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Top 10 Blogging Tips for Law Students

Blogging Research Wordle

Image by Kristina B via Flickr

I recently got an email from Jonathan Negretti, a 2L at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. He and his classmate recently launched a legal blog, and he asked me to provide some feedback. They’ve created a good based they can build on. Starting a blog as a 2L is a great idea because it gives you some time to build a following and demonstrate some areas of expertise before you graduate.

Here are the top 10 blogging rules that I shared with him.

  1. Whenever you do a legal blog post, put a disclaimer at the top that informs the reader that you are not a lawyer or giving legal advice. Here is the disclaimer that I use: “I am not an attorney. In accordance with ABA policy, this blog should not be viewed as legal advice. It is simply my experiences, opinions, and stuff I looked up on the internet.”
  2. Use lots of links. Put links in your posts to applicable laws, other blogs, and news stories. This builds up your credibility and is a great way to connect with other bloggers.
  3. Get a Twitter account to network and announce when you publish a new blog post. It’s better to have an account for yourself, not your blog, because people want to connect with you as a person. You should also announce new posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.
  4. Complement your posts with interesting images. I get good ones for free from Zemanta and CreativeCommons.org. If you are using images from Creative Commons, be sure to use images that you can adapt and use for commercial purposes.
  5. It’s perfectly acceptable to invite others to write guest posts on your blog. Be sure to include a bio for them at the bottom with links to their blog, Twitter account, LinkedIn account, etc.
  6. If your plan is to open a law practice after graduation, check your state’s ethics rules regarding legal advertising before inviting people to hire you.
  7. If you are compensated for writing a blog or get free merchandise in exchange for writing a review, you must disclose it in the blog post. There’s an FTC regulation about that.
  8. Approve all non-spam comments, even from people who are mean or disagree with you. It shows that you’re not afraid to discourse and that you’re open to other perspectives. If you can stay level headed while other people are losing their minds, it makes you look articulate and confident.
  9. Respond to every comment. Blogging is an effective way to start conversations.
  10. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Some of the most memorable blog posts are the ones where the author takes a strong stance that not everyone agrees with. They inspired people to leave comments and be part of the discussion. One of the best things I did in law school was Sponsor A Law Kid, and it was also one of the most controversial.

If you have any questions or tips for neophyte law student bloggers, please leave them as comments. This is one of those areas where law schools don’t always prepare their students to effectively use a networking tool.

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18 Comments

  1. 9 and 10 are key. Don’t be afraid to be called out for your thoughts. Defend them. And allow the opposing point of view to be heard.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Agreed! Sometimes it’s hard to be criticized in a public forum, but in the big picture, it’s worth it. A lot of us got into blogging so we could have a personal soap box. Being bold and engaging other bold people come with the territory.

      1. Totally agree with 9 and 10 as well! There have definitely been posts I’ve considered not publishing, but, in the end, those are some of the most popular ones I’ve done.

        Obviously you want to think about the repercussions of what you’re getting ready to post, but it’ll probably turn out that no one really cares if you got a cold offer. Just for instance.

        Oh, and images, yes! Another great place for free stock stuff is stock.xchng. Just make sure you attribute it…

        1. Ruth Carter says:

          Thanks Alison! I think some of our best work comes when we push the envelope.

          And thanks for the image source.

  2. Philip A. Guzman, Esq. says:

    All solid points. Blogging is one aspect of legal writing that a law student can carry with them into practice as Ruth points out. If you can craft a niche practice, blogging will take the place of many more traditional marketing practices. Moreover, I’m definitely in agreement with the need for a law student to tweet. Not only in promoting a blog, but it will help immeasurably in marketing when used appropriately. Furthermore, I agree that a blog should have thoughtful posts that deliver a solid message. My only caution is the need to remember that a blog follows a student around like a resume. Everyone (including prospective employers) can follow your “paper trail” ..write accordingly.

    Finally, as for “interesting images” love the palm trees and water! I’m relaxed already :-) Thanks, Ruth!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks! Blogging is a great way to create a niche for yourself while you’re still in school.

      Your words of warning are definitely true. My rule of thumb is, “Never put anything on the internet that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the paper.” There’s nothing on my blog that I wouldn’t admit to in any forum.

  3. I agree with the earlier comments. Especially in relation to criticism. When you become a blogger you are creating a public persona that will definitely be subject to criticism. Sometimes brutal criticism. Be prepared but don’t be afraid.

