Even in the age of social media and blogging, the humble law firm newsletter still matters. Consider this:
1. Newsletters offer a way to stay connected with current and prospective clients. While a law firm Facebook page serves that purpose as well, many people prefer to keep their personal recreational time on Facebook separate from business – and thus, won’t like a Facebook page. And depending upon the nature of a matter (e.g., criminal, domestic violence), some law firms will advise clients against liking a law firm Facebook page since doing so could reveal that the client has retained a lawyer.
2. Newsletters offer content without the same level of commitment as blogging. Unless you really, really like to write and love the topics you’re covering, blogging can eventually become a chore. Here at MyShingle, I can churn out content like a pro but even I’ve met my Waterloo in covering complex energy regulatory matters on my law firm blog.
3. Newsletters offer more opportunity for creativity and personal sharing. Generally, a blog is either part of, or at least linked to a law firm website. Since many lawyers, particularly those who compete for corporate clients, prefer to maintain a more formal presence on their websites, they’re hesitant to share information about family or hobbies on their blog. By contrast, newsletters are, by their nature, slightly more intimate (since they’re not necessarily posted all over the web) and as a result, lawyers are more comfortable including personal tidbits.
4. Newsletters allow for more in-depth coverage. I’m not a fan of the 3-paragraph, “top 5 reasons….” blog post. At the same time, I have a hard time scrolling through a 10-screen post analyzing a complicated regulation. Because it’s a discrete document that can be easily printed or saved, a newsletter provides a far better forum for lengthy posts than a blog.
5. Newsletters are less intimidating than formal legal writing. Of course, if you want to promote your content, you could simply post your legal briefs and pleadings online at a site JDSupra. Although posting legal documents enables you to show your skills, lots of potential clients – from consumers to in house counsel – are not likely to be inclined to kick back and dive into a 15 page motion replete with cites and footnotes.
6. Newsletters are visually appealing. Spoiled by the visuals of the web, today’s readers expect an aesthetically pleasing experience. Most law blogs, while attractive enough, aren’t all that exciting to look at since it’s a hassle (and potentially costly) to include photos with every post. Newsletters offer a myriad of opportunities for photos, branding and varied layouts.
Even in a market which is saturated with newsletters, there are ample opportunities to make yours stand out. I resisted law firm newsletters for years, believing that my blogging (which wasn’t as sporadic at the time) sufficed and that in any event, I couldn’t compete with the frequency of big firm newsletters prepared by platoons of associates. But because I opted for a conversational tone in my newsletters (which admittedly is a bit challenging given the subject matter), my newsletters have gotten notice as well as further distribution in more prominent trade publications. (Of course, if you opt for canned content, which isn’t a good idea for a variety of reasons, you won’t enjoy the benefits of standing out from your competitors).
So why not give newsletters a try? Here’s a blog post that I penned in 2009 with detailed tips on getting started (though the post doesn’t mention my current favorite newsletter platform, Mailchimp.com and also getting greater bang for the buck by redistributing newsletter content. As further motivation, here’s a Pinterest Board I’ve created for solo and small firm newsletters – and if you start a newsletter, I’m happy to pin it here. And for those who are already publishing and would like to display your newsletter up on the board, place a link to your newsletter in the comments below (preferred approach) or email the link to me at email@example.com. Print newsletters welcome too – send me a PDF version and I’ll upload that too. Finally, feel free to share your experience with a firm newsletter in the comment section.