It’s not that I had been doing nothing. I set up regular lunches and happy hours with my contacts at clients and potential clients. I was active in various bar organizations. I sent personal notes to my law school classmates. And I had put my slight obsession with the Supreme Court’s evolving interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act (and my experience litigating those issues) to work by writing articles for various bar publications and local law journals, and I had presented CLEs on the subject. But it wasn’t bearing much fruit.
Then in 2011, a marketing consultant came to my firm with the message: “All of you should be blogging.” His rationale made sense to me. (For more on that, check out http://adriandayton.com and http://kevin.lexblog.com.) Plus, I knew I had a head start on the graying attorneys around me. My husband and I already had been blogging about parenting for five years, so I was familiar with the medium. I enjoy writing and know how to inject some personality in my text. And I had a good potential topic—arbitration. There were no other private lawyers blogging about U.S. arbitration. I am a fan of listening to my gut, and my gut was shouting: DO IT.
On August 11, 2011, I launched http://www.arbitrationnation.com. Simultaneously, I joined Twitter (@KramerLiz) to help promote my posts. My plan was to post at least once a week and to trust that good things would follow. My firm was supportive and easily agreed to devote the resources necessary for the design and early promotion of the blog, although not without some trepidation. I recall one partner saying, “I don’t know why you’re going to give away your advice for free,” and another cautioning, “Don’t write anything that will get us in trouble!” (Knock on wood, so far I haven’t.)
Almost three years and 150 posts later, the blog is by far my most effective marketing activity. Some of the benefits are ones I had hoped for, and others are ones I did not anticipate.
The blog has helped establish me as a national authority on arbitration. My posts are read by 12,000 to 15,000 people each month, the great majority of whom are lawyers (both in-house and law firm) who see them on JDSupra or Lexology. I get invited to present CLEs, train arbitrators, turn my posts into articles in other publications, and comment about arbitration in national legal stories.
New External Business
The blog has brought me new external business. Yes, read that sentence again because it is hard to believe. To date, I have gotten multiple new clients, ones who had no previous relationship with me or my firm, who called me because they found my blog and needed a lawyer knowledgeable about arbitration. In one case I replaced the client’s previous lawyer, but in the others I have co-counseled with other firms.
New Internal Business
The blog has brought me more internal business. This is one I did not expect. I had assumed my colleagues knew about my arbitration knowledge, and I was getting the internal work that was available. Not so! About a year after I started blogging, after my exploits were touted within the firm (She’s blogging! People are reading it! She’s winning awards!), I saw a large increase in my internal calls. I have now helped my partners’ clients draft new arbitration clauses, enforce arbitration agreements, deal with tricky issues during arbitrations, and confirm arbitration awards.
National and Local Recognition
The blog has won awards. Arbitration Nation has been named one of the ABA Journal’s top 100 legal blogs for the past two years. My efforts blogging also contributed to my being named one of Minnesota’s “40 under 40” this year by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
The blog has also given me a distinguishing identity in my firm. I am in a firm with more than 500 lawyers and 14 offices. It is hard to remember people’s names, let alone their areas of expertise. For better or for worse, blogging is unique enough that it sticks with people. I am “the Arbitration Blog Lady.” It also puts me in a category (I hope) of movers and shakers.
What does all this have to do with being a woman? Obviously, blogging can and does work for both sexes. But, for me, it has been a marketing effort well-suited to my life. When I started blogging, my husband was a federal prosecutor, and our children were ages two and five. I don’t like giving up time with my family on evenings and weekends to attend dozens of events that could possibly, maybe, someday translate into a single, small litigated matter. But blogging I can do from home on my own schedule. And I get a lot of bang for my buck. I can’t think of another activity that I could engage in for three hours a week and reap the benefits noted above.
Furthermore, men have been marketing with golf events, sporting events, and scotch tastings for years. I am not entirely comfortable on that well-worn ground. But in staking out new (online) territory, I no longer feel as if I am playing “catch up” with the old boys’ network, and instead feel as if I am leading the way in a new era of legal marketing. That is powerful. (Although, browsing through last year’s ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 list suggests even blogging is currently dominated by men. By my count, 49 of those blogs are done by men, 21 by women, and 30 by authors of both sexes.)
Finally, I find another important benefit of blogging, although not directly related to marketing, is that it has made me love my job more. That is important in an environment where it is still hard to retain women in private law firms. I love the challenge of saying something original about a case, coming up with witty titles, or trying to educate other lawyers about a tricky area of law. I love it when readers appreciate my pop culture references (I recently did a whole post themed around The Breakfast Club). Through my blog, I have engaged in a great discussion with people all over the country who care about this area of law, and that is energizing.
In short, if you have a unique practice area, enjoy writing, and have a discernible “voice,” consider blogging as part of your marketing strategy. And, even if you don’t, check me out at www.arbitrationnation.com and hire me for your next arbitration dustup.
Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, career, business development, professional development, marketing, social networking, social media, blogging