I was astounded recently when I learned there are an estimated 70 million blogs – short for “web logs” - now on the Internet and that an estimated 30% of all Americans regularly read them. The term blog was coined in December 1997 and generally refers to an online diary or journal. It is also a verb and when a person “blogs” they are simply posting messages on a blog. Blogs range from simple web pages where a single writer posts comments and news to those run by major news organizations like CNN and the BBC to sites on just about every topic imaginable. That blogs are all the rage is obvious. So what are some of the better blogs out there for lawyers? What software and web sites are out there which allow you to subscribe to blogs and quickly scan posts from a central location? Should you be blogging yourself and if so, what’s the best way to get started? We’ll cover those subjects in this article.
In 2002, I was a speaker at an American Bar Association event where one of my co-panelists was Rick Klau, co-author with me of the ABA bestseller THE LAWYER'S GUIDE TO MARKETING ON THE INTERNET. Rick is a blog guru for the legal profession and was praising lawyers around the US who were starting to use blogs to communicate with the public. While listening to Rick, it occurred to me that that I probably had the world’s first law blog and didn’t even realize it. In May 1998, I set up an "online diary" on my web site to keep readers apprised of legislative developments surrounding the H-1B non-immigrant visa debate. The page was extremely popular and in one day alone received more than 50,000 hits. If you're interested in seeing that page, go to the Wayback Machine and see our site as it looked in December 1998.
Our firm now has several blogs that cover a variety of subjects. We have our main blog for posting the latest news on immigration, particularly concerning legislative developments. We also have a blog focused on health care immigration and another on fashion, arts and sports immigration. I even have a blog just focusing on technology and practice management tips for other immigration lawyers.
Today there are hundreds of law firm web sites and even web sites that blog about law firm blog sites. A few of my favorites include
- Inter Alia - Tom Mighell’s excellent blog covering all things legal
- Ernie the Attorney - An excellent example of how a lawyer can create a community
- Law.com Newswire - Covers the daily news affecting the legal profession
- ABA LPM Book Publishing Chair Reid Trautz has an excellent blog called “Reid My Blog”.
Other Blogs Worth Bookmarking
While people who hang out with me think I do nothing but think about immigration law, I occasionally let my mind drift to other subjects. I check out blogs in a variety of subject areas. Many of them are political and I’ll avoid telling you about them here lest we break into a blue state/red state argument. But I will say that if you go to Technorati.com, a blog ratings service, two of the most popular blogs on the Internet are Daily Kos, the liberal blog at and the conservative blog Instapundit.
For general news, there is seemingly no end to the number of blogs you can use to collect information. I subscribe on my blogreader to the New York Times, CNN, the BBC and Reuters.
There are a few blogs I like which are more general in nature and just seem to give you useful tips and news across a variety of categories. Digg.com is a site that aggregates the best blog posts across the web based on votes by the public. Many blogs now have a “Digg this” button after each posting and people can vote to rank the post high in Digg.com. Another site worth a look is Lifehacker. I find something useful at that site almost every day.
The Care and Feeding of Your Blogs
Up until early in 2006, I had a couple of blogs bookmarked that I would check periodically, but I generally only browsed to them occasionally. And then I learned about something called “content syndication” and quickly blogs became a much more important part of my Internet experience.
Content syndication generally refers to a common way of formatting a blog that allows for the content of the blog to easily be picked up as a “feed” by blog reading software as well as other blogs. There are two common formats for bloggers to create a feed – RSS (short for “really simple syndication”) and Atom. Blogs that are created in one or both of these formats will usually have a button or buttons that say RSS, Atom, XML, Subscribe or something similar. The latest Microsoft Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers will show an RSS orange button in the browser toolbar when a web site can be
You’ll need a blog reader to then read these “feeds.” Blog readers can be found on the web or you can download standalone software that pulls down the content. According to Feedburner.com, there are more than 2,000 different feed reading applications so it is not practical to give a good overview of all the options.
I happen to use Bloglines to organize my blogs and have been very satisfied. Bloglines is available as a free web site and can be configured to organize your blog feeds by category. When you click on the RSS button on a blog, the Bloglines subscription page automatically pops up and you can assign the feed to whatever section of Bloglines you want. So, for example, if you have a Bloglines folder for immigration law web sites, you can assign a blog feed t that site with just two clicks.
Other free web-based blog readers can be found at Newsgator, my.yahoo.com, Rojo.com and Newsburst.com. Newsgator also has one of the more popular software applications for reading blogs. The cost is $29.95, but it has a number of features not available in the free and online readers.
You may decide to begin blogging yourself. Some people make their blogs completely personal and only publicize their journals to their friends and family. Or you may create a blog for marketing purposes or as a way to communicate with your clients about what’s going on in immigration law.
One of the wonderful things about blogging is that you don’t need to know anything about web programming and you don’t even need to have a web site of your own (though if you have a web page, you can incorporate the blog into the site). You can set up a blog simply by completing a form online.
Like blog readers, there are many, many companies out there that provide blogging software. But I’ll mention a few of the big ones. If you are looking to create a blog hosted by someone else rather than on your own, four popular choices are Google’s Blogger, Typepad and LiveJournal and MSN Spaces (Windows Live Spaces). Some of these services, like Blogger, will also allow the blog to be integrated in to your web site.
I have used Blogger to run the Visalaw Blog. Configuring the blog was easy, I can post messages to the blog simply by sending an email message from my PC or my PDA. And I’m not worried about Google going out of business any time soon and having to find a new blog service.