25 Oct 10 Tips for Busy Lawyers Writing Articles and Blogs
Facing the writer’s block as that article or blog post you promised comes due? Every article (and writer) is different, but here are a few guidelines that we have found helpful for lawyers writing articles.
Identify your target reader. Is your primary target other lawyers who might make referrals? Small business owners? C-suite executives? GCs and in-house lawyers? HR directors? Construction company risk managers? Your audience will determine tone, choice of language, and how much background you can assume your reader brings to the topic.
What does your target reader want (or need) to know on this topic? What keeps (or should keep) her awake at night?
Avoid legalese. Words such as pursuant, herewith, and henceforth belong in contracts and court opinions, but they make articles hard to read. Make your articles more conversational by avoiding this type of language.
What’s new? Highlight, and maybe start an article with new developments to hook the reader. That could be a recent court opinion, a new law or regulation, or a business trend. Everything you write about has been written about before, so a new development gives the reader a reason to read your new offering. What’s new often should be set up with a historical background. Thematic approach: For years, this has been the way it was done, but now the courts have said we have to change the way we do it, and here’s what you have to know about how the changes affect your business.
Grab the reader quickly. Electronic devices and the firehose of information coming at us on the internet make for impatient readers. You have about 20 seconds of reading time to persuade your reader to stay with the article. You don’t have to be overly clever, but you need to tell the reader quickly what you are writing about and why they should read it. “Here is what I am going to tell you and here is why you need to read it,” should be your inner compass when you construct the first few paragraphs.
Be journalistic. Write with the voice you see in The Wall Street Journal, which might be called smart and conversational. A law journal article requires a scholarly style, but most articles you will write for prospective clients to fall into the journalistic category.
Think about takeaways. This is not appropriate for all articles, but ask yourself if there are three (or five) main points for the reader. In some cases, these takeaways will work as bullet points. Identifying takeaways, even if they are not written as bullets, will help you focus the article and avoid trying to do too much.
Drop-in a few metrics to show the scope and importance of a trend. For example, if you are talking about a trend in lawsuits, mention the percentage or number increase in these suits over the past few years. Most topics have a metric, and these statistics often are just a few clicks away on an industry or bar website.
Don’t neglect to identify your expertise. This can sometimes be weaved into an article, or it can be placed in your bio that attaches to the article. Give concrete indications of your experience – number of trials or verdicts, prior experience at a regulatory agency, number or dollar value of transactions. This not only increases the credibility of your article but makes it more likely a reader will pick up the phone and call you when they need counsel on the topic.
Avoid self-promotional language. Sure, your goal is client development, but an article that sounds like a thinly disguised ad will lose the reader quickly. You will sell yourself and your firm most effectively by showing your knowledge on a topic and communicating well.