There are plenty of reasons to start a law student blog. Got a few tips that could help the wider law student community? Something annoying you and want to complain to the world? *cough* constitutional law *cough*
What ever the reason, you should seriously consider starting your own blog. You might find that it opens up some unexpected advantages on your journey through law school.
The advantages of creating your own blog
There are plenty of reasons why starting a law student blog is a great idea.
To get the hell away from university writing
Have you found an overly formalistic language creeping into your everyday writing? If your grocery list begins with “please find the list of required groceries below:”, you’ve clearly spent too much time reading cases and writing essays.
A blog is a great opportunity to step back and practice how normal people write. While law students and lawyers do need to write clearly and succinctly, it’s easy to push this too far and end up with a very awkward writing style. I did this when I was trying to emulate what I thought “legal writing” was. I’m slowly turning this around to find the right balance.
It’s worth remembering that clients are (usually) normal people and they want something easy to read. The best letters and legal advice that I have seen from partners and senior lawyers at my firm is crystal clear, to the point, and hardly formal at all.
Build your personal brand
A blog is a great way to build your personal brand, and you have probably noticed more and more barristers with a blog dedicated to their area of expertise – its a great marketing tool.
For law students, you would include a link to your blog in your resume, similar to how people include a link to their LinkedIn profile. It gives potential employers another data point on who you are and what you do, and the more data the better!
You will need to be a little bit strategic if you go down this path. For example, you could choose topics which highlight your passion for a particular area of law. Make sure you only publish essays where you have been given a decent mark (or address any criticisms before you publish), and never post anything that could be construed as offensive.
You can also use any detailed case notes you have drafted for study purposes.
Address the perfectionist within – take imperfect action
Perfectionism drove me crazy at uni. I would frequently spend hours just trying to fix an introduction to an essay so that it was perfect, even though I knew I wasn’t changing anything substantive (ie, all that effort would not convert into extra marks). Total waste of time! For some reason I just could never seem to address this problem.
One reason that I started a blog was for a medium to practice imperfect action. Now, if my posts are about 90% right I’ll post them. I still review and edit more times than I would like but I’m slowly getting better at it.
There is a great post which covers this topic (as well as building your personal brand) over at Career Chronicles. It’s definitely worth heading over for a read!
Practice writing for different audiences
Maybe you would just like to try writing for different audiences. The same piece could be altered to suit other students, lawyers, high school students or the general public. You could practice writing for a legal journal or a newspaper. Like most things, practice makes… things better.
This kind of experimenting directly feeds into creating your own opportunities, discussed further below.
Engage with other students and lawyers
Once you have established your blog you can start engaging with the legal community.
You could even use this as a way to network and reach out to people during your studies. It’s much easier to start a conversation with someone if you have an obvious purpose, for example, you might want to ask for a short interview to write up for other students to read (from someone who is working in a firm you want to clerk at, of course).
It’s a great icebreaker, especially if you don’t have any other reason to email someone out of the blue.
Opportunity will find you
I have been surprised at how many people email me through this blog. Many are law students asking questions and it’s great being able to chat and (to try) to provide some advice or tips. There are also a lot of other bloggers asking to guest post and collaborate.
One thing I definitely didn’t expect is the number of businesses asking for partnership opportunities – if you are smart about how you go about your blog you might even be able to make some money on the side during uni.
These interactions are all opportunities, or potential opportunities, that have only been presented to me after creating a blog and writing a post every now and again. As mentioned above, if you are strategic about how you do it, it could be a great way to network with the legal industry.
This is really just an extension of a few of the above sections but I thought it was worth repeating. The legal market is really competitive at the moment and everyone should have a back up plan in case they don’t land their preferred grad program or legal job straight out of uni.
While you can use your blog to network with the legal community, I also think it could be a great opportunity to start exploring alternative careers.
Maybe you could look into what information is available out there on legal compliance, contract management or corporate governance roles, and write a few posts on those. If something takes your interest then you can continue your research and start some outreach from there.
For example, if you wrote something short on corporate governance, you would probably end up on the Institute of Governance webpage to find some extra information. You could then join up as a student member for free, receive the governance journals and take a look at the volunteer position page to see if there are any volunteer company secretary positions available.
Of course, it’s easy for me to sit here and make all these suggestions for you to follow. You’ve got the hard job of actually going out there and trying to create these opportunities. I certainly never did anything like this when I was studying, other than a few months of cold calling firms.
I don’t know – maybe this is a bit of a stretch and nothing would realistically come from it, however, if I did it all over again, I would have had a plan from day one and a blog would have been a part of it.
