Blogging In A Conversational Tone

Good afternoon from Seattle. We’re kicking off Common Sense Legal Blogging in 45 chapters again. This week, we’re already up to chapter 23. We took last week off for a breather. We’ll continue through probably the remainder of this month, talking about one item each day regarding effective blogging. When I’m talking about effective blogging, I’m really talking about raising your profile as a lawyer, building a book of business. Maybe it takes a year, maybe it takes two years, bunetworking through the Internet can take you places that would have traditionally taken 15 or 20 years to get to, whether that being on a board, establishing your name, building  a good reputation to travel. 

Today, we’re talking about blogging in a conversational tone. Now, that may not apply to every blogger because there might be bloggers that have a really tight niche, and they’re just reporting. So what they’re doing is acting as a funnel for news and just reporting things so that people can get information on just that subject because it’s the only place in the world to go to get that information alone. But most bloggers are there for various reasons; they’re trying to cast a broader net, they’re too scared to go after a niche, they don’t want to just report on a subject. So they tend to be a little bit broader, even if they are on niches. In that case, I think their blog requires a conversational tone. That’s what blogging was when it started; it was the idea that you could hear the person talk to you. You could hear their tone of voice, you could feel them behind the scenes. Otherwise, you could just have somebody writing up content for you. Believe me, there’s a lot of marketing companies and people that will sell their writing, and just give it to lawyers and say, “Hey, this is accurate.” But really, nobody knows who’s behind that person. When you’re the consumer of legal services, whether you’re a corporation or small business or consumer, you want to know who’s behind those services. You want to know the level of care; you want to know the way they talk to you, when you come into their office; you want to feel like you already know them and trust them. A lot of that comes from that tone of voice that you could feel through their writing. I tell lawyers that it’s not a sloppy conversation. It’s not an informal conversation. It could be a dinner conversation that you have with clients because then you’re a little bit more professional. You’re listening before you’re even expressing yourself. So you are polished in your approach. It’s not just winging it, and leaving it out there. One thing that I should mention, though, is some people will say, “Well, gee, this is going to be up there forever.” And I say, “Well guess what’s great about it? The other things that you say in other places go out into space and disappear. When you get to provide your insight and commentary on a particular issue people can find it and see that you’ve been covering this issue for years. But they also see that you actually have some insight into this issue”. So when somebody says “It’s going to be up there forever,” they’re just saying what is so great about blogging. That’s not something we should be afraid about. That’s something that we should cherish. This is not a brief and it’s not a white page. So you’re not taking something that would be a memorandum to the court, and reading it and turning it into a blog post. It’s very dull to do that. It’s not the type of thing that you’re submitting to someone. It is totally different than that. There are some lawyers who blog like that. I’m not sure that they’ve achieved the success that they would if they tried weaving in their personal tone.

You can engage by referencing. I’ve talked before about thinking of blogging as a conversation. If I reference something that you have written, you’re going to see it because I’m going to say that “Patricia Smith” had an interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal about whatever thing is being discussed. I’m gonna take a blockquote and provide my insight and commentary. We’re literally having a conversation. She started it, or maybe she referenced off something else. I continued it by offering my take. And now she’s going to see that I provided that take. That’s a very conversational tone, because I’m providing some insight in response to hers. 

People appreciate that level of concrete conversation and reporting. It’s the way that news is reported today. You know, it’s like you’re providing commentary on TV to a news story that happened some other place, and you’re building that network of influencers. But if you don’t share that post, and reference “Patricia Smith” and tag the Twitter handle with a hat tip so that you can reference your story, you can drop her an email and say, “Hey, good piece, this morning I shared it with my readers.” So you’re doing that and engaging by referencing.

