Start Your Own Law Blog: A New Way of Hanging Your Own Shingle

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Have you given any thought to hanging your own shingle lately? Here at Lawyerist, we continue to advise lawyers, both young and old, to start their own niche market law practices. However, in this Internet age where lawyers are being replaced by computers, the idea of hanging your own shingle doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to opening a new law practice. Instead, why not launch your own law blog and hang your shingle there?


I recently spoke with BL1Y, a pseudonymous law blogger, whose posts have been featured on popular law blogs, such as Above the Law and Bitter Lawyer. BL1Y started his own law blog, BL1Y | The Life and Adventures of a Defunct Big Law Associate, after having been laid off from his BigLaw job in New York City in early 2010. BL1Y recently launched Constitutional Daily, a new law blog whose masthead includes other well-known, pseudonymous law bloggers, namely, The Philadelphia Lawyer and The Namby Pamby.

An Interview with BL1Y

During my conversation with BL1Y, I asked him several questions about the decision to hang his own shingle at Constitutional Daily. If you, too, are interested in hanging your own shingle at a law blog, BL1Y’s insights on the subject may prove useful to you.

STACI: Why did you choose to start this new law blog?

BL1Y: After getting laid off and not being able to find work right away, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my career choices were. People say that we should just hang up a shingle and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Well, malpractice insurance is expensive, and even a virtual office isn’t free. Launching a new website, though? That took about $22. The way I look at it, I’m hanging up my own shingle. No reason that shingle has to say Attorney at Law instead of Editor in Chief.

STACI: Other than collaborating with other writers, what makes Constitutional Daily different from what you have been doing?

BL1Y: BL1Y.com was just a personal blog where I wrote about anything that interested me, like a journal that’s just open to anyone to read. One day it’s law school, the next it’s Harry Potter. That’s very different from what I’m doing now with Constitutional Daily. Con Daily operates much more like a traditional publication, but with the internet as its medium. The writers each have their own focus—there’s a somewhat firm publication schedule, and we pitch ideas to each other. It requires a more serious approach. The old site was just a hobby and a bit of a creative outlet. I treat Con Daily as a start-up business.

STACI: How do you plan on making money?

BL1Y: The plan for making money is pretty much the same as most other websites: advertising. Of course, until we have money coming in, the trick is to keep expenses to a minimum. Fortunately, that’s pretty easy to do online. Our biggest expense is our monthly hosting fee, which is about $8.

STACI: How are you going to attract your advertisers?

BL1Y: The first step is working on the site content and building up a large readership. Starting with several writers who already have their own fan base gives us a running start. A site that has a big enough following should naturally get on the radar of potential advertisers. I managed a print publication in undergrad that relied a lot on advertising. While this is a very different thing, I think the first step is the same, which is creating something that advertisers will want to buy space in.

STACI: How long do you think it will be until you actually make money off the site?

BL1Y: Anywhere from weeks to months. It’s possible to start getting a small amount of money through third party advertisers, like Google AdSense. But, any ad campaign has to be weighed against the harm it does to the site. Most people find advertisements obnoxious, and so putting on ads too early will make it harder to build traffic.

STACI: Web site design isn’t part of the normal law school curriculum. Have you had much trouble with the technical side of the site?

BL1Y: Tons. Most people won’t, though. If you use a service like WordPress or Blogspot, it’s very simple. You make an account and you’re up and running in less than an hour. But, I decided to go with Joomla, which gives you more freedom and has a few other features I like, but it’s also much more complex. The good news is that there are tons of free resources out there, from the software itself (Joomla, like WordPress and others, is free), to video tutorials, and even tech support. Some developers will help you use their products, and there are plenty of forums where you can ask your questions. It’s a bit intimidating at first, but so was the Erie doctrine.

STACI: I know the site has only been around for a few weeks, but how is Constitutional Daily doing as far as traffic is concerned?

BL1Y: This is where we started strong, with about 25-30% of what I’d like to see us at in 6 months. That’s a very good place to be.

We here at Lawyerist wish BL1Y and the rest of his staff the very best of luck. I’m sure that Constitutional Daily‘s readership, and eventually its advertising revenue, will continue to increase in the days, weeks, and months to come!

