During closing arguments in a jury trial, a lawyer may be an excellent orator or show masterful skills at cross-examining a witness. But some lawyers may not excel at writing legal topics, but all fairness included, some lawyers like popular novelist John Grisham, are, in fact, brilliant writers.
This article, though, is for those who may not possess superb writing skills to write communication topics to attract clients, to their website or blog. Perhaps one of the biggest problems facing attorneys in the internet marketing world today is the quality of the content published on their site or blog.
In an American Bar Association magazine article titled: “Why Lawyers Can’t Write,” Bryan A. Carrington writes, “I’ve been trying to say that lawyers on the whole don’t write well, and having no clue they don’t write well.”
Carrington further says that lawyers suffer from the “Dunning-Kruger effect.”
According to Wikipedia, the “Dunning-Kruger effect“ is a cognitive bias where individuals suffer from illusions of supereriority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than what is accurate.
“Wise Men Speak Because They Have Something To Say” … Plato
Many attorneys sometimes neglect to review the information on their website, which create problems if the information is generic, unreliable, inaccurate, riddled with grammatical errors, misstatements of facts, or a website may have information or marketing tactics that may trigger State Bar violations. This goes back to the quality of content strategies: the most important aspect of a lawyer’s or law firm’s website is the content.
The content posted on a law firm’s website or blog should contain very informative and educational topics for readers to easily use and navigate. Marketing experts insist that a lawyer or law firm risks losing a potential client if specific information that pertains to an issue that a potential client is facing is not readily accessible on a web page.
Websites, newsletters, info portals, or blogs should always convey the information most important to your ideal client. By learning to review the quality of content on your website, you can feed the search engines like Google and Yahoo, exactly what they want: unique, informative, compelling, and regularly fresh, updated content.
What many people don’t know is this simple thing: The purpose of search engines is to highlight and select the best websites that address specific inquiries. Therefore a lawyer’s website with good content will succeed at answering the questions of a potential client before they make a final decision to retain an attorney.
The most clever, effective way to stay ahead of your competition (or at least run side-by-side) is to research and write about the latest legal topics. Or just share your own knowledge of legal matters, the kind of information that engages a particular concern for potential clients to seek your services in a professional, positive way.
Many U.S. law firms outsource their legal writing to marketing type companies specializing in writing communication subjects to attract new clients for lawyers and law firms. Some top legal writers charge hefty fees to write and produce effective legal content. If somehow outsourcing doesn’t fit your budget and you decide to save money by writing your own web copy, there are important rules to play by, to gain success at turning readers into clients.
Legal experts say that once a client hires an attorney, that the attorney must educate their client about the law, and courtroom procedures. A Texas lawyer argues that many lawyers sometimes fail to thoroughly inform their clients of every important aspect pertaining to a case.
“Don’t be afraid to educate your client,” says Cheryl Irvin, a criminal defense attorney in Houston Texas.
“If you can educate your client this can help to give them knowledge about how the law works, and how the law applies to a client’s case,” Irvin explained.
All content on a website or blog page should provide valuable information to the reader – the same kind of information that your client seeks during the initial consultation. This informative and unique approach to content writing does more than set you apart from typical generic competition. Your well-written audience-targeted content must reassure readers that, as an attorney, you have the knowledge and skills to assist a client’s situation, and further, that you are an authority within your practice area.
Bringing all these qualities together by using the “right” words could sway someone to take action, and contact you for possible representation.
Here are important tips to follow to write high quality legal copy for the web:
- Law Firm Mission Statement: A law firm, no matter what size – or a solo practitoner, must cultivate a reputable operation, a virtue that can only be accomplished by exhibiting professionalism, advocacy and taking pride in representing your client to the best of your ability.
“A lawyer must learn how to advocate for their clients,” attorney Cheryl Irvin, points out.
If a law firm or lawyer practices criminal law, the website must explain what kind of representation a potential client can expect, and why this is the firm that a potential client must hire, instead of another.
- Portraying Law Firm Reputation: One of the most important virtues is to portray the law firm in a very positive light without fabricating claims. For example, if the firm has an 85-90 percent success rate at winning criminal or civil cases it is fair to write this on the web page.
