Even experts can’t know everything. Whether it’s breaking news or a nuanced legal issue, you sometimes need to do some digging before your start writing your law blog post. Here are some tips to researching your blog the right (and ethical) way.
DO Check Your Legal Statements
Websites and blog posts are generally treated like advertising and don’t create an attorney-client relationship with their readers. But most states’ ethical rules still require lawyers to avoid making false or misleading legal statements. That means attorneys DO need to check their legal statements before posting online.
Depending on your state ethics rules you may also be required to update posts as the law changes. You may also be able to satisfy your ethical obligations by posting a disclaimer that blog posts are only accurate to the date of posting and warning readers to talk to an attorney to find of if there had been any changes since.
DON’T Rely on Questionable Sources
The truth is relative on the Internet. If you aren’t careful, you could easily link to “Fake News” without realizing it. Pay attention to where your Google search sends you. That juicy quote may not be ideal if it is coming from an opinion blog, or the online equivalent of a tabloid.
Whenever possible, click through to the source content on a blog or website. Try to dig down to a reliable newspaper, direct quote, legislative bill, or other primary source. It will take you longer than just using the first post you see, but it will also make sure you aren’t parroting someone else’s mistakes.
DO Cite (Or Link) to Authority
Some bloggers are hesitant to include out-bound links to their content. They’ll say “Jones told the News” without including a link to the article. They are concerned that a link to an outside source will pull readers away from their page and lose the sale.
However, external links lend credibility to your posts, backing up your quotes, statistics, and claims with important source content. Readers who are concerned about authenticity can check your facts and find you are reliable. They also improve your SEO by tracing connections between your blog and other, high-traffic sites.
DON’T Plagiarize Your Content
If you are blogging from the headlines or summarizing long-form content, it can be tempting to pull content and simply re-post it on your blog. “Re-blogging” is a concept that gained popularity early in the history of web marketing. Content creators would simply pull a quote, sometimes a whole paragraph, link to the source, write a brief intro and a call to action, and post it.
However, modern social media marketing demands more than simple content curation. You need to provide unique value with your posts. On top of this, “re-blogging” walks the line between fair quotation and unethical plagiarizing. It’s perfectly fine to quote another blog or online news source in the context of a larger article. But if your post does little more than recite the source’s content, you have more work to do.
Some bloggers never need to research their articles. Some opinion posts, photo-blogging, or fictional content can stand on their own without the credibility that comes from authentic source content. Law blogs rarely fall in this category. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming your words are enough. Do your research and use proper quotation and citation etiquette to make sure your blogs are informative, accurate, and ethical.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web content for lawyers and small businesses. If you need help producing well-researched web content, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.