    Establishing yourself as an expert through blogging is a great way to build an audience and building an audience is the prerequisite for making money, whether you go solo or work for a firm. I once had a partner at a fairly large NY firm call me and ask if I wanted a job at their firm. I didn’t know the lawyer so I asked what made him call me. He said he read my blog.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      What an awesome story! I’ve been selected for guest blogging gigs and to contribute to others’ blogs and news articles based on my blog. It’s an effective way to build your credibility and display your expertise.

  4. Tim Eigo says:

    These are all great points, Ruth, for lawyers as well as law students. And it was a good reminder to me to begin using my Google+ more robustly.

    I agree with @thenambypamby — being bold and responding to readers are key parts to success, and to enjoying social media even more.

    And thanks for the Zemanta idea for images; I’m bookmarking now.

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      You’re welcome Tim! I love getting to know my readers through their comments.

  5. Hi Ruth

    Excellent post! Extremely helpful for law students and for general readership IMHO :-)

    Love point 10. Absolutely spot on, albeit it can be the most difficult for people of all ages and stages in life and career to get a grip with.

    However, IMHO, the only true way forward in a blog post is to be your authentic self, and to do that necessitates conviction, belief, boldness and running toward the fire.

    One of my most controversial and bold posts caused quite a stir, no doubt because it cut to the heart of the matter and touched a few pain points. And that’s what good blogging is all about. It encourages conversation, discussion and debate i.e. ACTION, n’est ce pas?

    Curious as to what it means to be in bold in one’s post? Check out the Law Society Gazette and my piece together with the comments / debate “Indecent Proposal On Wall Tweet” http://budurl.com/LSGinspire

    Warmest regards and best intentions

    Chrissie
    The Entrepreneur Lawyer
    (of the naked kind)

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Chrissie! I agree that the best blog posts come out when you’re writing about your passion. Taking a bold stance definitely encourages readers to stop, think, and respond. I love the conversations that come out of controversial blog posts.

  6. Christina says:

    Dear Ruth,

    Thanks so much for your post and advice! I just started to blog this summer at http://www.itsahotpot.com and have more specific questions for you.

    I have a very hard time narrowing down my topics of interest and organizing my blog posts. I think the blog has been slow in moving forward because I haven’t decided on the tone of the blog. Might you have some suggestions for me?

    My last two posts were on the long side…I plan on breaking writing like that down into series in the future and I am planning to add more pictures to the posts.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Congrats on getting into blogging. I took a quick look at your blog and here are my initial thoughts.
      – Put your text in black. It’s easier on your readers’ eyes.
      – Don’t use bold in the middle of sentences. It’s distracting to your readers. It should only be used sparingly on subtitles.
      – Never put out a post unless it’s complete. Don’t go back and add pictures later. Do it the first time because your readers may not come back to your post again.
      – I’m glad you decided to split your post into 2. There’s so much information that you could probably split it into 4 or more posts.
      – Finding your tone can be a challenge. Start by following your passion. If something’s interesting to you, it will be interesting to your readers.
      – Be sure to put out something new every week. it’s important to stay on a schedule so you stay on your readers’ radar. And let me burst your bubble now, not every blog will be your best work. Trust me – I know.
      – Your front page is really busy. Make sure your layout fits with your tone.

      I hope this helps. Keep on writing!

      1. Christina says:

        Thanks so much for your advice, Ruth. I really appreciate it and will definitely continue blogging! I look forward to working in the suggestions and seeing the blog grow.

        I’m also very glad to find your blog, and will continue to come back. Have a great rest of the week!

        1. Ruth Carter says:

          You’re welcome. I look forward to seeing your future posts.

  7. Patrick Mahoney says:

    Ruth, I have been thinking about starting a blog for years and finally decided to take the plunge. The main thing holding me back is a name. I am a law student and would like to write about some interesting cases, historical events and current events as well as personal expirience, maybe even political views. Because I want the freedom to cover a wide range of topics, I am struggling with a name.

    My recently started using twitter, my handle is @paddymmahoney, I have used linked In in business (pre law school) and current. My linked in is: http://linkedin.com/in/pmmahoney

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards,

    -Patrick

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Hey Patrick! Picking a name is challenging. It’s going to be with you for years hopefully. Think about what you want it to say about your blog, about you, and what you want your audience to think when they first hear your blog’s name. You may want to look at what other law blogs are calling themselves for inspiration. Good luck!