Lately, there’s been a bunch of noise about dangers of “ghostwritten” legal blogs. Apparently, no one is safe and practicing attorneys are supposed to stop focusing on their practice to take time out to write informational, educational blog posts, engage on social media, and otherwise not bill out for their time. After weeks of reading about this, particularly rants by an individual who profits from having attorneys ‘write’ their own blogs, I decided to share my own thoughts on this matter, as both an attorney and the founder of a company who writes legal content on behalf of lawyers.
Argument #1 – Bad Content
The main peril (from what I can gather) about having someone else write the content for your legal blogs? You might be producing trash. Well, duh. Most attorneys with the savvy to build a strong online presence understand the ethical considerations of doing so. The first being that posting inaccurate or misleading content on your website is a big no no, at least according to most State Bars, California and Florida included. Unfortunately, some attorneys do look for ways to cut costs in their legal marketing, and that often involves hiring someone to write for them who doesn’t know what their talking about. Don’t do this. Remember, you get what you pay for!
Argument #2 – Someone Else Is Writing Under Your Name
Have you ever hired a contract attorney to write a few briefs for you? Or perhaps benefited from the ‘years’ of experience of an unlicensed law clerk? I thought so. And their names probably did not go on the filed motion. While they performed most of the work, you read and reviewed it, finally giving it your stamp of approval. While this is not how we operate at WebPresence, Esq., nothing about this process sounds unethical to me.
Argument #3 – Not Your Name at All
Perhaps your law clerk or legal marketing team is writing on behalf of your firm and you are producing content when you have time under your own name. Seems like a win-win to me! But according to the people who don’t benefit if you’re not hiring them to help you write your content, having someone else produce general information about your practice is useless! A waste of time and money! And [probably] unethical! Of course, the ‘editors’ at this company who review the content you write are generally not attorneys and have no legal experience in or real-world knowledge about the topics you are covering. As an attorney, that would make me far more uncomfortable than reviewing the content that a licensed attorney experienced in the practice areas on which they are writing (aka WebPresence, Esq.’s content writing team) puts out on behalf of your firm.
Argument #4 – Can’t Claim the Content As Yours
According to some, if you didn’t write it, you can’t claim it as yours, and therefore you can’t derive any influencer value from it. Sounds a bit extreme, right? While you obviously should not claim content you not write as your own, I see no issue, certainly not from an ethical standpoint, in sharing the content (which you have reviewed) on social media as information that comes from your firm. Perhaps more importantly than my own viewpoint, is that I’ve yet to read in the Professional Rules of Responsibility where it says that attorney advertising (and yes, in California, a lawyer’s website and its content is deemed to be advertising) must be written by the attorney.
In an ideal world, you are taking the time to create your own content on a consistent basis. This content can be published under your name to help you build your credibility and establish you as a thought leader in your practice area[s]. It can also be spread across social media for maximum engagement and SEO. But because in that same world you are [hopefully] too busy bringing in new business and practicing law to blog / produce content several times a week, you have retained the services of a reputable legal marketing firm and making sure that the content your firm puts out in accurate, educational, informational, and SEO-friendly.
To discuss the ethical considerations of legal blogging further, please feel free to contact Kristen Marquis, attorney and founder of WebPresence, Esq.