What’s worse than not having a blog? According to Jonathan Hawkins, partner at Krevolin Horst LLC and the creative mind behind www.alawyershandbook.com, it’s having a blog that isn’t consistently updated. His site, which is dedicated to helping lawyers understand the business side of the law, has had new content at least once a week for the past two years. “I have not missed a week—not even through all the holidays, vacations and everything else,” he recalls.
There are a few keys to his success.
First, he loves producing the content. Hawkins, who typically represents other lawyers and law firms, uses the blog every day as a repository of his knowledge. When he’s working with a client on branding, he can search by category to see his past posts on that topic and use them as reference material. When he encounters a new issue or trend while conducting client work, he shares his perspective on the blog. “It gives me a way to work through it. If I am going to research it and figure out the answer, I might as well share it with others,” he says.
Hawkins tends to draft “evergreen” content that can be published a week or two later. Ideally, he has a few posts in the hopper so he’s always ahead of schedule. If he has a trial or vacation, he automatically schedules posts for when he’s occupied so that the streak continues.
Occasionally, he recruits a guest blogger who can weigh in with experience on a particular topic.
The blog began as a way for Hawkins to catalog his thoughts and promote his practice. Clients have mentioned the blog when they initially reach out for a consultation. For example, a client who had ethical issues to resolve before starting a new law firm found Hawkins through his blog. But it’s more likely, Hawkins surmises, that the blog is a way for him to show that he knows his stuff. “I think it adds credibility and reassures clients because they know I know what I’m talking about,” he says. [Hawkins also started writing an ethics column for the Daily Report's monthly "In-House Georgia" special section.]
At the end of the day, though, he is doing it mostly for himself. “If nothing else,” he says, “it keeps me sharp and learning about new areas.”
Hawkins likes to keep his posts short and sweet. Not only is he a busy lawyer, but his readers are time-strapped as well. Some posts are under 500 words. Others are a bit longer. It’s one of the better things about blogging, he admits. His readers probably don’t have time to go through a long law review article, so he will summarize his thoughts on a topic and embed a link to the longer source material, in case his readers need more guidance.
Hawkins believes that technology has revolutionized the practice of law—particularly for small firms and solo attorneys.
“Ten years ago, only the largest firms could approach the big clients. It used to be you needed big infrastructure, a large staff and an actual physical office,” he explains. “Now, all you need is a license, a computer and an internet connection.”
Not only does he write the blog, but he also uses social media to promote it. He confesses he’s not a big social media guy—“I never log into my Facebook account”—but LinkedIn and Twitter are good ways to spread the message. His firm also promotes the blog on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Social media use among lawyers is a common theme on the blog. In Georgia, there are no ethics opinions about it and a lot of aspects to consider. An attorney’s use of social media is different from advising a client’s use of it or from researching potential jurors. Hawkins turned to opinions from other jurisdictions to inform his readers.
“Most state ethics rules derive from the ABA Model Rules with slight variations,” he explains. “Looking at what other states have done is informative, and it’s a fairly safe bet that Georgia will be similar.” By researching national approaches to social media and other legal issues, he inadvertently made his blog useful to a national audience.
While Hawkins’ readership isn’t huge—he estimates about 300 people check the blog consistently—it’s a labor of love. Holidays, trials and vacations be damned.
Robin Hensley is president of Raising the Bar and has coached lawyers in business development for more than 25 years. She is the author of “Raising the Bar: Legendary Rainmakers Share Their Business Development Secrets.”