California Bar Offers A Reason to Keep Your Website and Blog Separate

Should a law firm blog be incorporated into a website or function as a freestanding entity? That’s a question that’s been asked almost since the beginning of time, with at least two experts – Sam Glover and Kevin O’Keefe endorsing separation for a variety of different reasons.

But now, a recent California ethics decision offers yet another reason for lawyers to maintain their blog’s independence. The California decision addresses whether blogs constitute advertising, and analyzes a couple of different fact patterns.  The California bar concludes that a freestanding blog offering informational or educational materials that is free standing, intended to enhance the lawyer’s education in the community and doesn’t include any “call us now for help” solicitations is not subject to bar advertising rules. By contrast, that same blog, if included as part of a law firm website would be deemed advertising essentially be association and subject to the same regulations as the parent site.


  1. Bryan Marble on January 16, 2015 at 9:36 am

    I’m still having a hard time understanding the benefit to separating a blog from your firm’s website. Assuming that the time and energy an attorney spends blogging is to get more clients, doesn’t it stand to reason that it should be considered advertising, just like any other page on their website?

    What benefit is there to blogging if not for advertising your firm? If it’s for personal standing within the legal community, for example being a thought leader among attorneys, etc, then yes, you absolutely should keep your blog and your website separate. But I think that was true before this decision.

    I guess it comes down to the question of, what marketing benefit could I possibly achieve with a blog that is separate from my website and doesn’t offer any sort of call to action, that I couldn’t achieve with that blog attached to my site?

    Because the marketing benefits to having your blog attached (more chances for back-links, constant updates that keep Google coming back, more chances to appear in search for long-tail keywords, etc, etc, etc) are gigantic, and I can’t think of a benefit to keeping it separate that even begins to overcome these.

    I would love to be educated to the contrary if it’s true though, so please let me know!

  2. Bryan Marble on January 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

    And the Sam Glover and Kevin O’Keefe articles are correct that if you’re blogging about the law then it should be a separate entity. But blogging about the law, and blogging to market your firm are very different activities.

    If law is a passion, then by all means, blog about it on a separate site. Build that brand, and after years of consistent posting it might turn into a great referral source for your firm.

    This site is a great example of what consistent effort over many years can do to build an attorney’s brand. But for every great site like MyShingle, there are thousands of long-abandoned “blawgs” that never reached that point because the return wasn’t immediate enough.

    If blogging is a means to the more immediate end of driving traffic and awareness to your new firm, then the blog should be written for potential clients, in their language, and be light on the nitty-gritty details of the law.

    And in my humble opinion (again, open to evidence to the contrary), that type of content should be considered advertising, it should adhere to the ethical guidelines of your Bar Association, and it should be on your firm’s website.

    I wrote a bit more in detail about why most solos shouldn’t be law bloggers at

  3. Paul Spitz on January 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    OK, I read your piece, but I think you need to distinguish among the 3 types of lawyer bloggers. The first type is someone like Carolyn, or the folks at Lawyerist, or Lee Rosen, who blog about managing a law practice.

    The second type, and I think this is what your own piece is referring to, is the lawyer that gets in really deep and with extensive detail about a legal issue. This person is essentially writing a law review article, and posting it on a blog. Nobody is going to read it except other lawyers.

    There is a third type, however, and that’s the lawyer who blogs about legal issues, but writes for a layperson audience. Ryan Roberts does that on startup law issues, and I try to do the same. We write about the various legal issues that impact our potential client base, but we don’t go into excruciating detail. We try to build awareness of the issue, and my ultimate goal is for the reader to say “I’m glad that guy wrote about this. I didn’t know anything about the issue before. And that guy seems to know his stuff, so when I need a lawyer, that’s who I’m going to call.” Is this advertising? You’re darn tooting, it is, and I have no problem with that. I’m allowed to advertise; that’s been settled for years. Billboards and bus benches don’t work for my type of practice, but a blog on legal issues facing startups and small businesses does. Nowhere in any of my blog pieces, however, do I include an explicit call to action. I am assuming that my readers are bright enough to figure out that if they are facing that issue, and they don’t have a lawyer, they should contact me.

  4. Brian Focht on January 16, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    This response articulates what is, in my opinion, the correct assessment of when a blog should be separate and when it should be connected.

    Overall, it strikes me as thinking the wrong way to say “since I’m going to have to comply with advertising rules, I’m going to separate my blog to avoid it.” The right approach, I think, is to say “ok, let’s make sure this blog complies with ethical rules.”

  5. Bryan Marble on January 16, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Paul – thanks for taking the time to read that. You’re right there are differences between say, MyShingle and Lawyerist and a law blog like say SCOTUSBlog.

    I think a solo’s blog should absolutely be about legal issues just as you say, and in particular the legal issues your prospective clients would be interested in.

    The real distinction is “Am I writing things that are focused on topics my potential clients care about and are searching for?” If yes, keep it on your firm’s site, if not, create a separate blog for it.

    And you also made an important point that blog posts should rarely contain explicit calls to action. By all means, put calls to action around your post, whether in the byline of the post or in a sidebar, but you’re right. The posts themselves should be laser focused on the issues your clients care about.

  6. Jerry Wyrosdick on January 19, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I am sorry but I wonder why this question even arose that blogs and websites must be separate entities. Purpose of blog is always advertising in a subtle manner depending upon the intelligence and tact of the blogger. I am also planning a blog and it is going to be firmly integrated with my website Moreover it is more convenient to have all your marketing assets at one place.

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