Blame It On Solo

So, Kevin O’Keefe of Lexblog and Will Hornsby, Staff Counsel for the ABA have called a truce in their debate over whether the public uses blogs to hire a lawyer. Fueling the disagreement were the results of a recent ABA Survey which found that only 15 percent of respondents said that they would “use blogs to hire a lawyer for a personal legal matter.” Kevin contended that the ABA Survey wrongly discounted the value of blogs by asking the wrong question. Kevin reasons that most people won’t realize that they use blogs to hire lawyers – but nonetheless, blogs add significant credibility when potential clients vet a word-of-mouth referral (which incidentally, was the top choice for how people find lawyers) or when lawyers need to locate another lawyer to refer. Will responded that he had been surprised by the ABA results, but perhaps the reason is that more consumers dont’ use blogs to find lawyers is that there aren’t enough blogs to satisfy demand. In other words, there are “a higher percentage of people who are interested in turning to blogs to help find a lawyer than the percentage of solo and small firm lawyers who have blogs.” And thus, both Kevin and Will have concluded that:

“If more solo and small firm lawyers were blogging in a way that engages consumers and small business people in their towns, there would be greater access to the law.”

So that’s right – blame the lack of access to law on solos because they’re not blogging. Aren’t solos doing enough already? That same ABA study found that 54 percent of solos are willing to offer unbundled legal services, which is one approach to reducing the cost of legal service and expanding access to law. And many solos are already doing enough involuntary pro bono what with writing off bills to clients who can’t pay and taking cases at reduced rates just to help someone out. In addition to mandatory CLE, will we now compel solos to write blogs as well? (of course, perhaps if blogging counted as CLE, that might offer more motivation…)

Of course, access to law is just a tangential matter. More to the point is the question of whether blogging provides benefits to solo and small firm lawyers. Here, I agree, for thirteen different reasons that I outlined seven years ago, and which still hold true. Like Kevin, I too have referred consumer matters to lawyers whose work I know only from their blogs, and I believe that many other lawyers do the same. Moreover, in the decade since lawyers started blogging, consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet for information on legal matters. At the same time, they are also largely indifferent about whether they find that information at a blog, an online article posted at a traditional website, an online advertisement, in an ebook or in a video on YouTube. In fact, if the ABA survey question been phrased to ask whether consumers relied on the Internet generally, rather than blogs specifically for finding a lawyer, I suspect the percentages would have been much higher. And I also suspect that many solo lawyers realize that, which is why many prefer to invest money in Google ads to find clients rather than invest the resources in blogging.

There are other reasons why only seven percent (according to the ABA Survey) of solo and small firm lawyers blog. Some are busy and can’t find the time. Some simply don’t like to write. Some take the position (erroneously in my view) that by blogging, they’re giving away the cow, so to speak. Others prefer to engage in other marketing activities such as speaking engagements and seminars or bar events (not my cup of tea, but different strokes).

But at the end of the day, most solos don’t blog because they simply do not see it benefiting their bottom line – and the ABA survey results, at least the actual numbers, tend to corroborate that instinct. Indeed, it may be that consumers are hungry for information, but most solos and small firms aren’t willing to provide it without some assurance that those consumers will convert into clients. Saying that consumers want more information from blogs doesn’t tell me that they want to hire a lawyer. Rather, it suggests that they just want more free information.

The ABA Survey was about how consumers find lawyers, not how lawyers attract clients. The real test of blogging’s effectiveness for solo and small firm lawyers isn’t to focus on consumers, but instead, to poll solo and small firm bloggers to determine whether their blog generates business. I know of several bloggers who have experienced positive results, but frankly, many others who do not – or just not enough to justify the time investment. So readers, what do you think? Do you have a blog and do you generate business from it? And if you don’t blog, why not?