You've fired up the keyboard and are ready to begin blogging on your firm's website. You've read all about the benefits of a blog, and weighed the vital considerations of audience, tone, topic, formatting, and frequency. You're ready!
Except wait. Wouldn't it be nice to learn from others' mistakes first? After more than 1,800 posts, these tired fingers have learned much from their own mistakes, as well those of others. Let me be your guide to five things you'll want to avoid when becoming the Internet voice of your law firm:
Perhaps you're writing a post for other attorneys. Maybe it is a primer on how not to be a terrible, annoying opposing counsel. It is very easy to accidently air some dirty laundry on the Internet. Before writing online criticisms of a person in your local community, we'd recommend letting post sit for a day or two, just in case passion is overcoming reason.
After all, you wouldn't want your venting about a local judge's idiotic rulings in a current case to influence future cases.
When discussing cases online, such as when trumpeting a success, or discussing a novel legal issue, make sure not to include too much detail about the client.
For example, if you are defending a pizza delivery driver's DUI case, and want to discuss the impact of the charges on his ability to drive company vehicles, perhaps consider changing his position to a car salesman or a taxi cab driver. Even better, go beyond the case and write a topical post on how a DUI affects different types of licenses.
Though it may be legal to discuss client cases in public forums, it probably won't go over too well with those clients.
We hate legalese. Judges hate legalese. Clients? You can be completely sure that they hate legalese. Approach your blog topic as if you were explaining the topic to a 10th grader. Even if your audience is capable of understanding something more complicated, they might not want to dig through verbose, Latin-filled expositions.
No Promises, Only Disclaimers
This is a big one. Earlier this year, the Virginia Supreme Court got the attention of law bloggers everywhere, holding that attorney Horace Hunter's practice of blogging about past closed-case clients was protected by the First Amendment, but that his blog should have had a "results not guaranteed" disclaimer.
Though your state's ethical rules may vary, it shouldn't be very difficult to add a small disclaimer to the bottom of your page.
Double Check Everything
Who are the biggest jerks on the Internet? We'd guess lawyers that are frustrated by a lack of clients. You'll write thousands of words about the law -- and your rivals will be analyzing every bit of it, searching, hoping, and praying for a mistake that they can call you out on.
Even worse than legal trolls, however, are disenchanted clients. In the rare instance that your mistake misinforms a client, they'll lose trust in your knowledge and abilities.