Blogging is a great way for lawyers to generate traffic, demonstrate their expertise, develop relationships with strategic alliances, referral sources and potential clients and develop resources for clients and others. It is relatively simple to do and doesn't take much time to get up and running. For all of these reasons and more, I recommend that lawyers blog.
The potential downside to blogging is that in order for a blog to be its most useful and most effective, you must post regularly and keep the blog up to date. An out of date or abandoned blog can leave a worse impression than no blog at all. But with the every day pressures of running your practice, handling your clients, and keeping up with legal work (not to mention outside obligations), carving out the time to blog isn't easy. One solution might be to use a ghostwriter to write your blog.
While using a ghostwriter may solve the problem of finding the time to post, it raises some other issues. Some argue that using a ghostwriter for your blog is unethical, and of course, all lawyers should always check their jurisdictional rules regarding ethics issues. But as one colleague recently pointed out, if a lawyer can ethically have an employee draft pleadings, etc. which the lawyer then reviews and signs, why can't a lawyer ethically have someone else write a blog post?
The danger may be that the temptation to allow a post to be done by someone else and not reviewed by the lawyer is greater, in my opinion, than the temptation to allow court papers or other documents to be sent or filed in the lawyer's name without review. Certainly, any post made on behalf of a lawyer or law firm should be reviewed by the lawyer, regardless of who creates the initial draft of the post, just as website content must be reviewed and approved by the firm before it is posted, even if it is created by a web designer or outside copywriter, but not just because of potential ethical issues.
Obviously, if you are using a ghostwriter to write about legal issues, you will want to review the content to ensure that the legal information is correct and that the opinions (if any) expressed or the commentary given is an opinion you agree with and can support. You will also want to make sure that the opinions are not ones that will offend or otherwise upset your clients and referral sources. You'll want to review the content so that you are familiar with what is posted on the blog and can speak intelligently about it if you receive inquiries or comments about it. But there are even more reasons to stay on top of the content being posted on your blog.
When working with a ghostwriter, you'll want to know whether the content will be written specifically for you and your practice, or whether the content will be written for more than one person, and if so, when, where and how. Do you want your blog posts duplicated exactly on another lawyer's blog (even if they are in another jurisdiction)? Who owns the content if the ghostwriter is writing for different blogs? Will you be able to repurpose the content for other purposes? How will your blog help increase traffic if your content is duplicated elsewhere for another lawyer?
One of the 'turnoffs' for me about ghostwriting is the duplication of content. For example, I receive periodic newsletters from three different financial planners working with three different companies whom I have met in a variety of circumstances. The newsletter I receive from each of them is exactly the same. It is clearly canned content with the individual financial planner/conmpany's logo and contact information inserted into it. Of course, had I received only one of these newsletters, I might not be aware that it was canned content. But the fact that I know reflects poorly on them as professionals. It makes me question the level of care and personal attention they put into the rest of their work. It's such a turn-off that I don't even read the newsletters, so any value to the content provided is lost.
Now imagine that I am surfing the web for information related to your area of practice. My search leads me to your blog post on the topic, and another blog post by another lawyer (in another area of the country), both with exactly the same content. The fact that you are in my jurisdiction and the other lawyer is not no longer matters - I am already unlikely to hire you.
One of the big advantages of a blog is that a blog is more of a conversation than content on a typical website. Bloggers read, comment on and quote other bloggers' content. Media outlets love blogs and use them to find sources or information for stories. Blogging allows lawyers to showcase their expertise. But it also gives the lawyer a 'voice.' It is one way of letting potential clients and referral sources get to know who you are, your style and philosophy before they ever contact you. They help increase the 'know, like and trust' factor.
If you decide to use a ghostwriter, you will want to review their work to see if their style matches yours. Are they conveying the impression you want to convey? Does their language reflect the language you use with clients? Does their writing reflect your philosophy and values as a lawyer? Is it more or less formal, conversational, lighthearted, humorous, etc. than you usually are? Writing often reflects the personality of the writer. Good ghostwriters can write in different 'voices' and reflect different styles. If you use one, be sure that they reflect the 'face' you want to put on your practice.
Readers connect differently with different writing styles. Does the style of the ghostwriter's posts connect with the readers you want to connect with? One of the 'cons' of ghostblogging in my opinion is that using a ghostblogger automatically means that you are not writing in your own voice and creating connections and conversations with clients in the same way you could if you sat down and wrote the posts yourself. Just as it would be difficult to send a proxy in your place to do face to face marketing or networking, having an intermediary interact with potential clients and referral sources through your blog changes the dynamic of the relationship.
Should you use a ghostwriter for your blog? Only you know the answer. As with anything, there are pros and cons and trade-offs to be made. Ghostbloggers or others can help you develop or edit some content and can help solve the problem of time, but writing your own posts can create a greater connection with your audience. Either way, you'll want to be involved and aware of what is posted on your blog and review it carefully.