Yesterday, I finished a very long process of going through thousands of attorney blogs, websites, and microsites. Oddly enough, that has been a major part of my job for the last 10 months. I say “oddly” because I’ve never heard of such a position, anywhere or for anything of the like. It’s more of a guess at this point, but I can tell you that I’ve visited/read upwards of 10,000 “blawgs” (law blogs) and twice the number of urls that didn’t have a blog. 

I’m still in awe. It’s like I’m bringing my head up from the trenches to see if the bullets have stopped flying for a moment. I’m a bit exhausted from the experience and I’m finding it hard to really decide how I want to structure the next steps. While I normally would write a Donuts Post about the experience, also considering the intimacy of the project, I thought I would write a post about wide arching consistencies across U.S., Canada, and the UK with regards to the rhetoric of blawgs.

To start, I’ve determined two main opinions about lawyers. I want to speak directly to them for a moment:

Many lawyers are terrible people.

  1. Because of the people you surround yourself with
    • Well, not your clients, but your marketing company
  2. Because your blawg incites unnecessary fear, hate, and prejudice
    • Well, not you, but your marketing company sure does
  3. Because you waste people’s time with your useless content
    • Well, not you, but your marketing company sure does

Many lawyers are wonderful people

  1. Because of the people you surround yourself with
    • Yes, your clients and the problems they face
  2. Because you incite hope, knowledge, and value with your blawg
    • Yes, for your clients and the problems they face
  3. Because you save people time and heartache with your meaningful insight
    • Yes, for your clients/others and the problems they face

I’m sure that every industry is the same when it comes to the people. In fact, I know it is. There are the people that want to cut corners and it shows. As well, there are also the people that care and will take the time to make sure it shows.

I’m critical of law-firm marketing for many reasons. Beyond just the ethical issues concerning lawyer fraud, I’ve found that those marketing-ghost-written blogs all read the same i.e. poorly. They are all first year college composition course level material with limited imagination and no real investment into the industry. Makes sense considering that ghost writing is a different industry than law and is even different from other marketing. Sure, yes,  they are often written by people with English degrees and that makes me quite sad (I have a few of them myself), but even the ones written by ghost writing attorneys are somehow lacking as well. They fail to give specifics (who, what, where, when, why, and how), but, more importantly they fail to give meaningful insight into the post topic. Who honestly cares that there was another auto accident on I-90? Tell me why it matters and stop trying to sell me on your services. I’m already on your site for heaven’s sake. You don’t need to end every post with a “If you have need of an attorney for [fill in blank service] call the law office of…”

Another reason I dislike many of the law-firm marketing companies that provide ghost writing services is what those watered down posts really do for the law industry. Law can be a great space, a protecting space. The colloquial attitude for lawyers for most people is, simply put, “don’t trust them”. These blawgs that fuel this prejudice for lawyers sickens me. I’ve known my share of great attorneys that would do anything for their clients. Even my folk’s attorney has always been helpful to give advice and provide useful direction for their business. He never thought to charge someone at dinner for asking a question about some current topic involving the law. The fact is that most people don’t regularly need a lawyer. The harsh hope is that no one should ever need a lawyer, but should be happy when they find a good one. That’s where a good blawg will show how good of a lawyer you claim to be.

I can really rant on-and-on about the shortcomings of several industries that I have combed over personally, but I’m not sure that would do anyone any good, but here are some things I’ve noticed.

Some odd moments during the process:

  • Read the same post 3 times on 3 different blawgs from 3 different firms in the same day
  • Read a post from a ghost writer complaining about lawyer expectations for blawgs
  • Found two identical websites (seriously down to similar urls, fonts, header images)
  • Learned a few things about Qui Tam, FINRA, & USSEC that I wasn’t expecting (like what those are)

Some odd observations of Blawgs:

  • No matter how much you dress it up, blog, blawg, articles, news, publications, insights, and knowledge are all the same thing
  • 3+ authors on a paragraph long post looks like incompetence, no matter the topic
  • It’s easy to find a niche, there are more generalized blogs than not
  • A by-line that starts with ”On behalf of…” means ghost written and does not make it okay
  • Awards are meaningless unless readers know the significance and most don’t know the significance
  • Re-posting someone else’s blog post is just plagiarism, even if you “cite” them. Re-posting your own post on multiple sites is just SEO grabbing, especially when you link back and forth.
  • Most likely, your readers don’t know law, but don’t treat them like they don’t know that ice is slick. There are way too many law blog posts about ice being slick.

I’m going to wrap-up and say that this project has really influenced my thoughts about genre, lawyers, lawyer-marketing rhetoric, and just about every topic that has a law written about it. For the lawyers that read this post and found something useful, thank you. For the marketing professionals that read it and got angry, email me and I’ll clarify what ever you need. For the rhetoric community, I hope that your dive into mass amounts of info goes just as well. Finally, for everyone else, I’m seriously grateful that you read this far into my post.

As always, thank you for reading and I hope that you have found something useful to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire.