The Practice of Engagement: How a Health Care Attorney Transformed His Practice Through Social Media

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By Daniel Casciato

In June 2007, health care attorney Mike Cassidy of Pittsburgh-based Tucker Arensberg, P.C. (and chair of its health law practice group) decided that blogging would be a more effective communication tool than a typical law firm newsletter. He could keep current clients informed about legal issues affecting the health care industry as well as cultivate new clients.

Until then, Cassidy used newsletters to keep his physician clients advised as to what was happening, such as the change in the Medicare fee schedule in the late 1980s, Stark Law in 1989, and anti-kickback developments.

“They needed this information and they needed to know that I was an expert in all this,” says Cassidy. “So a newsletter served this function well.”

However, Cassidy soon discovered that producing a newsletter was not very efficient. It took a long time to produce and you had to mail it to everyone. When the Internet became more mainstream, he was able to convert his newsletter into a digital format which made it easier to distribute via email. Despite the convenience of email, Cassidy still had to create and design the newsletter, and the production still took just as long.

Blogging changed all that. Now, Cassidy is able to create shorter articles for his readers, post ongoing, timely information, and produce a new article several times a week on his blog, called MedLawBlog.com.

“You also no longer have to explain concepts to your readers in great detail,” he says. “You can now hyperlink a phrase in your post for the reader to learn more about that particular topic.”

Cassidy says that blogging works well with the daily routine of practicing law. With his blog, he is posting items that come across his desk, such as the 2012 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, links to other relevant articles, and summaries of court decisions related to other health law issues.

“I have to read items to keep current, and posting them on the Blog is almost an afterthought,” he says. “Sure you have to spend some time dictating those notes and finding the appropriate link to the regulation you are referencing in the post, but it’s an effective way of keeping my clients alert to the fact that I’m on top of these decisions.”

Cassidy doesn’t have any specific time during the day designated to writing a blog post. If something is brought to his attention that is interesting and important enough for him to read, then it’s interesting and important enough for Cassidy to take the time to post.

“Sometimes, a post could take all morning to research and then write, and sometimes it may take five minutes,” he says. “I write about whatever I think is good information for my readers to be aware of–even if it doesn’t come from me. Sometimes I’ll direct my readers to another good post on another blog.”

One obstacle that Cassidy believes discourages people from blogging is that they don’t want to give away information that they previously were paid to provide.

“If you post too much information on your blog, some attorneys feel that they are giving away information that clients would normally call you for,” he says. “I don’t think that’s true. We have evolved from information gatherers and advice givers to just advice givers. The ownership of the knowledge of specific information has decreased significantly and the importance of the expertise has increased.”

While Cassidy says that consumers are often turning to the Internet for more legal information, they still need someone to go to for advice. Years ago, only health care attorneys had access to information such as Medicare regulations. Now it’s accessible via the web to anyone who does a search. While people can research it themselves, they are finding that they still need help with the advice.

“They want experienced people to answer their questions,” he says. “In the past, all the law was in law books, so as an attorney, you needed to do both, gather the information and give advice. The advice part comes with experience. I can provide good advice because of my experience. I identify issues that my clients should be aware of now, and suggest that if it’s something that concerns them, they should call me.”

Soon after blogging, Cassidy also began to using LinkedIn to make new connections and deliver his blog posts to another audience.

“We decided that being active on LinkedIn would provide an opportunity to maintain visibility,” says Cassidy, who has more than 1,000 connections on LinkedIn. “The blog helps us with search engine visibility.  Participating in LinkedIn complements that because when I post something on my blog, it is also posted on my profile on LinkedIn.”

Considering starting a blog yourself?  Here’s Cassidy’s advice and tips for getting started:

  • Tailor your content to your specific audience’s interest. (For Cassidy, his audience is health care professionals who care about laws and regulations affecting the health care arena.)
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Make it part of your daily routine so it flows easier, rather than becoming a distraction.
  • Find what interests and is important to you because it will be for your audience.
  • Post often. Posting occasionally won’t achieve visibility because search engines measure a number of dynamics including number of hits, frequency of posts, and number of links.

“Your blog has to be active to be productive,” says Cassidy. “If you only do it once a month, no one is ever going to see it or pay attention to it.”

Cassidy’s blog has helped his practice from a marketing standpoint because it has given him much greater visibility. Since he started blogging four years ago, there has been 227,379 visits to  his blog in that time span. He averages between 200-250 hits per day now.

“That’s a lot of visibility,” he says. “Blogging is a marketing, networking and business development tool which has been effective. Someone usually calls or e-mails me every week about advice they’ve seen on my blog. And that’s a good return for me.”

For more information on Mike Cassidy’s blog, visit www.MedLawBlog.com. You can also email him at Mcassidy@tuckerlaw.com..