How to Launch Your Own Law Blog

If my interview with Constitutional Daily’s BL1Y has piqued your interest in launching your own law blog, Lawyerist has several tips and tricks on how you can begin the journey of hanging your own blogging shingle:

If you’d like even more information on starting and maintaining your own law blog, please read on at the following links:

I recently started my own law blog, Haute Couture Law, because I am very interested in the thread between fashion and intellectual property law. Both Lawyerist and the Lawyerist LAB have helped me to get a very firm footing in understanding the many intricacies of launching a law blog. Thanks to these useful tools, I hope to start adding more content to my blog in the near future.

Will you be hanging your own shingle at a law blog? Please let us know in the comments.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alamodestuff/4351730264/)

Legal Careers

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  • http://lawyerist.com/author/randallryder/ Randall Ryder

    Great post! Check out this related post on how attorneys can enhance their law blog.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      Randall, I was going to comment over on the article you linked to, but comments appear to be closed (guessing they’re turned off after a while).

      About what you said on adding images, they can be trickier than they seem at first. Using a lot of stock photos can make a site appear cheap and unprofessional. If you’re just doing a personal blog, that’s fine. But, if you’re trying to set a more serious, professional tone, they can be counterproductive.

      • http://lawyerist.com/author/randallryder/ Randall Ryder

        I think it depends on what pictures you are using. Sure, if you use generic, boring pictures, that is counterproductive. I usually spend a fair amount of time trying to find a neat photo that evokes the theme of a post.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/stacizaretsky/ Staci Zaretsky

      Thank you, Randall!

      • http://lawyerist.com/author/randallryder/ Randall Ryder

        Of course—and congrats on finishing the bar exam!

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

    Love this interview – honest, practical advice. Even without ads, blogging as content marketing is golden. Although as anonymous bloggers, that may not come into play :-) Thing with Adsense is that you need TONS of traffic to make even a sliver of cash, and for so many that are niche blogs within a nice practice withing a niche profession, it’s not worth it.

    Nice con law site, btw. Agree, WordPress, Joomla, etc are great, easy, cheap way to get sites going, but learning code to edit (the technical side of it) to your hearts content can be quite a task. Seems like you did quite well.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      I assume by “content marketing” you mean using the blog as a way to attract readers to some related product or service, such as starting a construction law blog attached to your boutique construction law firm’s website.

      I think that’s definitely a powerful use for blogs, probably best for getting other attorneys to send work your way when something is out of their area of expertise. But, your primary gig is still practicing law.

  • http://www.shatterbox.biz/ Jay Pinkert

    Ensemble legal blogging is likely the wave of the (hopefully near) future, so it will be interesting to watch this blog develop. I doubt, though, that pseudonymous legal blogging is commercially viable (i.e. generating the equivalent of a full-time professional salary). In the wider social media marketplace pseudonymous blogging is basically extinct because of the value placed on authenticity and transparency.

    It also cuts you off from the publicity and authority derived from speaking opportunities.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      The issues of authenticity and transparency really depend on what sort of blog you have. If you’re writing substantive legal articles, then having your name and CV attached is going to be very important. You want people to rely on your analysis, and they’ll want to see your credentials before they do that.

      But for sites driven by something else, such as entertainment or news aggregation, I don’t see your identity as being too important. For news aggregation, your credentials are the sources you link back to. For entertainment, the only credential is the writing itself.

      • http://www.shatterbox.biz/ Jay Pinkert

        Blessings, but that’s just wishful thinking.

        If you were breaking insider news, that would be one thing, but what’s the affirmative argument for anonymity in this model? How is it an advantage?

        There are a lot of entertainingly written news/analysis aggregation legal blogs out there — The Lawyerist prominent among them. Transparency and authenticity — aka credibility — very much matter if you’re trying to build enough traffic and advertiser interest to start generating serious ducats.

        That is not to say you won’t be mindblowingly successful, but as a simple business decision, if there’s no clear upside but there’s demonstrable downside, why do it?

        • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

          Dr. Rob got fired from his job when he started blogging. That’s a pretty affirmative argument for staying anonymous.

          Phila Lawyer and Namby Pamby are both practicing attorneys, Shadow Hand is a real life law student, and Robot Pimp doesn’t want to get censured by the Evil Robot Overlords. Writing under a pseudonym is a sort of self-help way of getting academic freedom.

          Obviously only time will tell whether advertisers care. I would think though that they’re more concerned with knowing about traffic and audience. Phila Lawyer got a book published while anonymous, so I’m not sure how demonstrable the downside really is.

