Law Firm Blogging – Moving From An Internal to An External Blog

12 Jul

Guest Post By Lesha VanDerBij, Knowledge Management Lawyer at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

When I first raised the idea of using a blog to track and report legal developments a few years ago, I encountered a great deal of skepticism.  Many of the lawyers viewed blogs as chatty and unprofessional.  And why would they comment on a blog when they could just send an e-mail?

First Step: An Internal Blog

Initially, I had to address the lawyers’ wariness of an unfamiliar technology by developing a better understanding of blogs and the functionality that they offer.  For example, I explained some of the features associated with blogs, including the ability to search by keyword, browse by category and access external resources via links.  Still somewhat sceptical, I got the “green light” to launch a blog for internal use only.

We launched a blog that focused on pensions and benefits law, and shortly thereafter one that focused on labour and employment issues.  Both blogs were used as current awareness tools, containing summaries of and links to cases, legislation, regulatory policies and other legal developments.

The lawyers soon realized the benefits of a blog, as they were able to easily keep up to date on their area of the law, as well as search previous posts for research purposes.  This success, however, comes with a caveat: as the KM lawyer charged with these internal blogs, I am the only one monitoring legal developments and adding posts. While the lawyers sometimes add comments on specific blog posts (e.g., their views on a case or experience with a regulator on a particular issue), they rarely contribute posts to the internal blogs.

Building on Our Experience: An External Blog

Next, I proposed that we launch an external blog, arguing, in part, that the lawyers could build on the work that was already being done through our internal blog.

Even though the lawyers now understood how blogs worked, they continued to doubt that a blog – and the relatively brief posts it required – could be used to effectively communicate legal issues to current and potential clients.  They were also concerned about the potential time commitment, knowing that blogs require regular updates.

I addressed these points by noting that we could continue to draft longer updates when a development warranted more in-depth analysis, and by proposing a group blog with a number of lawyers contributing, such that the “burden” of blogging could be shared among the group. Further, to support the value of an external blog, I presented information on the expected return on investment (ROI) (e.g., business development opportunities and improved SEO rankings).

In October of 2009, we launched our external blog, “Pensions & Benefits Law”, which discusses Canadian and U.S./cross-border pension and benefit legal issues.  As the editor of Pensions & Benefits Law I suggest topics and provide editing suggestions, however, (unlike the internal blog) most of the lawyers in the Osler Pensions & Benefits Department contribute posts (with varying regularity) to the external blog.  Pensions & Benefits Law has largely been successful, finding a regular audience in the pension and benefit industry.

Lessons Learned

  • A group blog still needs one person to “drive the bus” so to speak.  A single person, whether it is a KM lawyer, a practicing lawyer or an administrative person, will have to oversee the blog and ensure that posts are regularly being added.
  • Even after committing to a blog, lawyers may continue to be wary of the technology.  While our lawyers have shown some enthusiasm for drafting blog posts, they continue to be wary of actually posting them on the blog itself and I tend to do most of the “behind the scenes” work.
  • Notwithstanding its apparent success, some lawyers may continue to question the value of a blog. I still regularly review and report on our blog’s Return on Investment (ROI.)




5 Responses to “Law Firm Blogging – Moving From An Internal to An External Blog”

  1. David Hobbie July 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Lesha, what kind of metrics do you use to establish ROI? Do you offer productivity and viewership statistics? Do you ever check visibility of search results on keywords?

    • benwightwick July 13, 2011 at 7:20 am #

      Lesha – Great post and some key things to consider. Along with David I think a great follow-up through a comment or an additional post would be to outline how you calculate ROI which is always a challenge for those trying to establish blogs but experience some resistance. Thanks in advance.

  2. bentheba July 13, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Great post Lesha. I too would be interested in how you’ve established the ROI? It’s one of the biggest hurdles.

  3. Lesha VanDerBij July 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    ROI is a tricky concept with a blog. So far, I have taken the following steps:

    Our blog came with a statistics package, but I also added Google Analytics, as it offers more detailed stats. The main thing I have been looking for is growth. It is also interesting/helpful to see which particular posts have the most hits.

    Periodically I do searches on Google for pension related topics and I have been pleased to see that I often come across one of our blog posts on the first page — frequently near the top of the results.

    There is also anecdotal evidence that I track. For example, partners have received calls from clients in response to a blog post. As the editor of the blog, I receive numerous legal queries from readers, and at least one of these queries resulted in a potential business development opportunity.

    Finally, I would note that while we were one of the first national law firms in Canada to launch a blog, a number of our competitors have since followed suit. Not really an ROI, but it seems to give the lawyers some comfort that they are on the right track.

  4. Trevor B August 17, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    I just stumbled across this post. Some other Key Performance Indicators you should consider measuring on your website are Time On Site (how long visitors stay on your website), Bounce Rate (The percentage of website visitors who leave your website immediately: I.E. less than 5 seconds).

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