Get your personality out there. As I mentioned, some of the great bloggers have a personality, with flair. They’re not putting a thumb in somebody’s eye and just saying “take this or take that.” That’s not what it’s all about. I’ve been known to do it and so have certain companies over the years. I don’t know whether it served me well or not. I certainly got known maybe for all the wrong reasons at times, because I wasn’t afraid to say what I thought when other people might be afraid. And I don’t think that’s needed. I don’t think it’s even advisable. With some of the best bloggers, I know, you do feel a personality behind them really do. You can feel that they care for the people that they’re sharing commentary with; they’re able to weave in their experiences with representing people. You can feel it. If they’re reporting on issues that are coming out of China because they’re publishing the China Law Blog, Darren Harris is going to say it with a punch, he’s not going to be just plain vanilla as he reports. 

We see a lot of blogs come through LexBlog. And unfortunately, we sometimes highlight them: this happened, then this happened, then this happened. So what? This doesn’t offer people a whole lot. What does that mean? What does it mean for me? What do you think it means for your clients? What do you foresee that doing as far as your practice goes? Those types of things bring in something to it. You can also bring in your personality, where you might laugh about something, or you might take something more seriously, or maybe you get a little bit angry about the way the court has gone or the way some issue is developing. Be yourself because that’s when clients are going to come to you and that’s how clients are going to stay with you. Today, lawyers lack personality. People are told not to have personalities, just to “do this” and “do that.” But believe me, the rainmakers in firms have personalities. They’ve attracted clients and kept clients because of who they are as people as much as who they are as lawyers. They’re certainly using lawyers inside of the firm to facilitate the legal services.

Have a point of view. You’re going to need to have some point of view. This is not a type of situation where a judge is going to respond to somebody on the opposite side with “Well, wait a second, can’t you can’t have Mr. Smith say this or that? He’s written a blog post on the other side, so he’s bound to agree with me on that.” I’ve heard of that happening one time in LexBlog’s entire 16 years. And the Federal Court Judge laughed at the defense lawyer who said,

“look at this position that was taken in the blog. How can the lawyer have this position today?” The judge said, “You’re telling me that every single case in which has taken a position, he can no longer take a position contrary to that? Nothing can be said at a conference, contrary to this position? He can no longer take a position opposite of that? The judge thought this was very, very silly. Now, understandably, the clients you’re going to attract and the clients that you want to retain and how they feel about you are all going to be impacted by what you’re talking about. So if you’re doing defense work on behalf of employers, you’re probably don’t have the right perspective on behalf of employees. You’re going to be smart about that. But you’re going to need to take some point of view. Not much different than if you were staying at a podium. And you will be if you’re blogging well. You’re going to be invited to speak. If somebody in the audience asked for your view of something, you’ll be laughed at if you say “’I’m sorry, I can’t take any views on anything. I can’t ever do that because I’m too afraid. Somebody may hold it against me one day.” They’ll remember you for all the wrong reasons. You’re going to say something, you’re going to say, “I think it’s going to go like this; here’s my view on this.” You’ll use the word view. There’s nothing wrong with doing that blog. In fact, it’s preferable to do this blog. When blogging, think about the way you’re writing as if you’re talking. I was always taught to write that way, and blogging made me better at it. Does this sound like I would be talking to someone? Does this sound like somebody I would be sitting down to dinner with? Does it sound like I’m sitting down at the bar to have a beer after work and talk about particular issues that might be working on in the law?  That type of approach is a better way of blogging than strictly reporting. This will separate you from the pack, you’ll be engaging influencers, and you will pick up readers because you’re more interesting to read than just everybody else. It’s like that columnist that you may follow in the New York Times or a particular magazine. It might be more interesting to hear from a columnist, the person who’s providing the commentary, than just the person who’s providing the report.