          As for credibility being necessary to creating that audience in the first place, I don’t see how a joke about NOM Clauses (nom nom nom!) is any more or less “credible” by knowing the name of the person who wrote it.

          • http://www.shatterbox.biz/ Jay Pinkert

            And yet, most lawyers and law students do blog under their own names. The demonstrable downside of anonymous blogging is evidenced by its scarcity and the rarity of examples like Phila Lawyer’s book. If, as you posit, good original and/or well-curated content is all that matters, you’d see a lot more anonymous content because it’s safer.

            The approach isn’t wrong, it’s just more difficult.

            The only reason I’m belaboring this point is that the original post was framed as a how-to for building a business through blogging. Overall the post is very useful and the recommendations are easy to implement. However, the anonymous model you and your colleagues have adopted carries a much lower probability of success for those just starting out, and I think it’s important to be open and candid about that.

            You and your colleagues have invested significant amounts of time and effort into building your individual followships/brands. Aggregating those assets and leveraging their momentum make excellent business sense.

            But that’s not really a “hang your own shingle” story. It’s a “create scale though leverage and consolidation” story.

          • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

            Props on the rational discourse (suck on THAT, Wisconsin!), but I’m siding with Jay on this. Staying anonymous smacks of the whole “my shit’s so rad I can’t even tell you who I am cuz The Man would lock me up!” vibe. It’s somehow vaguely reminiscent of the hippies in Minneapolis with their underground tofu-prius-dance-parties. Oh, you rebels.

            I agree, anonymous BL1Y (boy that’s hard to type), that it is certainly possible to be successful while anonymous, but – wait a minute. Just thought of a movie quote that summarizes:

            “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they COULD that they didn’t stop to consider whether or not they SHOULD.” –Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

            This is just my opinion, and admittedly part of my “pro-honesty” agenda, but I am always more likely to trust and believe a person who is candid about themselves than an unknown masked crusader.

            Something about that principle made me think of another movie quote (from Wedding Crashers) but I’ll spare you.

            Best of luck!

            Caleb Shreves, born 1983 in Iowa City, son to Carolyn Lamp and George Shreves, an Aries, owner of 1 cat, author of The Blog Experiment, avid snowmobiler, and hoping to get lucky tonight. Yes, Liz, if you read this- I’m going to try and steal home. Try and stop me.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Great work so far on Con Daily! Of course, I’m biased because you namechecked Lawyerist in your most-recent Blind Drunk Justice.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      Surprisingly, even though we sided with Lawyerist over the small law trademark thing, the folks over at Technolawyer also told us they were happy to hear their site mentioned on the show.

      Now, I’m not saying Lawyerist and Technolawyer should fight over our love, but I’m even more so not saying that they shouldn’t.

  • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

    Jay,

    “The demonstrable downside of anonymous blogging is evidenced by its scarcity”

    False. The ABA Blawg directory has 10 pages of listings for anonymous writers. There are 7 pages for students, 13 for professors, and 8 for associates. There are certainly more people writing under their own names, but anonymous blogs are far from scarce.

    And, scarcity is not evidence of a downside. Fast food chains serving curly fries are rare, more rare than anonymous law bloggers, but I hardly believe Arby’s is hurt by serving them as their default fry option.

    “But that’s not really a “hang your own shingle” story. It’s a “create scale though leverage and consolidation” story.”

    The two are not mutually exclusive. Hanging your own shingle simply means launching your own business instead of becoming an employee of an existing firm. Having people working with you doesn’t take away it’s shingle hangingness.

    I should note that I visited your site, and it doesn’t appear to have your name anywhere on it, nor your credentials. Yet, it’s for a company selling consulting services. Isn’t that precisely where your CV really matters? I wouldn’t want to hire a consultant without first hearing about their background, experience, and success stories.

    As for anonymity in entertainment though, I’ll continue to laugh at the Daily Show, blissfully unaware of who’s writing the jokes.

  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    I wonder how far the civil rights movement would have gotten if Martin Luther King, Jr. was an anonymous blogger.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/stacizaretsky/ Staci Zaretsky

      BL1Y, my friend, I think you just got served. Thanks for the laugh, Eric.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      I don’t understand the question. Are you asking how far the civil rights movement would have gotten if MLK Jr. were judged solely by the quality of his ideas, and not by his identity?