How to start
Starting a blog is super easy and it can be as free or as expensive as you like. You really only need five things (which I will try to explain by way of a mediocre house analogy):
- Hosting – hosting is a service that gives your blog a house to live in. There are lots of companies proving this service. You can get a simple hosting package (small house) or a really big one (mansion). For a blog, you only need a one bedroom apartment.
- Domain name – this is the address. My domain name is youveenteredlawland.com. You can choose whatever address you want provided it’s not already taken.
- Content management system – OK, I don’t really know how to include this in the house analogy. Basically, this is the software program you will use to write and post your blog articles. You simply log in and access it through the internet, just like gmail.
- Website theme – there are heaps of designers out there who create what you see when you visit a website. A theme is installed with a few clicks of your mouse through the content management system – no one needs to know three computer programming languages to create a website anymore.
- Images – Google is your friend. There are heaps of websites offering great stock photos that you can use and edit to suit your blog.
- Name – Oh, six things – you also need a name (maybe the most important part)!
Free sounds good!
Yes it does.
Further, if you use these services then they will also provide free hosting and domain names. I should note that there are heaps of other options out there if you want to take a look around.
The best thing about WordPress and blogger is that they’re extremely easy to use. Just sign up, log in and click a few buttons to get started.
The disadvantages of WordPress and Blogger, and most other free services, is that you need to include WordPress or blogger in your domain name (so mine would have been youveenteredlawland.wordpress.
You also can’t run some advertising programs like Google Adsense, but to be honest, unless you’re getting thousands of visitors a day you won’t make any real money (ever the optimist, I test it out every now and again – I’ll probably be able to afford an ice cream with sprinkles on it after a year or so).
For themes, ThemeForrest or Elegant Themes are the heavyweights, but I would suggest starting out by searching for something like “best free themes of 2016”. There are plenty of websites out there that have already cherry picked the best free themes and collected them into convenient lists.
For images you can search for free stock images. Again, there are plenty of sites offering stock photos that are completely free to use, and you don’t even need to credit the original photographer or website.
There are Australian hosting providers out there that cost around $5 a month. Or you could go with an el cheapo one for a little less (though some of those get a lot of complaints).
I went with ventraIP and also looked at Panthur. There are plenty of Australian hosting services available so take a look around. If all you’re doing is running a blog then there is probably very little difference between these at the end of the day.
You can also buy the domain name from the above companies. A .com name is around $10-$15 a year, and a .com.au is around $20-25 for two years.
Most hosting services will provide your content management system for free as part of the hosting package. My hosting came with WordPress (and all of this other stuff that I have no idea about, have never used, and will probably never use in the future).
For themes and images, you can spend as much as you want. The suggestions above have paid options. I’ve been pretty happy with freebies so far so can’t offer any insider tips on where to look for in paid options.
What to write about
Everyone has a different experience at law school so you will always have something to write about. It’s your own unique perspective that is interesting, so it doesn’t really matter that you’ll cover things that have been talked about hundreds of times before.
For example, you might have found one or two small things that made reading cases much easier for you, or might have some advice on choosing practical elective subjects. Every student will come across issues with both of these topics, so your insights could be really helpful.
It’s also helpful to know where people have failed, so go wild with the rants (they would be more helpful, of course, if you also suggest a way that would address or overcome the failure).
As noted above, you can also publish any work that you prepare for university assessments, which makes creating content for your blog super easy. Essays work great and help you showcase your talent, but you can also use any study or case notes you prepare.
In terms of length, you can write long posts like most of the stuff on this blog (I waffle on a lot – it’s a nice change from my legal work where I have to review everything four hundred times to make sure it’s precisely on point). Alternatively, you can write short posts that are only a few paragraphs long.
The great thing about running a blog is that, compared to university, there are no deadlines. You won’t get 10% deducted from your marks for each day you fail to publish a post!
You can post as frequently or slowly as you like. I’ve found that posting once or twice a month is a good amount for me. However, if I don’t feel like writing anything then I just won’t!
You’ll settle in to your own rhythm once you start.
Real name or anonymous?
Whether you use a real name or stay anonymous is totally up to you. If you’re not sure, start out posting anonymously and then, if you want, just edit your posts or about page to include your name. This is the approach I’m taking with You’ve entered law land.
Just remember though that it will be much easier for you to reach out to other people if you’re using your real name, particularly if you want to use it for networking.
Let me know!
There are heaps of potential benefits from running a law student blog. If you decide to start one please let me know so that I can add it to my list of the best law blogs in Australia.
It would also be great to hear if anyone has had any success in using their blog to create an opportunity that they never would have had. If that’s you, please leave a comment below!If you found this helpful, please share it around!