American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division

Spring 2003 vol. 9 Number 3
The Five W's (and Two H's) of Online Newsletter Publishing

By Jimmy L. Verner, Jr.

So you want to start a newsletter for your practice. Many of the big firms have newsletters. Why shouldn't you? In fact, you can compete with anyone when it comes to publishing online newsletters.

Before you start tinkering with your Web site, ask yourself a few basic questions about your proposed newsletter. Consider the traditional who, what, when, where, how, why-and how much. Let's start with "why" because it's the most important question.

Why do you want to do a newsletter? Because other firms do it? Because it looks cool? No! Although there can be side benefits to newsletter publishing (such as self-study CLE), the main reason for a newsletter is to generate business. You must keep this purpose firmly in mind.
To answer the "who" question, ask yourself how you want to get your business. Are you a specialist who draws your business from other lawyers? Or do you get most of your business directly from the public? In other words, for whom are you writing?

What will you include in your newsletter? If you are writing for other attorneys, you will want to impress them with your expertise. If you are marketing to the public, your material should be more "bulleted." For this reason, "canned" newsletters can be useful for general marketing. If you specialize in an area, you should write your own newsletter.

When should you publish your newsletter? You want to call attention to yourself, but not so often that it becomes annoying. How often is this? It's hard to say, but most newsletters come out weekly or monthly.Where should you publish your newsletter? Your Web site is the best place. Two important search engine criteria are the amount of Web site content and the frequency of change to the Web site. If you post to your Web site and archive issues, your Web site will come up higher in Web searches.

How should you publish your newsletter? You should e-mail the newsletter in addition to posting it online. But beware of your jurisdiction's disciplinary rules when preparing your subscription list. Certainly with respect to laypersons, your list should be opt-in only.

Finally, consider how much time and money you are willing to invest. If you prepare your own newsletter, the time investment can be considerable, but the monetary expense will be small. Many free or inexpensive Web-authoring tools and bulk email programs are available. If you buy your newsletter and pay someone else to publish it, then you will pay more but invest less time.

Jimmy L. Verner, Jr., is a principal at Verner & Brumley, P.C., a four-lawyer family-law firm in Dallas, Texas. He can be reached at



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