Evan Schaeffer just wanted to raise his firm's profile on Internet search engines. Now he’s got an honest-to-God phenomenon on his hands.
In January Schaeffer, a partner in Schaeffer & Lamere P.C., started three weblogs, one designed to drive interested consumers to his firm’s website, one for lawyers and one aimed at the lighter side of the law (yes, there is one).
The weblogs (blogs, in Internet jargon), mostly gather hyperlinks to other legal websites, news articles, and of course, www.riverbendlaw.com--homepage of Schaeffer & Lamere.
“I guess I’m giving away my secrets, but when you have a blog it moves your website up in the search engine priority,” Schaeffer says.
On the Google search engine, Schaeffer’s blog is the second listing in a search for the phrase “Illinois personal injury.” That means the blog gets the second-most hits of any matching that search phrase (first is Chicago workers compensation firm Donald W. Fohrman & Associates).
That’s a powerful marketing tool for Schaeffer & Lamere and it’s also a useful place for web surfers.
The Illinois Personal Injury Weblog, as it’s titled, gathers links to news stories about health care, class actions, litigation and other legal issues. Most of the stories come from local newspapers like the St Louis Post Dispatch and the Alton Telegraph.
The blog also links to most of the region’s major newspapers and to consumer groups like the Better Business Bureau and the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Another of Schaeffer’s blogs is dedicated to the lighter side of the law. Notes from the (Legal) Underground contains musings from writers, Schaeffer included, on politics and the legal life.
In one essay, called “Summer Associates #2,” Schaeffer wrote: “Should law students hoping to work as summer associates at the nation's largest firms be worried that the work will be too difficult? Well, no. Because it's not about the work. It's about . . . . drinking beer.”
Obviously Schaeffer doesn’t expect his Legal Underground blog to generate much business.
"It’s mostly for entertainment purposes,” says Schaeffer. “I wanted a forum to debate the tort reform issue and also a place to show people that plaintiff's lawyers are not the monsters that the press makes them out to be. Madison County has gotten some bad press."
Schaeffer publishes a third blog, The Illinois Trial Practice Weblog, aimed at trial attorneys. It’s filled with advice aimed at young trial attorneys. Each of Schaeffer’s blogs gets updated at least once a day.
Wouldn’t a full-time practicing attorney drive himself to distraction with all this blogging? Not Schaeffer. A former newspaper editor and the article of an Illinois Bar Journal article entitled "What Weblogs Can Do For You."
He also sees blogging as a sort of community service. "I wanted to pass on what I've learned over the years,” he says.
Schaeffer isn’t the only local lawyer who has discovered the weblog.
Matthew Homann, a solo practitioner in Highland, operates The (non)billable Hour (http://thenonbillablehour.typepad.com), a blog dedicated as much to marketing and entrepreneurship as to the practice of law.
Homann says he’s not so much interested in attracting clients to his website as he is to just writing and posting information about the things that interest him. Like many popular blogs, it is highly personal, full of Homann’s own reflections on the practice of law and (more often), the business of practicing law.
Homann says he gets as many as 5,000 hits per day. That traffic helped him establish a monthly conference call among entrepreneurs called 'Think Tank Tuesday'. Each week the group gathers, via phone, to discuss what Homann calls 'The Big Question'. Last month’s question: What one thing could I do to completely transform my business?
For lawyers, the answer to that question might start with a weblog.