Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the January 4,

2006

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Law Blog Takes Off

When Richard DeLuca became director of business development at the law

firm of Stark & Stark on Lenox Drive in May, 2004, he brought a

question with him. "How am I going to market better?" he recalls

thinking. He soon had a one-word answer: blogging. The online

discussions of legal issues and news would be helpful, he reasoned,

because "more and more clients are using the `Net to search for legal

information." With a blog, it is easy to put out this information on a

timely basis.

DeLuca, a Rutgers graduate (Class of 1998), was emboldened to suggest

the concept a good year before most people had even heard of it, he

says, because "Stark & Stark understands technological changes." Still

he met with a lot of "what’s that? what’s that?" reactions. Now, less

than 18 months after the firm’s first blogs appeared online, he has

attorneys waiting their turns to post blogs – and to turn them into

podcasts.

Stark & Stark is one of only two New Jersey firms that are blogging –

Lowenstein Sandler is the other. "I’m surprised more aren’t doing

this," says DeLuca. His explanation is that "change is at glacial

speed for law firms."

The upside of blogging for Stark & Stark has been huge. "We’ve had

about 55,000 visits," says DeLuca, "and many are repeat visits." The

firm is finding that many of its blog readers are returning five, six,

seven, or eight times. Many attorneys in the firm, all of whom sign

their blogs, have gained clients as a direct result of the blogs.

Blogging attorneys have also been contacted by newspapers for

interviews on their areas of expertise. "We’ve had eight media

placements as a result of reporters reading the blogs," he says.

Beyond the added exposure, one of DeLuca’s figures in support of blogs

is bound to strike a chord with business of all kinds.

"We had E-newsletters before we had blogs," he says. "The annual cost

of blogs is one-tenth the cost of the newsletters." The firm, he adds,

no longer publishes the newsletters.

Between 30 and 40 of Stark & Stark’s attorneys blog regularly. The

firm’s first blog was on traumatic brain injury. It was written by

Bruce Stern, a specialist in that area of law. Following the standard

format for this new medium, Stern’s posts are short – just a paragraph

or two – and point the reader toward more information.

A recent post about protective soccer head gear, for example, links to

a letter from the president of a local Pee-Wee soccer association

writing on the subject. It is part of an ongoing discussion on the

blog about possible changes to soccer safety regulations. Other topics

on the blog include news of a new acute care facility in California,

new motorcycle helmet regulations in Ohio, and medical advances in the

treatment of head injuries. Everything is succinct, topical, and of

interest to those who have suffered brain injury or who litigate on

their behalf.

Stern’s is a standalone blog. The firm’s other blogs are aggregated

under the heading "Law Blog" (www.njlawblog.com). The main page of the

blog mixes areas of practice, but links to postings in 15 legal

specialties march down the left-hand side of the page. Someone

interested only in one area, perhaps environmental, real estate, or

employment law, can go directly to the blog for that specialty.

As is common with all blogs, the Stark & Stark blogs contain lists of

links to other Internet sites that would probably be of interest to

readers. They also allow for questions and comments and give the law

firm the ability to filter out any irrelevant or obnoxious postings,

functions that are also near-universal in blogs. Unlike many less

sophisticated blogs, those posted by Stark & Stark have a search

function. It is more common for blogs to just archive past posts,

sometimes by topic, sometimes not.

From a marketing standpoint, a big plus for blogs is that they make it

easy for anyone to get them by subscription. Just click on a link, and

each new blog is delivered to an E-mail inbox. This makes blogs vastly

preferable to E-newsletters, says DeLuca, because they are, by nature,

opt-in. No one who doesn’t specifically ask for the blogs will get

them. Superior psychologically to E-newsletters, which are often seen

as spam, they are also superior technologically, he says, because they

zip right through any spam filters totally unmolested.

Another upside to blogs is that they make it easy to measure results.

Counters on blog websites compute number of visitors and even track

where they come from. Are they clicking over from another site, from a

search engine, or maybe from a newspaper site? The counter knows. Are

they coming back again and again? The counter knows that too. New

business is also easy to track. Blog visitors may start up a

relationship with an attorney right in the blog by, for example,

asking questions. There is a link to each attorney’s bio and contact

information right on the blog, making it easy for potential clients –

or reporters in search of a source – to get in touch by phone too.

Members of his firm who blog spend about one to one-and-a-half hours a

week on updates, says DeLuca. He conducted training sessions soon

after he introduced the new communication tool, but says that it is

incredibly easy to master blogging. How hard is it? "It’s like writing

an E-mail," he says.

Last summer DeLuca added a new wrinkle to the blogs by turning some of

them into podcasts, which, basically, are just audio versions of the

blogs. Through an incredible coincidence, Stark & Stark’s podcasts

went live on July 1, the very day that I-music giant Apple also became

the world’s I-audio giant by unveiling a vast catalog of free podcast

downloads on its iTunes website. As one of only a handful of legal

podcasters, Stark & Stark comes up right away on an iTunes search. It

has posted 19 podcasts to iTunes (a totally free service for both

posters and listeners) and they have already been downloaded more than

8,000 times.

Like all podcasts posted on iTunes, the Stark & Stark legal updates

can either be listened to on the website (www.apple.com/itunes) or can

be downloaded to an iPod MP3 player.

DeLuca says that the results for his new media initiatives "blow away"

the numbers for E-newsletters, which were, after all, new media

themselves way back in the beginning of the 21st century. He also

shares his favorite E-marketing websites – both of which, probably not

coincidentally, are blogs. They are Digg (www.digg.com), which is all

about new media, and Micro Persuasion (www.micropersuasion.com), the

blog of PR superstar Steve Rubel, who, in early-December posted a note

on the New Oxford Dictionary’s decision to crown "podcast" as its 2005

word of the year.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building Two, Lawrenceville 08648.

John A. Sakson, Lewis J. Pepperman, co-managing partners.

609-896-9060; fax, 609-896-0629. E-mail: info@stark-stark.com. Home

page: www.stark-stark.com


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