I’ll choose “Things That I Know Are Good For Me But I Keep Putting Off Anyway” for $500, Alex. In a category that includes “Walking 20 Minutes A Day,” “Cutting Down On Aspartame,” and “Never Watching CNN Again,” many lawyers might also find “Writing A New Blog Post.” In law firms large and small, I often hear managing partners and marketing directors lament the difficulties involved in extracting a blog post from colleagues who always find a reason why they can’t meet their promised deadline.
In most such cases, we’re not talking about the recalcitrant partner who needs to have explained to him again what the internet is and why he should care. More often, the lawyer in question is a senior associate or mid-level partner who gets the idea and who really does want to contribute content to the firm’s blog — but when it comes to the crunch, sends you nothing but her regrets, along with (perfectly valid) reasons why she can’t get a post done this month. The spirit is willing, but the flesh has to meet its billable targets.
Leadership has been aptly defined as the art of removing barriers to accomplishment. Accordingly, here are some suggestions for lifting the barriers that block the path between your blog and the colleagues who are willing, but often seem unable, to help write it.
1. Priority Enhancement: You’ll never convince a lawyer to drop a pressing client matter or put off a senior partner’s request in order to write a blog post, nor should you try. But you can remove from the lawyer’s mind this idea that writing a blog post is “something nice to do if a spare moment opens up.” Spare moments never open up in law firms. The barrier here is the belief that blogging isn’t all that important: you need to help establish that it is important, that it’s a priority that deserves and requires the lawyer’s time and attention. The best way to do that is to embed blog contributions into the lawyer’s business development plan, and to make fulfilment of that plan a factor in the lawyer’s performance assessment.
2. Topic Warehouse: The first thing many lawyers do, when they finally sit down to blog, is to ask themselves “So …. what should I write about?” Fifteen minutes later, they’re still noodling around trying to decide among three or four ideas they’ve scribbled on a notepad, and the writing momentum is lost. The barrier here is a failure to prepare subjects in advance. Remove it by designating the lawyer’s first blogging session as nothing more than idea generation: spend the entire time hammering out 10 or 15 topic sentences for future posts (alone or with colleagues), then rank them in order of interest. Then, in the next scheduled session, grab the first topic sentence and start writing from there. Lay the groundwork first.
3. Interruption Defence: It always happens: the lawyer is three sentences into a blog post, and the phone rings, or an email notice pops up, or a colleague taps on the door to seek advice or just chat about something. The post is suspended, then eventually abandoned. The barrier here is the lawyer’s vulnerability to outside intervention. Remove it by helping the lawyer safeguard her time, attention, and privacy. Block off 45 minutes in the lawyer’s calendar one month in advance. Shut off email for that period and tell the assistant to leave the lawyer alone unless something is bleeding or on fire. Shut the door and hang a “Meeting in Progress” sign on the doorknob. Treat this time as if the lawyer was conferring with a key client.
4. Introduction Eradication: I’ve also seen this: Unsure of how she should begin her post, the lawyer indulges her innate perfectionism by writing and rewriting the first few sentences, never satisfied with the phrasing. The barrier here is the opening paragraph; so, remove it altogether. Tell the lawyer to skip the introduction, or pretend it’s already been written, and dive right into the nuts and bolts of the post. Encourage the lawyer to write her way to the end, and then to add a paragraph summarizing everything she’s just said. Take that closing paragraph, stick it at the start of the post, and tell the lawyer, “That’s your intro; lead with that.” Many closing paragraphs are really just introductions deferred.
5. Keyboard Workaround: Finally, for some lawyers, the real struggle begins when they raise their fingers over the keyboard to start their blog post, then freeze up. The barrier here is the disconnect between the keyboard and the lawyer’s brain. The lawyer is used to hammering out motions and contracts with (legal)ease; but when it comes time to speak in the personal voice and with the individual perspective that blogging requires, they can’t make the transition. The barrier here can actually be the keyboard itself; so take it away. Install voice recognition software on the lawyer’s computer and encourage her to “talk out” her post, revising and editing it later. You’ll find the tone of her eventual post is more active, engaging, and personal, because she spoke it in her voice rather than pounding it into a keyboard.
It can be frustrating when you’re trying to sustain a blog and your colleagues seem to be failing you. But it’s better to recognize that they mean well and would like to help, but that they’re encountering understandable resistance. Reduce that resistance by lowering these barriers and removing the most common obstacles to blogging; you could be amazed at how much creativity and productivity you’ll help to unleash.