  • http://www.shatterbox.biz/ Jay Pinkert

    Apologies. Since the post was about blogging as a standalone business — rather than as a creative outlet or a practice marketing tactic — I should have qualified my comment to refer specifically to the scarcity of living wage-producing, advertising-based legal blogs. The ABA Blawg diretory is silent on that.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. You are correct in observing that I do not list my name or include my bio, but 1) I freely acknowledge and am comfortable with the potential disadvatages of my approach 2) while it works for me right now, I do not hold it up as a model and 3) I am not trying to monetize the content nor generate leads from SEO. It’s just a blog where I share (hopefully) practical information on marketing and communications for small and solo firms with current clients and prospects. My readers/followers usually find me through other social media first. I use my full name on Twitter, as a guest blogger and in blog comment threads. My CV is available on LinkedIn.

    I wish you luck in your new endeavor.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      There is definitely a scarcity of people with a law blog as their full time job. The only site that comes to mind is Above the Law. (The folks here all appear to have day jobs.) Not really a big enough sample set to draw conclusions from.

  • Jeffrey Lin

    At its core, its about building brand equity through the use of content. A blog simply represents another medium to get the ball rolling. The challenge that I find is the marketing piece of it, where legal words are simply too expensive to invest in. While traditional SEO methodologies take many many cycles. Does anyone have other experiences that are impactful?

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      The value of SEO really depends on what your audience looks like. If you have a news site that is trying to appeal to a wide audience, SEO will be important. But, for what I’m doing, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, referrals are better. It’s much better to produce content that will be picked up by other media outlets (thanks Lawyerist!) that are firmly established with your target audience.

      You also have to think about audience dilution. If you look at a site like Above the Law, they get a very high rate for their ad space, but it’s because the audience is largely lawyers and law students. That’s who their advertisers want to reach, and so they don’t want to waste money having their ads seen by people they’ll be irrelevant to. Lexis doesn’t want to advertise its newest search product to the crowd that reads TMZ.

      • http://www.attorneysync.com Gyi Tsakalakis

        “But, for what I’m doing, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, referrals are better.”

        Effective SEO strategy should include developing referrals. SEO works hand-in-hand with developing referral relationships and online professional networking. Potential referral sources are using google.

        “It’s much better to produce content that will be picked up by other media outlets (thanks Lawyerist!) that are firmly established with your target audience.”

        Yes, publishing content that will be picked up by media outlets should also be a core component of your SEO strategy. Media outlets use google too.

        Perhaps you are defining SEO more narrowly than I do? To me, SEO means publishing high-quality search-mindful content and getting in front of those who are ready, willing, and able to both link to and further publicize it.

        This means that content should be the focus with technical SEO aspects (including site architecture and organizations, keywords, etc.) in mind.

        • Jeffrey Lin

          Seems as though there are two faces of SEO

          1) Site/blog architecture that emphasizes targeted search keywords and phrases

          2) Develop articles that either define trends or leverage existing ones. Albeit this is more of a crapshoot.

          • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

            I’ve always thought of SEO in terms of metadata attached to an article. When search engine visibility gets into driving what actual content of the article, that’s more like content farming. It’s also an easy way to write bad articles.

            • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

              You have much to learn, young padawan.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Whoops. Jumped the gun on my comment- didn’t see that ya’lls had some more comments.

    I liked Eric’s comment. Made me wonder what a MLK tweet would be like…

    MLKJR omg these marches are SO LONG! lolz… I just want a sandwich or something!

    MLKJR aw shit… theres a lotta you out there on the lawn! hope ya’ll like my speech!

    MLKJR Charlie Sheen is hilarious! Duh! Winning!

  • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

    Caleb: “Staying anonymous smacks of the whole “my shit’s so rad I can’t even tell you who I am cuz The Man would lock me up!” vibe.”

    Well, one of the writers on staff (Dr. Rob) did get fired because he chose to not be anonymous. It’s easy to ruin your Google footprint, and hard to fix it. And, while I definitely see how anonymity could stink of paranoid delusions, many businesses do routinely search the internet for information on potential new hires. How many career services offices now advise students to keep their Facebook profiles private, or at least hide the embarrassing photos? It’s not paranoia if they really are after you.

    “I am always more likely to trust and believe a person who is candid about themselves than an unknown masked crusader.”

    Again, the context here is important. If you see a piece of graffiti art, do you first have to ask “Can we confirm Banksy did this?” before deciding whether it’s good? If you read a clever quip, do you first have to know whether it came from Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, or Yogi Berra before finding it amusing?

