Our guest on the Minimalex blog today is David Smyth, author of the popular white-collar crime and government investigations blog “Cady Bar the Door.” David is now Deputy General Counsel at the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Prior to that he was a partner at Brooks Pierce, an Assistant Director at the SEC, and was an associate with Steptoe & Johnson.
In an effort to give you some honest, real-world examples of what business development can look like, I wanted to ask David about his blogging strategy and the impact it had on his legal career.
David, thanks for taking the time to give us some insight on your blog and BD activities. Let’s get started.
When did you start your blog?
How frequently did you publish content?
Once a week on average.
When did you start seeing a response to what you were posting?
Pretty quickly in terms of people I respect noticing it and mentioning it online.
Did you do anything to promote your posts?
Twitter, mostly. Also our firm was a member of Lexology and JD Supra.
Did you own the platform or was it part of Brooks Pierce? Any recommendations to attorneys on whether they should post on their firm site or their own?
At first we published through LexBlog and used cadybarthedoor.com (no longer active) as the domain name. Then we brought it on the BP site. For searchability and tagging reasons, I think keeping the blog on its own domain would have been a better decision.
Did you use the content of your blog posts in other formats (speaking, articles for other sites/publications, etc…)?
Sometimes, yes. Not nearly as much as I should have.
What benefits did the blog have on your career? New clients? Stronger client relationships? Improved reputation? Career opportunities?
Some new clients. Not necessarily stronger client relationships. Improved reputation, yes. Self-education, for sure, which is a way under-appreciated aspect of blogging.
Can you please elaborate on what you mean by “self-education” and why that is underappreciated?
If you haven’t done a matter on a topic, writing on it gives you some expertise that you didn’t have before. I began to notice that I could speak fluently on that topic later when it came up. The more you do he more you learn if you are writing something substantive. That would not be true if you simply restate press releases from government actions.
Also, how did you notice an impact on your reputation?
It created more high-level contacts and friendships. Some of those friends weren’t geographically close and I would connect either through email or at conferences. Also, I received an award from JD Supra in 2016 for an article I wrote on broker-dealer due diligence related to penny stock sales. The article wasn’t unique, and I didn’t think much about it after I wrote it. But continuing to write in an intentional way eventually will generate recognition.
Did anyone teach you how to bring in new clients?
Was blogging the primary focus of your business development activity or part of a larger plan?
A primary focus of larger plan that included speaking and networking with other lawyers. Today, that plan would probably include a podcast, but it would have to be lightly edited for time reasons. I think a lot of blog content could come from doing a podcast.
What would you recommend to attorneys that are looking to improve their BD process?
Start early. Design and setup matters.
Thank you for your time David!
If you would like to connect with David, you can find him on LinkedIn.
My big takeaway here is that there is value in blogging beyond simply someone seeing your work. If done properly, you will learn more about your area of law through substantive research, writing, and connecting with others in your field. Rather then positioning yourself as knowledgeable, you will become knowledgeable, sometimes before you’ve had a matter on a particular topic. This can only be a positive in your business development efforts.
To paraphrase a proverb:
The best time to start your blog was 10 years ago. The second best time is now.