I started blogging at the Frugal Law Student during my first year of law school. When I started it, I just thought it would be a fun way to share with my friends and family the ways I’m saving money in law school.
But my foray into blogging has actually helped advance my legal career. That’s why I think every law student should have a blog. Here are two specific ways a blog can help you.
1. It’s a great job marketing tool. A blog is the ultimate marketing tool for law stuents. When you go into a job interview, employers are looking for what distinguishes you from the dozens of other applicants they’re interviewing. On paper, most applicants look the same, especially when you apply for large firms. You and everyone else will be in the top of your class, you’ll all be on law review, and you’ll all be active in extracurricular activities.
One of the questions you’re guaranteed to get during the interview is “What do you do when you’re not doing law school?” You could give a vanilla answer that everyone gives like “I like to exercise” or “I like to read.” Or you could give an answer like this: “I author a blog that focuses on international environmental law; I’ve done guest contributions to the blogs of several environmental law scholars; and I’ve managed to attract a large enough following that I have commercial sponsorships for my blog.” Which answer do you think will stick in your interviewer’s mind?
The second answer packs in a lot more information than the first one. By blogging, you tell your interviewer that 1) you’re serious about environmental law; 2) you’ve networked with other attorneys and legal scholars in that field; 3) you know how to leverage technology; and 4) you know how to market yourself.
When you leave, the person who interviewed you is going to check your site out. They’re going to be thinking about you after the interview, which is good. By checking your blog out, they can get a better idea of who you are because your personality will show through your writing. They’ll probably send a link to the other attorneys in the firm.
All things being equal, who do you think is going to get an offer for a summer job? The person who just said they like to read or the person who said they blogged? I think the answer is obvious.
A blog can be a successful marketing tool even if you don’t write about law related stuff. Find something you’re passionate about and start writing. If you like to run, (one of those vanilla answers) start a blog and track your progress and share your tips on running. Then when you’re asked what you like to do outside of law school you can say, “I enjoy running and I write a blog offering tips on how runners can improve.” Your interviewer will be impressed with your tech saviness. When they check your site out, they’ll get a better idea of who you are.
Of course the effectiveness of a blog as a marketing tool depends on a few factors. First, while you can be less formal on a blog, remember that potential employers might be reading it. So don’t use vulgar language, don’t post pictures of you after a Thursday night partying, and don’t discuss your sex life. Be personal, but stay professional.
Second, edit! Your blog is basically another resume for employers to use to determine whether to hire you or not. If your blog posts are full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, it reflects poorly on you.
2. It improves your writing. Blogging has definitely helped my legal writing. When you write for a blog, your audience consists of internet users who have the attention span of a gnat. You have to capture their attention and maintain it through good solid writing. When you write on a blog, you want to use short sentences and paragraphs; you want to tell a story that draws people in; and you want organize your writing with headings that make it easier for the reader follow.
Do these tips sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing you’re supposed to do in legal writing! By blogging consistently, you can improve your legal writing immensely.
Also, knowing that hundreds or even thousands of people may be reading your posts forces you to edit it carefully. Producing content that’s free of mistakes shows you respect your reader. When you prepare a trial brief or a research memo, you’ll want to show that same respect. Blogging can help you get in the habit of editing more carefully.