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“Real lawyers have blogs.” So declares the home page slogan at one of several Web logs operated by former Wisconsin trial attorney Kevin O’Keefe. Now president of LexBlog, a Seattle-based consultancy on Internet marketing to lawyers and law firms, O’Keefe is a self-described “evangelist” in the red-hot world of legal blogs — so-called “blawgs.” While a relative handful of law firms have blogs — O’Keefe estimates “a few hundred,” none of them large — solo and small firm attorneys are picking up on the trend at a rate impossible to calculate. But O’Keefe and others consider that rate to be high. Martin Schwimmer runs a widely read blog for Schwimmer Mitchell, a two-partner trademark boutique in Westchester County. N.Y. His May 2002 launch makes him an old-timer in the expanding world of blawging. “It’s no surprise that legal blogging would be one of the first areas to explode because we write correspondence all day long,” said Schwimmer. “Blogs are more fun because we — at least I — adopt a more informal tone.” The return on investment of time has been good to Schwimmer. Although he declined to be specific, he said that one-tenth of his practice is due to his blog. “It’s a very nice 10 percent,” he said. As a promotion and client development tool, blogs are as simple as business cards and cheaper than advertising in the Yellow Pages, O’Keefe maintains. “Just imagine if someone told you that you could have your own magazine, that you’d write all the content, that your readership would probably go up 15 percent a month, and on the cover it says your firm is the publisher,” O’Keefe said in an interview. “People would say, ‘Oh my God, this lawyer’s smart!’ “Now, you’re putting out information on some legal topic of interest to your readers — updates, insights, snippets of news — and you develop a relationship of trust. Your readers are relying on you. That’s a short step away from them hiring you.” O’Keefe’s enthusiasm recently won him a new and relatively large client, 90-lawyer Phillips Nizer, which is developing blog capacity to complement its standard Web site. “When you go to a Web site, you don’t know that there’s going to be something new there,” said Perry S. Galler, managing partner at Phillips Nizer. “But with our blog, we’ll have something new every week — probably something new two or three times a week.” Galler said the blog would address four of the firm’s specialty areas: litigation, banking law, environmental clean-up under the “brownfield” laws, and international and domestic trust and estate law. “It won’t be merely for marketing,” he said of the blog. “It’s a way of communicating with existing clients.” Phillips Nizer’s Helen D. Chaitman is one of four partners responsible for periodic content. Although the new technological venture is “exciting and fun,” she said, it is still business and requires appropriate conduct. “It’s designed to be informative, but you wouldn’t want the blog appearing to be construed as giving legal advice,” said Chaitman. Said Galler, “We decided against making it interactive because it’s not a chatroom environment.” Chaitman noted that an added advantage of a blog is keeping attorneys on their toes. “It’s an extra discipline,” she said. “It’s forced me to be very, very current.” MODEST COSTS Phillips Nizer’s cost for engaging O’Keefe’s company as host for its blog is modest. O’Keefe said LexBlog’s standard charge for a small firm is an initial $1,500 for set-up and design, then $200 monthly for licensing and host fees. If someone at a firm is technically conversant, there are many online services such as typepad.com and wordpress.org charging as little as $10 monthly, plus yearly fees of about $8 to maintain a registered domain. James Ponichtera, a lawyer and communications director at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, said blogs are not appropriate for large firms such as his, with 350 lawyers. “I’m not hostile to the idea of law firm blogs, I’m just not inspired by it,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem like a good fit for us. I can see it being extremely useful to a small firm. But blogs require a lot of maintenance to keep the content fresh, and you need a unified voice. Before you launch, you need to be able to commit to frequent, meaningful updates. People check blogs on a daily basis. If you’re not going to update every day, you’re not going to be a good resource.” To be an effective resource, Massachusetts lawyer and long-time Internet editor Robert J. Ambrogi regularly advises would-be blawgers on quality content, writing style and the crucial importance of being noticed by Internet search engines such as Google. “With something like 900 legal blogs up and running now, what once seemed like a collegial enterprise is becoming competitive,” he said. “As the field becomes more crowded and when topic areas are all taken, then you need to distinguish yourself. You really have to become a reporter, you really have to work at it — and that can take time,” Ambrogi said. “When you launch your blog, don’t tell anybody for a month or two, so that you can have the time to develop a style and a voice.” A distinct voice, he said, creates links to other blogs. And links are the key elements read by Google and other search engines, which rank blogs and lead readers to the most popular ones. Schwimmer added some cautionary advice. “You have to be comfortable with a bit of risk,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to put yourself out there to the public as a reporter, in essence, as an expert.” There are also limitations to the form, he said. “If you had some groundbreaking legal development to write about, a blog isn’t the place,” said Schwimmer. “Think of a blog entry as a first draft.” O’Keefe is utterly upbeat. “It’s not unlikely that within a year most every firm in the country will use a blog,” he said, “at least for some of their lawyers.”

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