Back in 2011, Wystan Ackerman and the Robinson & Cole team had tried email newsletters, and hadn’t seen much traction. Then someone floated the idea of a blog.
“The blog was something that was new and different; we thought it was worth giving a try at the time,” said Ackerman. “[And for me] it seemed like a way to develop a reputation in this area, and a way of making sure I was staying up to speed in new developments by looking for things to write about.”
He was so game that he opted to do it as an individual blog—something any blogger will tell you is a major undertaking. It helps, of course, that Ackerman comes from a writing background; his father was a professional writer, and Ackerman wrote for his high school and college newspaper. But more than four years later and he’s still the only one who writes content for the Insurance Class Actions Insider.
“You can really make it your own, in the sense that you enjoy writing and finding out what to write about among whatever’s going on in the area you’re writing about. You get to identify which topics are worth writing about, and make it interesting and easy to read, so you can communicate the importance of whatever you’re talking about,” said Ackerman, who says this practice isn’t unique to blogging, but it certainly helps.
“Across all the writing I do, even when I’m writing a more formal document for a judge, I try to make it interesting and more readable. So that carries across to the blog—just with a much shorter format.”
When he blogs, Ackerman says he reads it over and tries to keep it short when he can. When he started, he tried to do it a couple times a week; whether it was reviewing a new case law, a story picked from the general media, or something more broadly related to insurance class actions. But now he doesn’t feel the same obligation to just churn out content.
These days it’s about what would best serve and be of interest to his readers. It’s a far more variable schedule, very dependent on when he finds good content. In his experience, quality comes naturally when there’s something worth writing about, not just when there’s a deadline.
“There are a lot of people who get emailed every time I post something on the blog. I don’t want to be filling their inboxes with stuff that’s not sufficiently important,” said Ackerman.
According to Ackerman, that audience is typically insurance industry folks—even senior executive members—but he strives to make the material accessible to lawyers as well as non-lawyers, or a broader ring of lawyers than just insurance attorneys. And he’s seen that style turn into calls from people in the insurance industry media and general media.
Even so, he makes sure to not get too caught up in how others see the blog. He may not always be successful in looking at insurance issues in a way someone who doesn’t know about them could walk in on easily, but he is always writing from his own outlook as a lawyer.
“I can’t write it as whatever my opinion would be if I was no longer representing insurance companies…What you write might be thrown back in your face later in a case you’re handling with clients,” said Ackerman, who makes revisions with that in mind. “I personally think you’d have to take it from the perspective and role you have as a lawyer.”
That example has resonated with readers, who Ackerman says have picked him out at conferences before, as well as his firm, Robinson & Cole. After the Insurance Class Actions Insider lead the way, Robinson & Cole has launched six more blogs on a variety legal topics. For Ackerman, that’s not surprising, so long as they keep in mind the golden rule of blogging.
“I would say the real commitment you have to make is devote the time to identifying the right content and working on developing content,” said Ackerman. “And you have to really enjoy writing to make it worthwhile. If writing is not part of the legal practice you really enjoy and want to do a lot of I don’t think blogging is likely to be successful.”