    I know Namby Pamby’s real name, where he went to law school, where he works now, and I can assure you, and this information has had absolutely no impact on how I read his writing.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    True story.

    However, there’s an assumption here that your material would be bad enough (bad=damaging=controversial=etc.) to preclude you from getting hired or keeping a job.

    If you’re being funny, genuine, and honest, what’s their to worry about? Burning a bridge with some douch-ey law firm for calling them out on some shenanigans? You would probably say that there’s a pragmatic, “yeah but I gots to eat!” angle to all of this, but I’ll take self-sincerity (just made that word up) over playing-the-man’s-game any day.

    Where did Dr. Rob (sounds like an Oprah co-host) get fired from? What did he do? Maybe he’ll get picked up by a rival employer that values his honesty and willingness to say what he thinks is right.

    Or, maybe they’ll all think he’s a pompous ass too inflated with his own sense of “self-worth” (yes, in quotes) to be reasonable or compromising.

    Time will tell? When in Rome? Make hay while the sun shines? Not sure which saying goes here.

    BTW, your site is top-notch. I’ve already wasted 30 minutes on it and you can expect me to begin bombarding your comments section with random hyperbole and Charlie Sheen references. You’re welcome.

    Caleb

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      Have you read much of Phila Lawyer’s writing? You can’t write about showing up to court drunk and ripping off clients and expect to keep your license to practice. It’s not just about whether you play the system’s game, but whether you get to keep your entire career and livelihood.

      As for Dr. Rob, he was a staff psychologist at a clinic. What he did was write a blog about his job and patients (he kept the patients anonymous). That’s enough to get you fired in that field, and law isn’t really any different.

      Glad you like the site.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Anonymity may not be determinative of success, but it’s not irrelevant, either. People do like to identify with other people, instead of avatars and usernames, so anonymity is definitely a hurdle if you are trying to build a brand based on your personality. The question is just how much of a hurdle.

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com/ BL1Y

      I do agree that a relatable character or voice is helpful in writing. But, I don’t think anonymity precludes that. How far into Fight Club did you notice that the narrator didn’t have a name?

      In some cases anonymity may even be helpful for connecting to the readers. Readers who are law students or young attorneys may feel like they’re constantly one mistake away from being black listed by the industry (regardless of whether they actually are), and could relate to the desire for an anonymous outlet.

      • http://attentndeficit.wordpress.com Attentn Deficit

        “anonymity is definitely a hurdle if you are trying to build a brand based on your personality”
        BL1Y and the rest are not anonymous (I hate spelling that word). They are pseudonymous. They can build a bran based on their pseudonym in the same way you could build a name based on your real name. People who have read Phila Lawyer’s book know exactly who he is when you reference his moniker. Same with readers of bl1y.com.

        • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

          That is, of course, if Philly Lawyer and bl1y are really different people. For all we know, all those pseudonymous bloggers are just alter egos of the same person. Two of them have jobs at law firms? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. We can’t really tell because they don’t identify themselves.

          There is so much content to follow on the web and one of the problems is figuring out what is being reported or stated accurately or not. If someone wants to write an anonymous blog or submit anonymous comments, whatever. But I have little time or interest in the thoughts of people who are not willing to stand up and be accountable for what they write.

          • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com BL1Y

            There’s so much wrong here, I almost feel like I’m being trolled.

            Could we all just be sock puppets of the same single writer? Perhaps. The podcasts would seem to be evidence that Namby and I are different people, and I’ve been a guest a couple of times on Phila Lawyer’s show, so there’s probably at least two people involved. The other writers also have very different styles of writing than mine. Maybe I am simply talented enough to be able to pull that off, and if that’s what you’re suggesting, I suppose I’m very flattered.

            BL1Y: “So, a lawyer, a shrink, and a robot pimp walk into a bar, and the bar tender says-”
            Eric: “Hold on now! What’s are the names of this lawyer, shrink, and robot pimp? How do I know they’re not all the same person? And why should I believe this so called ‘bar tender’ even really exists?”

            If you can find something on Con Daily where not knowing the identity of the author really makes a difference, I would be very impressed.

  • http://www.stock-loss-blog.com Stocklossblog

    Great post! I started a blog a couple weeks ago, and am still blogging anonymously in anticipation of hanging my own shingle. I just wanted to get some experience building a website, and now I really enjoy it. You’re right that WordPress makes it super easy.