An Introduction to Legal Blogging [Part 1] — Choosing a Platform

Image Credit: “Writing” by Reuben Ingber. Used under CC license Attribution 2.0 Generic.

This article originally appeared on A Lawyer’s Digital Mark.

Every lawyer and law student should be blogging! Okay, maybe not everyone. However, if you are remotely interested in starting your own blog, allow me to help encourage you towards taking those first steps. In this first of a two-part series, we’ll examine the initial step you can take to starting a blog: choosing a platform. I’ve compiled below a few options for starting a blog that range from stupid-simple to more advanced. Don’t let a fear of technology stand in your way! It’s easy to self-publish and build a brand across social and blog networks.

LinkedIn Pulse

LinkedIn is by far the easiest way to get started with blogging. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, what on Earth are you waiting for? Once you have your LinkedIn setup, it’s easy to get started with creating and sharing articles through their built-in publishing platform called Pulse. From the Home screen, you can click on the “Write an article” button and that will launch the LinkedIn Publishing page. From there you can easily add a headline and content for your post, including a cover image or embedded YouTube videos. LinkedIn doesn’t offer scheduling for posts. Here’s a pro tip: you can save articles as drafts to publish later or you can publish them immediately. I typically write blog posts a couple days or week in advance, so I use the drafts option as a way to save the ready-to-publish article I’ve put together on my laptop and then, on the day it’s scheduled for my blog, I open the app on my phone and hit publish.

Here’s a screenshot of the menu that allows you to share to multiple groups at once.

Go beyond simply posting an article on your own profile and letting it sit there. Allow me to provide an IRL example: you should be taking your printed article and push pinning it to every bulletin board you find at local law firms and law schools and even taking a stack and throwing them up into the air at a legal conference. Now, before you go and look like a crazy person, this is more easily accomplished within the tools available on LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it extremely easy to share your published article to multiple LinkedIn Groups. Click on the share button for the article and a pop-up window opens when you choose the LinkedIn option. From there, you check the box for “Post to groups” and type in multiple group names, a title and a brief description. I recommend this method because it not only shares your article to everyone in the groups, but it also helps to increase interactions with your article within the LinkedIn platform. By sharing your LinkedIn article to the group, members are more likely to click on the article link and be taken directly to the LinkedIn Pulse page where they can comment or like the article, plus you can watch your view count increase. I love metrics and it’s great to see the numbers increase by taking a few extra seconds and sharing across multiple groups with a single click.

Wordpress.com / Blogger / Medium / Tumblr

There are a number of free platforms available if you want to take your writing up a notch and run your own branded blog. Some that I currently use or have used in the past include: Wordpress.com, Blogger, Medium, and Tumblr. While it’s beneficial posting to LinkedIn (I’ll talk about why you should be doing both later in this post), there are some benefits to having your own home base when it comes to blogging. Let’s examine some benefits!

First, it’s super simple (and FREE!) to get up and running with a blog on any of these four platforms. I like to tell people that if you’re able to write a Facebook post and hit ‘Post’ then you have no reason why you cannot also publish a blog. It’s also cheap to take it up a notch and purchase a domain name that will redirect to your new blog. Second, it can look more professional when you tell people you’re a writer and have an established blog to send them. For example, when I was a law student, I told people about my blog called ‘A Law Student’s Digital Mark’ that could be accessed by going to FranklinGraves.com. Having a simple way to direct people somewhere or a memorable blog name can help you stand out in that person’s memory.

A third benefit is that you have a built-in way to grow subscribers and future readership. All of these free platforms allow visitors to click a button and become a subscriber to your feed. Additionally, if they already have an account they may receive instant, daily, weekly or bi-weekly email updates showcasing your content. With platforms like Medium, using keywords and tags on your article help discovery algorithms share your content beyond your core audience. A fourth benefit is that your blog and content become part of a larger network. These larger networks are typically favored by search engine rankings and further increase your content’s visibility.

There are some downsides to using a free platform. One in particular is the lack of ability to incorporate your own Google AdSense account. I specifically use my own self-hosted Wordpress account because I wanted the ability to have more control (see below). If you get to the point of wanting to monetize your blog, then you’ll likely have to start exploring other options in the future. It can be a headache smoothly transitioning between blog platforms, so make sure you decide carefully from the beginning if you anticipate sticking with it and growing your blog. Another downside to these platforms can be the terms of use. Carefully check the rights you’re giving up by utilizing a free service and always know that there may be some aspects of content control or ownership with which you might not agree.

Self-hosted Wordpress / Squarespace

If you have some money to budget towards a blog, then there are some great options for paid platforms that in return offer more customization and features you can’t get from the free services. A self-hosted Wordpress site (which is different than Wordpress.com) comes with many more options to customize your blog, such as plugins, adding Google Adsense or other sources of revenue generation, enhanced comment systems and more. Squarespace is well known for their top-notch designs and editing platform that are included in the monthly subscription cost. If you’re a current student, they also have discounted pricing (up to 50% off) if your university has enrolled in the program. Search for your university here.

I used Squarespace to power my site for a while when I was in law school and enjoyed the little effort it took to run and how beautiful and professional the design options were. However, I moved back over to self-hosted Wordpress since I wasn’t able to have Google AdSense incorporated into Squarespace at the time. It does seem as though they’ve made changes and allow AdSense, but they don’t make any guarantees as to whether it will work on their themes.

When it comes to paid options, you should do some additional research and find a platform that works best for your current needs. Don’t get too into the weeds trying to build a Wordpress site from scratch when you should be focusing on generating content and building a brand through consistent writing and releasing of timely content.

Don’t Limit Yourself to One Platform

I recommend starting a main blog on one platform, such as Wordpress, Blogger or Squarespace, that also serves as your personal/professional website. You can create sub-pages, such as an ‘About’ page, that provides content besides just a blog roll. This helps tell your story and present a more comprehensive understanding about who you are as a person outside of your blog updates. Once you have a main blog established, don’t limit yourself to just that one platform. Your content needs to be everywhere. If you share across multiple platforms, that increases your audience reach and shareability within that platform’s ecosystem.

For example, I write multiple blog posts in one sitting then schedule them for release or send them off to another publisher (such as ‘Before the Bar’). Whenever I have a blog post completed, I schedule it on my main platform, A Lawyer’s Digital Mark, and then also share it on LinkedIn and Medium. Wordpress has a built-in option to automatically share it on Tumblr. I am focused on reaching as many people as possible, so I decided to not make my content exclusively available on my own site. In other situations, you may want to have your one blog platform as the exclusive home of your writings. That’s the freedom and flexibility that comes with self-publishing — you can decide what to do with your content and where or how your voice is heard.

Be on the lookout next week for Part 2 where I’ll discuss building a brand, picking a voice, deciding on content and building an audience!

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments!