The Value of Legal Blogging And How To Begin
Any PR expert will say that if you want to become known as an expert in a particular area such as intellectual property law, you need to be blogging (and vlogging) on a fairly consistent basis.
And open communication was one of five trends identified by our INTA committee members at their Leadership Meeting in November 2019. Great communication creates great businesses and successful communication needs an understanding which is more than the knowledge of the law itself! Be it online or offline, formal communication or informal communication through blogs, the IP Industry is well aware of the power of communication - including the power of emotional intelligence.
Why become an Influencer?
Becoming an IP influencer can create a foundation for several lucrative opportunities. These include:
- attracting high-value clients whose work is varied and technical
- a sense of fulfilment that you are providing value to a large readership
- the opportunity to be called on to influence state and federal IP regulations
- invitations to talk at and/or participate in IP-related conferences, think-tanks, and government investigations
A well-crafted, regularly updated legal blog also provides an opportunity to be contacted for quotes by local and national media. In fact, it is often the only way for an unknown Attorney to attract the interest of time-starved journalists. Nick Harding, national newspaper journalist, author and consultant said: "Modern journalism is about quick turnarounds, more so than ever given the immediacy of social media. Every story competes to be published first. Journalists still have favoured contacts for certain subjects but if they need a comment fast from a media-friendly expert and do not have existing contacts in that area, they go to Google and look for experts who have provided quotes previously."
The challenges of building a legal blog
Blogging provides a way for Attorneys to communicate with their clients and prospects in a frequent and relaxed way that provides continuous value. So, given the advantages of having a well-crafted legal blog, why isn’t everyone doing it? Much of it comes down to lack of time. A good article takes hours, if not days, to research and write. And then it must be edited, optimised for search engines (SEO), and publicised - normally through social media channels. For trademark Attorneys, one way to carve out this time is to invest in powerful trademark tools which automate much of the traditionally labour-intensive searching and checking of existing marks.
If creating a legal blog which provides value and insight to readers sounds like an appealing 2020 goal, here are some tips on getting started.
Read, read, read
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King
When you read author interviews, most of them confess to being voracious readers from childhood. Writing non-fiction is a skill like any other – the more you practice, the better you get. Books and articles provide endless examples of how to use language, create a story, engage the reader, and build an argument. Regularly devouring long-form articles found in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Book Review, The London Review of Books etc. is essential if you want to write non-fiction well. The books listed below also provide expert tips on writing:
- Everybody Writes – Ann Handley
- Good Prose – the art of non-fiction – Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
- Wired for Story – Lisa Cron
- A Sense of Style – Steven Pinker
- The Element of Style - Strunk and White
You may also want to work through the Best Magazine Articles Ever list to see how masters such as Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, and David Foster Wallace craft/ed their magic.
Write for all readers, not just for your peers
The fastest way to ensure no one outside your profession reads your blog is to limit your audience and only write for other attorneys. Although many popular IP blogs today are written by lawyers for lawyers and are extremely relevant, informative and valuable, legal bloggers should also take into account their wider readership and craft articles that also further client education. Building an audience who return regularly to your website requires shelving your ego and thinking about the value you are offering to the reader.
Before you begin to write, repeat in the mirror “the reader doesn’t care how smart I am”.
To this end, ditch the legalese, corporate jargon, and big words. A good tool for learning how to make complex terms understandable for the general public is to browse tabloids such as The Mirror regularly. Although it may theoretically seem easy, you will soon realise there is an art to explaining the law in an accessible way. It is a skill that requires a good deal of practice.
Tell a story
The craft of writing fiction and non-fiction do differ (journalists cannot necessarily write novels), but both disciplines require the writer to communicate a story to the reader. Christopher Booker’s, The Seven Basic Plots (a work that took 34 years to complete) is essential reading for any writer. He argues that almost every story can be categorised into seven plots, namely Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. This is as true for great long-form articles as it is for works of fiction. Take The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved by Hunter S. Thompson. This classic piece of writing tells the story of the author and artist Ralph Steadman’s drunken, manic partying through one of America’s greatest horse events. When you read it, you see that it fits into the Voyage and Return genre. The writer and the artist travel out to the limits of partying and excess and return to normal life after the Derby is over. Another example is Tom Junod’s, The Falling Man, in which the author goes on a quest to discover the identity of a man photographed falling from the North Tower on September 11.
The story is what engages the reader and makes them care about what you have to say. Therefore, if possible, take the time to find a real-life example of what you are writing about. If your article is based on China’s trademark squatting, locate a company that has been affected by that particular issue and weave their story into the piece. Malcolm Gladwell provides terrific examples of how to weave a story into a non-fiction work. Read everything he has ever written (but vow to be more diligent than he in your fact-checking).
Starting a blog is a creative endeavour and like all art, there is no guarantee that your investment in time and money will pay off. You may gain a substantial readership but never receive a call from a journalist or be asked to participate in a think-tank. But if you love to write and believe you have something of value to communicate, then the personal satisfaction you get from blogging will be reward enough.
It is important to foster more understanding and to spread the word about trademark law and blogging is one sure way to educate the general public about IP issues and rights.
If you are considering entering the blogging arena this year why not take a look at our series of 2019 retrospectives and get inspired?
Last month our Insights blog covered the top five trademark law developments in 2019 and we published a 2019 retrospective fact sheet entitled: “9 Big Trademark Regulation Changes in 2019”. You can download your copy here.
Significant dispute trends and case law based trends in the USPTO and EUIPO
For this month’s 2019 retrospective our Data Scientist analyzed our platform’s 2019 United States and European Union oppositions data and discovered three distinct dispute trends. Our Trademark Counsel also took a very close look at five trademark case law trends in each territory.
Get reading and start your journey towards becoming an IP influencer today!