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Look, Ma, I'm Blawging

 
            In May's column, I mentioned that information about blogs and bloggers was clearly the "buzz".  Since there has not been much tech "buzz" lately, I wanted to learn more about it.  The bleeding edge people are always going on about the latest "technology" that will change the world. 
            They have a mixed record when it comes to predictions (see paperless office) but they were right about the internet and I think they may be right about blogs or the legal version - blawg.
            In this month's column I am going to tell you about my experience setting up the MSBA LOMA Blog which can be found at http://loma.typepad.com/.  Please go to it and let me know what you think.  Although many blogs are for personal use, I am only going to discuss how solo and small firm practitioners can use them. 
            Let's start with a definition.  A Blog is a web log which is like a diary or log of information that you list on the internet.  A blog is NOT a website.  You do not need any real technical skills to create a blog.  If you can use the internet, read directions and use a word processor, you can create a blog.  Having said that, you can use more complicated sites to produce your blog but it is not necessary and I do not recommend it.
 

TIPS TO GET STARTED

            1.  First decided where you want to host your site. 

There are a few places you can go for free sites but I do not recommend them if you are going to be using it for your firm or practice.  The free site, www.blogger.com will set you up and host your blog but it is very limited.  I just tried using the free site, www.myblogsite.com and it was very difficult and when I finally received confirmation that the account was activated, when I tried to access it, I was told it did not exist.  As they say, you get what you pay for.
            (If you wish to get a list of various sites to host your blog, go to http://weblogs.about.com/od/listofweblogsoftware/.  However, do not spend too much time worrying about which one is better.  The cost is so small and most are fairly easy to use.)

            I use TypePad at www.typepad.com.  There is a 30 day free trial and there are three levels, $49.95 per year, $89.95 per year and $149.95 per year.  I first purchased the $49.95 but quickly upgraded to the $89.95 to get more design flexibility.  In addition, we get 100 megabytes of storage space.  The blog is hosted at Typepad.  This level will also allow you to create 3 blogs. 
 

            2.  What are you going to call your blawg? 

Unlike websites, most blogs will not have typical domain names.  Most will have the name of the host listed in the name but you will be able to use whatever name you wish so consider what you want to call your blog.  Although you can change it, you will not want to do that once you get started.  Had I thought more carefully about it, I would have called ours msbaloma.typepad.com instead of just loma.typepad.com.
 

            3.  What are going to say?

Before going into “technical” details, let’s first consider who should have a blog and why.  I think that these blawgs are a great way for solo practitioners who do not currently have a web presence to get on the net quickly and without much additional work.  They can be a great marketing tool for practitioners who may have a niche practice.  Although there are many blawgs where attorneys do not limit their topics of discussions, I think that having a blawg focus on just one or two specific topics or areas are easier for the practitioner.  Blawgs can be used for practitioners to give information about what is happening in his/her area, links to other resources about those areas and allow comments from others. 
 

            4.  How are you going to say it?

Although there does not seem to be any rule, blawgs seem to work best when the practitioner adds information daily or at least every few days.  Since it requires no technical skills and can be done from anywhere it is not as overwhelming as updating a website.  A good site to see a list of blawgs is at (yes, you guessed it) www.blawgs.com.
            An example of a niche blawg is http://www.legalaffairs.org/aboutus/disclaimer.html while one of the most popular and oldest blawgs, Ernie the Attorney, http://www.ernietheattorney.net/ has a large variety of topics.
            In addition, you will need to decide if you are going to put original information on the blawg and/or references to other sources that relate to the “theme” or topic of your blog.
            I think for most busy solo/small firm practitioners, I think a combination of both original and references to other resources are good ways to help you put up information regularly. 
 

            5.  What features are you going to include?   

            Unlike websites, the features that can be included are more limited but that is actually a good thing.  It is these limitations that make blawgs appealing for solo and small firm practitioners.  This is truly where content is king (or queen).
            Some of the features you will want to include are detailed information in the “About Me” category.  This is a great location for your on-line resume or firm brochure.  You can easily include photos. 
            If you decide to have a blawg about more than one topic, you can put your posts into categories.  You can even cross-reference your posts into more than one category. 
            You will be able to have a link to your email and you need to include that.
            You will also be able to include a welcome and a disclaimer on your site using what is call a Typelist and I highly recommend that you do both.  You can include the welcome in the About Me area but I recommend a short disclaimer on the sidebar. 
            There is also the ability to allow comments from others who come to your site.  You have the ability to allow comments on individual posts so you may decide to allow comments on some and not on others. 
            One of the uses of the blawgs is that you can reference other items that you want readers to your blawg to know.  You can easily link to government or court sites if you are talking about a particular area of the law.  You can link to sites that relate to your practice area.  It is the way you can use your blawg to keep clients and potential informed about what is going on with your area of practice.  You can then comment on some of the referenced sources. 
 

            GETTING STARTED

            It will take a few hours of your time to get the blawg to look the way you want and to get some posts on your site.  The on-line manual is very helpful.  Since I am not software intuitive, I have had to refer to it on many occasions. I cheated and printed it to save time from toggling back and forth between the manual and the blawg.  However, once I got started using the manual and upgraded to the Typepad Plus, it has been pretty easy.  If you want to take it to a higher, more complicated level you can but it not necessary.
            If you want step by step details on how to get started using Typepad, I have prepared and on-line tutorial which can be found at http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/index.htm under Tech Stuff.  If you are using something other than Typepad, About.com has an excellent set of on-line tutorials for other services at http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloginstallationtutorials.
            There is a wealth of additional information about weblogs at http://weblogs.about.com.
            In the coming months, I will talk about other features of the blawg, how to use RSS Feeds and marketing with blawgs but that is all for this month. 
            If you set up a blawg, please let me know the location.  I will highlight blawgs by MSBA solo and small firm practitioners at the MSBA LOMA Blawg at http://loma.typepad.com.

 

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