For C. Carter Ruml blogging is a nonstop love affair—even if he hasn’t always been doing it.
Ruml started his own blog in early 2010 as a sort of experiment. With no “official” writing experience beyond the “usual stuff in college and law school,” he saw it as an opportunity to be creative. It turned out it was pretty fun, so he kept going.
“The lawyers with whom I was working really prioritized staying current on a lot of recent development. It’s a marginal time commitment in order to write it up,” said Ruml. “It seemed sensible once you were going to do all that work to be current to put it out in a way that would be useful for others.”
For a few years Ruml found himself unable to blog, and during that time he missed the opportunity to have a disciplined structure that was keeping him current and learning aggressively in his field. Once he got hired by Stites & Harbison, he found it pretty easy to launch back into the blogging world.
“It was a way to share something that would be scalable, repeatable, and shareable with referral sources and clients,” said Ruml. “It took a few days to get comfortable with the technological changes [after being away for three years,] but it didn’t feel hard…it felt like I was picking right up where I left off.”
Ruml is now one of the authors behind the firm’s Stites on Estates, where he blogs on family, money, and taxes. But whether he’s writing for the firm’s blog or his own personal blog (which he has maintained) Ruml has always tried to keep the focus on the readers, who he says almost never come from trust and estate backgrounds.
“I want to be clear that I think my clients are very smart and very talented in their own fields, but they are almost always unavoidably new to the area of trust and estates,” said Ruml, who says, there’s a learning curve for each client without deep experience in the area.
“So it’s useful for them to see their own issues in context…frequently in a larger context of the family and financial legal and tax issues people are having, [the blog] helps them anticipate and identify issues that are likely to affect them that they might otherwise not tell us about.”
For instance blended families can present more complicated estate planning issues that families may not be aware of. Reading something about it on the blog could help solve a problem they don’t know they have yet.
“Our goals have always been consistent: we do what we do to be accessible, interesting, and very useful for clients,” said Ruml. “Our job is to shed light on their unknown unknowns.”
When he’s writing the posts, Ruml takes his time. Often he’ll sit with them for a couple days, and then try to get a lot of the post out all at once. After the core of it is laid out, he takes some time to figure out how he can make it more fun and engaging.
It can be a little solitary as a position—Ruml is blogging in a fairly niche area, so he admits he doesn’t always get to work with as many bloggers as he would like—but it works for him.
“Sometimes you have to have a little faith and confidence that what you’re doing is worthwhile and it is useful and it does serve a good purpose,” said Ruml. “You’re not always going to see an immediate and direct linkage between the effort and time you invest and the amount of readership and the response you get, but…if it’s something you enjoy it’ll be worthwhile and successful no matter what.”
For Ruml the feedback hasn’t always been consistent—sometimes it’s a large quantity sometimes it isn’t—but it has been good. He’s always delighted when he gets enthusiastic response from friends and referral sources, or when a client finds them useful for their own issues. Back in 2010 his original blog highlighted a tax court case, and got an email from the judge who had written the opinion on the case.
“He said he had enjoyed it and offered a few thoughts, and it was really neat to realize the judiciary was reading what you wrote and enjoyed it,” said Ruml.
“When you feel like you’ve written something that really represents your best thinking, something that was fun, accessible, and relevant, and then you get a lot of enthusiastic response back it’s a tremendous amount of fun.”