The last thing I want to talk about is Blog4Good. It’s a campaign that LexBlog started back in the beginning of the pandemic, to be able to empower the great things that lawyers were doing to provide information and insight on the issues that people are facing as a result of this pandemic. I think sometimes, as we get further down the road in this, we’re hoping that it was passing. But we do fall into some routine in life, but this nation is hurting, and there are a lot of people hurting. Whether it’s on consumers’  issues, whether it’s a business, whether it’s on large corporate issues, the best information on the law is coming from legal bloggers, thousands and thousands of lawyers and maybe 300 posts a day that are coming up to address some issue regarding the virus pandemic and the legal issues that arise out of that. LexBlog has now completed the aggregation of blog posts for every state in the country, a number of major jurisdictions, Wisconsin’s just last week. So what that does is it’s aggregating all the blog posts of lawyers in a particular state, and it’s curating some of the best. In certain cases bar associations are doing it. In other states with a Bar Association’s don’t want to get involved much, Lexblog will do it on a state’s behalf and on behalf of the lawyers. Lawyers who want to bring their blog in, just need to sign up, and it will come into that particular state and it will be highlighted and they’ll receive a profile, a blogger profile and a profile of their firm. For those lawyers that don’t have a good enough blog or don’t have a blog at all, they can get on and begin to publish for free on a really nice blog, similar to the blog I use, our turnkey solution. If the lawyer is a member of caState Bar Association, it’s absolutely free; if they’re not, it’s only $40 a month. It’s our way of contributing back to empower lawyers to be able to help people during the pandemic. And that’s Blog4Good. 

So stay tuned to popular developments on it .If I can tell you one thing that our company has found. Like everybody finds, it’s not easy to just try to do good and get people on board. People are very busy with their own projects. Some organizations are limited in their staffing today, and they’ve been called upon to do more during the pandemic than ever. So, it’s taken a little bit longer than we thought, but we’re not giving up on the project. And it was this morning that I was briefed that we had completed every state in the country and now have an aggregation system for all of those states. If you go to LexBlog and just do a search for Blog4Good, it’’ll go to a page which lists all the states and what is going on in that regard. Hope you guys have a great day. Talk to you tomorrow.

Photo of Kevin O'Keefe Kevin O'Keefe

I am a trial lawyer, turned legal tech entrepreneur, now leading the largest community of legal publishers in the world at LexBlog, Inc.

I am a lawyer of 39 years. Wanting to be a lawyer since I was a kid, I have loved…

I am a trial lawyer, turned legal tech entrepreneur, now leading the largest community of legal publishers in the world at LexBlog, Inc.

I am a lawyer of 39 years. Wanting to be a lawyer since I was a kid, I have loved almost every minute of it.

I practiced as a trial lawyer in rural Wisconsin for 17 years, representing plaintiffs, whether they were injury victims and their family members or small businesses.

In the mid-nineties, I discovered the Internet in the form of AOL. I began helping people by answering questions on AOL message boards and leading AOL’s legal community.

I later started my own listservs and message boards to help people on personal injury, medical malpractice, workers compensation and plaintiff’s employment law matters. Though we were green to technology and the Internet, USA Today said if my firm “didn’t stop what we were doing, we would give lawyers a good name.”

In 1999, I closed my law firm and we moved, as a family of seven, to Seattle to start my first company. was a virtual law community of people helping people, a sort of AOL on the law, featuring message boards, articles, chats, listervs and ask-a-lawyer. was sold to LexisNexis, where it was incorporated into Martindale-Hubbell’s

After a stint as VP of Business Development at LexisNexis, I founded LexBlog out of my garage in 2004 (no affiliation with LexisNexis).

Knowing lawyers get their best work from relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation, and not promoting themselves, I saw blogging as a perfect way for lawyers to build relationships and a reputation.

When I could not find someone to help me with my own blog, I started a company to provide what I needed. Strategy, professional design, platform, coaching, SEO, marketing and free ongoing support.

As a result of the outstanding work of my team of twenty and my blogging, the LexBlog community has grown to a community of over 30,000 legal professionals, world-wide.

Publishing my blog, Real Lawyers, now in its 18th year, I share information, news, and commentary to help legal professionals looking to network online, whether it be via blogging or other social media.

Blogging also enables me to think through my ideas – out loud and in an engaging fashion.

In addition to my blog, I liberally share others’ insight on Twitter. Feel free to engage me there as well on LinkedIn and Facebook.