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The small town of Storrs, Conn. may soon become the center of the law blog universe. Andrew E. Ewalt, a solo practicing in the shadows of the University of Connecticut, is a guinea pig for the wildly growing technology, which to date has largely been passed over by the legal profession as a marketing tool. Approached by the national magazine Law Practice,which is produced by the American Bar Association, Ewalt has agreed to work with Web and marketing consultant Larry Bodine of Illinois to set up a blog and get feedback for the next year. He launched his blog in May and has been pleased with the response. “Blog” is short for “Web log,” a shared online journal most typically used as a way for people to express their personal opinions. “It hadn’t dawned on me [that] this was a great way to reach clients,” said Ewalt, who handles a wide variety of civil law matters. “It’s drawn people to my Web site and tripled traffic to it.” Using tracking software, Ewalt estimates that he gets about 200 hits on his blog a month and 3,000 hits on his Web site. “It really is a way for people to feel comfortable with me,” he said. That comfort may come from stressing credibility over controversy. “Though there are millions of blogs, there is a relatively small group of legal blogs. Many of the other legal blogs are opinionated. I would like to be more factual, providing helpful and interesting information and tips to visitors,” Ewalt said. “If they like it, they will come back. Ultimately, the goal is to create more credibility and help potential clients feel more comfortable with lawyers and specifically this lawyer.” GROWING ACCEPTANCE In the July/August issue of Law Practice,Bodine maintained that “27 percent of U.S. adults online read blogs, which factors out to 32 million people, according to Pew Internet. But there are still fewer than 1,000 lawyer blogs, according to www.blawg.org. “The world is blogging, and the legal profession is standing on the sidelines,” he said. “This is a major marketing mistake, especially when setting up a blog is so easy.” That’s a sentiment shared by Roberta Montafia, chief marketing officer for Hartford, Conn.-based Day, Berry & Howard. “They’re a great tool,” she said. “In general, blogs are certainly one of the most effective tools … in our toolbox. They’ll get acceptance fairly quickly. Their proliferation is inevitable. Not that many years ago, people thought e-mail wouldn’t be accepted. [Blogs are] one more media we’re going to use for communication.” Though Day Berry has yet to generate its own law blog, it’s an idea the firm is considering, Montafia said. According to the Web site technorati.com, the number of blogs continues to double every five-and-a-half months. A new blog, it estimated, is created every second, which translates into 80,000 new blogs a day. About 55 percent of all blogs are active, with 13 percent of all blogs updated at least weekly. Steven Krane, a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, focuses on ethical issues involving the Internet and electronic communication. He said blogs like Ewalt’s don’t typically raise ethical issues, except when they directly solicit business. Then, blogs need to follow each state’s rules for advertising. “There really aren’t any strict rules on these kinds of things,” he said. Where most problems arise, Krane advised, is with law firm Web sites. “Lawyers can run into trouble if they’re aggressively pursing clients in states where they are not admitted,” said Krane, a partner at Proskauer Rose in New York City. Even simply posting links to Web sites in other states can lead to an ethical violation, he said. “The question is, Do you have to comply with the rules of every state where your Web site is posted? For example, Florida has very strict rules on advertising,” he said. “There’s not a lot of clarity. It’s going to take a while to sort this out, and the technology is moving faster than the ethics people can.” In his three months as a legal blogger, Ewalt said he can’t directly attribute any new piece of business to it. “We always track how people found out about us,” he said. “The number of people who find us by the Web has increased. There are clients who are reading it. I expect people make [the blog] part of their [hiring] decision process.” “At this point,” Ewalt said, “I really don’t expect the blog to be found by accident, though it is happening more and more. I am interested in creating a buzz with my followers so that I can build up a steady stream of interest over time. This is already working because there are several other blogs that link [to] my blog. These other blogs are directing a lot of traffic my way. I am also getting a lot of repeat visitors.” In addition to his blog, Ewalt has a Web site and a printed newsletter that he sends to clients. He said marketing his practice with these different media is not time intensive. He spends no more than three to four hours a month writing on topics like avoiding identity theft, eliminating mortgage insurance and planning for a special-needs child. “It’s easy to find things to talk about,” he said. “I like to talk.”

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