As we publish this series of posts on starting on blog, this may seem like the most self-serving. I want to talk about choosing a platform for your blog, but of course I am writing this on behalf of a company that is in the business of hosting blogs.
Don’t worry, this is not a sales pitch. It is my honest assessment of which blogging platform is the right choice for a legal professional launching a blog.
In A Word: WordPress
I can cut to the chase and sum up my recommendation in one word: WordPress. WordPress is the most popular blogging software in the world. In fact, it is the software that underlies roughly a third of websites – not just blogs, but entire websites.
Its popularity is well deserved. WordPress is free and open-source software that is easy for anyone to use, even if you are not a techie. Thousands of themes are available that let you create a design for your blog with just a few clicks. In addition, nearly 60,000 plugins enable you to expand the features and functionality of your blog.
Hosting the WordPress Software
While the WordPress software is free, you still need to host it somewhere, and that will generally require you to pay a hosting fee. Although not required, you will also want to purchase a unique domain name for your blog.
There are thousands of web hosting companies that are capable of hosting the WordPress software. WordPress itself recommends several. Most of these companies provide the WordPress software pre-installed, so you need only do some basic setup, such as choosing a name for the blog and a design theme, and you are ready to go.
WordPress v. WordPress
A source of confusion among newcomers who are considering WordPress is that there is both a WordPress.org and a WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is the home of the open-source software. You can download the software from there and find themes and plugins.
WordPress.com is a commercial blog-hosting service started by the cofounder of the WordPress software, Matt Mullenweg. It provides a range of paid hosting plans for blogs, as well as a very basic free plan.
For a law firm or any other business, WordPress.com is not recommended. It limits your design options, blocks many plugins, and limits use of tracking analytics.
Now the Self-Serving Part
Similar in concept to WordPress.com are companies that offer fully managed blog hosting. While there are several companies that offer this generically, LexBlog was the first to offer hosting specifically tailored to legal professionals.
LexBlog’s blogging platform is built on the WordPress platform. But the company has modified the platform to create a highly stable and secure publishing platform suitable for legal professionals.
By hosting your blog with LexBlog, you get an array of features that you would otherwise have to cobble together and manage yourself. This includes a professional design, coaching, mobile optimization, social media optimization, an analytics dashboard, SEO, and email subscriptions.
Plus your blog is included in LexBlog.com, the world’s largest community of legal bloggers, where your blog, your blog’s authors, and your firm will all be profiled.
I said this would not be a sales pitch. Honestly, I would tell you the same thing about LexBlog even if I didn’t work with the company. It is where I host my LawSites blog.
If you are a hard-core do-it-yourselfer, you should be aware that LexBlog limits your ability to use some third-party plugins and also limits your ability to fully customize your blog on your own. But these limits exist for a reason, which is to protect the stability, security and reliability of the platform, and the platform has evolved over the years to give firms the design elements and functionality they would want.
I can also tell you from my own experience that if there is a plugin you want, LexBlog’s support staff will work with you to enable it, or program the functionality in another way.
Another company I would recommend that offers fully managed blog hosting specifically for law firms and legal professionals is Justia. In fact, Justia hosted my blog for many years before I moved it to LexBlog.
Like LexBlog, Justia offers professional and mobile-friendly designs, a stable and secure WordPress-based platform, SEO, and more.
Started by the original founders of Findlaw, before its acquisition by Thomson Reuters, Justia is a longstanding company with a solid reputation for building great websites and blogs at fair prices.
What About Medium?
Another option for blogging is the publishing platform Medium. While Medium is elegant in design and devoted to publishing, it is not, in my opinion, a good option for legal professionals who are blogging to help grow their practices and reputations.
Medium is a highly controlled publishing platform with few options for customization and branding. You cannot create a unique design and you cannot use your own domain name.
Perhaps most worrisome, your readers are not actually your readers – they are Medium’s readers. Free reader access to Medium is limited, and full access is available only to those who pay a monthly fee of $5.
Also of concern is that you do not own your website with Medium. The company could decide at any point to shut down, or charge higher subscription fees, or even to shut you down because they don’t like your content, and you would be without recourse.
The Bottom Line
The truth is that you have many options available to you for the platform on which you blog. But it is universally agreed that the best blogging software is WordPress. That leaves only the question of where to host your WordPress blog.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer and a bit of a techie, you may prefer to host your blog with a generic web-hosting company. This will give you the widest array of options for customizing your blog and using plugins.
But doing it yourself also comes with headaches, not to mention the time it takes. When your blog starts acting glitchy, will you be prepared to take an afternoon away from your law practice to try and diagnose the problem? When plugins conflict – as they are wont to do – do you really want to spend your time rooting around for the cause?
As a legal professional who blogs, your focus should be on creating engaging and informative articles. Leave the design, maintenance and support of your blog to those who make that their profession.
And if you’re looking for such a company, I might just know of one.