A business development professional from a mid-size West Coast law firm emailed me with with a question about ghost blogging.

Ghost law blogging, if you’ve not heard of it, is practice where some lawyers and law firms hire people to write blog posts for lawyers and hold the posts out as being written by the lawyer.

The business development professional acknowledged that ghost blogging is legally unethical, but wondered if there may be some middle ground between ghost blogging and the attorneys publishing their own blog content. Perhaps having him write the post or just holding out the post as written by the firm. He was concerned about lawyers maintaining the blog.

My answer got into the brass tacks of what makes for law blogging success so I thought I’d share it with you.

I first explained that I believe I saw FindLaw selling ghost blog posts to lawyers at one time, but rather than represent that the post was written by the lawyer (in the byline author field of the post), the byline read that the post was on “behalf of the lawyer.” A cheesy solution, but different than other firms which unethically misrepresented that the lawyer wrote the post when they did not.

The real key to the dilemma though is to make blogging a fun and rewarding experience for the lawyers who are going to blog. Blogging will not feel like a chore and getting posts up will not be a challenge.

How so? Begin with the lawyers understanding what blogging is and what the goal is. The goal is not necessarily to bring traffic to the website. The goal is building word of mouth and relationships, the same things that built his firm. The Internet has not changed this.

Keep clear that we’ll measure success by an increase in revenue. Establish a goal and then measure how much has revenue jumped for the lawyers/area involved? It can be very significant.

Knowing that, identify the areas the firm is looking to grow or sees an opportunity. Do you have a lawyer or lawyers who want to build a name in the area and want learn to use the Internet to do so?

Who wants to become a star – to do the type of work they’d love to do, for the type of clients they want to do that work for and not worry about where business is coming from. Why not? Many, many other lawyers have done so through blogging.

Know that not every lawyer wants to blog. Ask who is excited to blog. Do not end up with an editorial calendar where it’s a chore for the lawyers and the person chasing them down. If lawyers say they are not excited, that’s okay.

The blog will be on one niche area the firm excels in or is looking to grow. Could be tighter than a practice area such as estate planning, i.e., a type of trust in estate planning. The blog will become a must read by a niche audience, the lawyers will know it and they’ll see “why blog.”

Niches are critical. Niches do not limit work, they expand the work coming through trust and name recognition.

Educate the blogging lawyers that we are not talking articles. We are talking blogging. Depending on the niche, you may reference and share news and developments, heavily using block quotes, and offer your take/why you shared it.

The lawyers will be referencing other bloggers (law and industry), reporters and association news – you’ll make a list of about 20 influencers that fall in this group that they’ll be following in a news aggregator (Feedly). It’s like pressing the flesh. You get known and your blog posts get cited and shared by others. Posts may be as brief 250 to 500 words. Think about the emails between lawyers in the firm and to clients that already do this. It’s not much different.

You can expand, once the blog gets known, to having guest posts of people with whom you want to build relationships and to four question email interviews of referral sources, business associates and the like.

Any help the blogging lawyers may need, and most do not, is in proof reading, titling a post and putting in a picture.

Begin with the premise that we’ve always networked to build a name and relationships, now we’re going to learn how to use the Internet to do so. We’ll get a lawyer or two started who can become blog/social media champions and be a viral positive from whom other interested lawyers in the firm can learn.

The blog will be the first social media used by the blogging lawyers, maybe 2 to 4 posts a month, and then the lawyers can learn how to use other social media personally – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with the understanding that the blog content is currency for relationships there.

You know my take on ghost posts. Don’t go down that road. If you’re a real lawyer or real law firm, you’re better than that.