog. I have a large group of people that read early in the morning and another large group that read after they get home from work. Consequently, I changed the time my posts appear from 8 a.m. MST to 5 a.m. MST.

The ability to be specific about the date and time your posts appear are also critical, I think, for two reasons. It allows me to post blogs when the East Coast wants to read them and when I’m still dreaming about my pseudo successes. It also allows me to post when I’m gone. This has an added benefit for me in that I find I write in chunks. I’ll get the urge to write, and I’ll write three to a dozen articles. I can edit and post them when they are done and set a date and time for them to appear. I cannot only plan for when I’m gone, I can post articles based on the season. In May, I wrote several articles about the ski industry that I set to post in October. The ski season will be rolling then, and the industry types will be curious about changes in the law. I got articles out of the way when I was in a writing mode.

That alone is another great reason to schedule posts. As I look at my blog, I have the next eight days covered. I have no pressure to rip an article out of thin ethos and put it on paper. I can write when I feel like it and schedule the post. By having a group of posts ready to go or already up, a lot of pressure is gone. An emergency trip, illness, or just laziness does not mess with my consistency. If I need to change dates, that is easy.

Why do I blog? Several reasons. I don’t believe that I can attribute any business directly from my blog, yet. … I keep hoping. However, it does provide me with credibility. It does keep my name out there. It does keep my name at the top of the results list if you Google recreation law or other variations of that term. It allows me to have inane discussions about the law with people who stumble upon my articles on Facebook. That reason alone is enough to blog. It is amazing the opinions and misinformation floating around the world about how the world works and how the law works.

There is no doubt, there is an enormous amount of ego involved in writing a blog. However, I think that without ego, your blog will soon fall into the depths of the Web’s lost-forever realm (anything with a Google search ranking past 100). Without that drive to see something new, to kick a tire, or to straighten out a misconception, in your name, your blog will fail. It will be difficult to see any tangible results or hear from a new client that your blog was important to them in picking you for their needs, but if you have the desire to write and get your name out there and you can post regularly – the blog is a great place to be.

Jim Moss is a solo attorney and risk management consultant in outdoor recreation and adventure travel law. His clients are manufacturers, importers, reps, and retailers, as well as outfitters and federal concessionaires. He has represented and defended clients in rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, ropes course, snowmobiling, and backpacking cases.

Moss is the author of four books: “The Lawyer’s Advisor”; “Outdoor Recreation, Travel, and Hospitality Forms”; “Outdoor Recreation Insurance and Law”; and co-author of “Legal Liability and Risk Management in Adventure Tourism.” He is publishing a new textbook, “Outdoor Recreation Risk Management, Insurance, and Law.”  He also is a contributing author of the “Boy Scouts Fieldbook.”

Additionally, Moss is employed as a professor at Colorado Mountain College in Ski Area Operations

 

 

 

 

{ 1 comment }

Barb Cashman Hahn September 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Jim, I enjoyed reading this – I especially like your self-deprecating humor. My favorite part was the QR code, now I’m seeing it everywhere. (That is kind of scary because it reminds me of a Rorschach test !) I think your advice to the start-up blogger is excellent – espcially the “write when you’re on a roll” advice, your readers may demand consistency in the timing of posts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce them when the time is best to write them or the creative juices are flowing. Can someone tell when you’ve written them? Not unless you give that away. I will be sure to include some of your advice in our SOLOinCOLO WordPress blogsite project. Please stay tuned!

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