Here’s a useful checklist of common tasks related to blogging. Keep it handy as you set up your blog and start posting to it.
Before You Do Anything
☐ Review ABA Model Rule 7.1 and any corresponding rule in your jurisdiction.
☐ Review ABA Formal Opinion 10-457 and any corresponding rule in your jurisdiction.
☐ Research local ethics rules regarding advertising and online publishing.
Before You Decide on a Blog Topic
☐ List three goals for blog in order of priority.
☐ List main topics for blog.
☐ Start brainstorming the name of your blog, and look for domain names that correspond to it. Go to bustaname.com to help you come up with ideas.
☐ Write a short blurb describing what your blog is about; this will be used as an “About This Blog” page later.
Preparing to Set Up a Blog
☐ Register the domain name that you like as soon as you settle on it; if you’re torn between two or three grab them all. You can release the rejects once you make up your mind.
☐ Setup a Twitter account with a name similar to your blog’s name.
☐ After you zero in on a topic and a name, locate similar law-related blogs and study their posts. Note whether they have comments, how long the posts are, the number of authors who contribute, whether they have images, and so on.
☐ Visit the ABA Journal’s directory of law blogs and examine several to get a feel for the different types of blogs used by lawyers and to get a sense of as many different approaches as possible.
☐ Make a short list of three or four of the blogs you most admire and see if you can get in touch with the authors by e-mail. Ask them questions like benefits they’ve gotten, unexpected challenges to blogging, advice for newbies, etc.
☐ Identify law bloggers in your city and invite them to lunch to pick their brains. (If there are none in your city, visit ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, which is held in late March each year; you’ll find plenty of well-known law bloggers there at the “Beer for Bloggers” event that is usually sponsored by LexBlog’s Kevin O’Keefe).
☐ Decide how much design work you want for your blog. At a minimum choose something clean and easy to navigate; you can change it later if you want. But if you want something spectacular, then you should make finding a good designer a top priority.
☐ Decide on a blogging platform (e.g., WordPress, TypePad, etc.) and determine whether you’re going to try to set it up yourself or whether you need help.
☐ If you need help, locate someone who can help you set up and design your blog. TypePad offers this service for $349, and you’d be well advised to take advantage of it if you want a TypePad blog.
☐ If you’re setting up a WordPress blog and need help, check out oDesk.com, which is the best place to get low-cost help for web-related tasks.
☐ Set up an RSS reader and subscribe to all of the law blogs and sources that cover topics similar to yours. (You can find them
through the ABA Journal Blawg Directory).
☐ Find out if those blogs have Twitter feeds and investigate the feeds to figure out if you want to follow them—later.
☐ Don’t follow anyone on Twitter until you start posting; as you follow folks they’ll check you out and might follow you back. If you have a blog, they might start following it in their RSS reader; if you don’t, they won’t. So wait to follow on Twitter until your blog goes live.
☐ Set up an account with Feedblitz so that people can subscribe to your blog by e-mail. You want to capture e-mail addresses, and this is the best way to do. Besides, lots of people prefer to follow blogs by e-mail versus RSS readers.
☐ Set up a Feedburner account so you can monitor the number of people that subscribe to your blog, and get other detailed statistics.
☐ Decide what categories you’ll be using for your posts, if any. Remember, you don’t want too many. You can always add more if you need to.
☐ Make sure to set up an “About This Blog” page based on what you wrote up as a result of an earlier checklist item. (Include author bios for all the contributing members of the blog).
☐ Create a short disclaimer for your blog.
After Set Up but before You Launch Your Site
☐ Before you start posting, spend a few weeks coming up with posts on topics that aren’t time-sensitive. Have them ready to go, but don’t release them too quickly. These will serve as a buffer for when you get too busy to post regularly.
☐ After you have several posts up, start following people on Twitter and using Twitter to let people know you’re blogging.
☐ The way to alert people on Twitter is to link to lots of interesting stuff and then weave in periodic links to your posts.
☐ Don’t ask people to follow you or to follow your blog; that doesn’t work. Be cheerful, helpful, and informative.
☐ Register your blog.
☐ Remember to link to other bloggers often. Use links in your posts as much as possible.
☐ Use links to refer to things that are defined or explained elsewhere. In short, learn all the ways of linking.
☐ For a master course in hyperlinking that’s compressed into one blog post, closely study Jordan Furlong’s “Law School Revolution.”
☐ Buy the book LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers by Dennis Kennedy and Allison Shields and implement the strategies discussed there to build the audience for your blog and your law practice in general.
☐ Buy and read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, and make notes on how those principles can be used to build an audience for your blog.
☐ Subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog in your RSS reader, and also subscribe to his daily email. Follow his advice closely. No one alive today better understands how to make use of the Internet to build a strong audience of loyal followers.
☐ Update your blog frequently, and on as regular a schedule as possible.
☐ As you draft your posts always keep in mind George Orwell’s six rules for effective writing:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print;
- Never use a long word where a short one will do;
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out;
- Never use the passive where you can use the active;
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent;
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Creating Posts: Basic Checklist
☐ Make sure you’re in the Rich Text view, and not HTML view.
☐ Draft the post and apply basic formatting.
☐ Run spell check.
☐ Enter keywords and Technorati tags if you want.
☐ Set comments on, or off, as you prefer.
☐ Set publication time and date if you want the post to go off in the future.
☐ Click the Preview button to see what post will look like when published; check all hyperlinks for validity.
☐ If everything is in order, click the Publish button.
Learn how to set up a blog in one hour
This post was adapted from the Law Practice Division’s publication Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers. In this book, Ernie Svenson shares how to create, maintain, and improve a legal blog–and gain new business opportunities along the way.