However, the web copy cannot say the lawyer or lawyers claim to have won all of their cases (for the last year or so) if that’s not true, because a simple Google search could show a case or cases the law firm actually lost. A simple reminder: whatever a web or blog content says about a lawyer or a firm must stay within truthful bounds.
Legal ethics mandated by a State Bar Association will apply rules for a firm to abide by in regard to what a lawyer “can or cannot say” about itself.
- Write Legal Topics in Plain English: Legal content must be written in plain English in layman’s terms so potential clients can fully understand what the legal words are saying. Certain use of limited legalese is acceptable, but if a web or blog page is filled with legalese, the audience will click to another similar site. Legal content should be easy to understand and not be boring.
A rule of thumb: Use of active verbs in your writing is preferable, not the passive voice type words.
- Google Keyword Tool: Google keyword tool is a mechanism that allows you to view thousands of search terms that internet users use to look for products and services. This valuable tool is recommended to assist in optimizing your site to attract traffic your way.
- Proofread Content: Please make sure your web copy is thoroughly edited and proofread. Misspelled words and poor grammar reflects poorly upon the law firm’s image. Spellcheckers are capable of finding grammar errors, but grammatical errors are not always detected. Microsoft Word is a good program to check for errors, but nothing beats a good proofreader or editor.
- Select Interesting Topics: Finding legal ideas for your site may, at first, be difficult to decide, and write about. Once you learn how to find “hot topics,” it isn’t really difficult. Just google “legal articles.” “legal stories,” “court decisions,” “running a law firm,” or talk about your area of expertise by referring to recent court decisions. Tracking legal news stories that discuss cases or case law that applies to your expertise is a good way to create ideas for a blog or website. Plus, you can also pose “questions and answers” to basic issues pertaining to your legal knowledge. An avid reader or a potential client usually enjoys reading blow-by-blow details of how a lawyer (such as yourself) got a client off the hook for DUI, Assault, Drug Possession, Murder, or a civil related matter.
- Write For Your Geographic Area: Your legal topics should be restricted to the area where your practice is located. A lawyer living in Texas, Florida or New York, should highlight legal information pertaining to those states, although national topics can easily be used as a “spinoff” on a similar topic in your area.
This writing techinque can be executed by including the legal point of your city or state (think same-sex marriage). Another example, write a post titled: “How New Bankruptcy Laws (Or Foreclosure) affect Texas residents.”
- Keep Headlines Short: Headlines are short, and to the point. You can play around with an article title until you come up with the right words to attract readers interest. Blog posts usually run between 300-500 words. Website content may exceed 1000 words, depending on the subject.
- Don’t Forget to Link Back to Your Website: An easy way to convert readers into potential clients is to provide a link back to your firm’s website, particularly if you write legal guest posts for other highly trafficked sites. The words you use to link back to your site should match the topic of the page you are linking to. Don’t add too many links and be sure to vary that link text.
- Categorize Posts By Topics: Topics positioned on your web page are an important way to archive your previous posts by general topics, so readers can easily find them to determine if the information is relevant to their needs. Let’s say, you are a family law attorney, then your site could have the following categories: child custody, divorce, probate, wills, etc. As a criminal lawyer, the categories could be: DUI, assault, drug possession, robbery, murder etc.
- Marketing Message Should Be Subtle: No legal blog posts or websites should sound like marketing material aka (a slick way of advertising). Certainly a lawyer expects to convert readers into clients, but you don’t want an underhanded marketing message to undermine the value of your informative content. This is why it is best to take a “tell don’t sell” attitude, because nationwide State Bar Regulations forbid specific solicitation language on a law firm or a lawyer’s website.
Therefore prior to writing, thoroughly read your State Bar solicitation and advertising rules.
- Bottom Line: The goal of writing high quality legal topics is to ensure that the law firm or individual lawyer is presenting themselves to potential clients and an expert. If a law firm is performing at excellent levels, the writer should convey this to readers, and if a law firm or lawyer are top-notch, always there for their clients 24-7, the words on the website or blog should explain this, with any additional benefits included. It is the sole responsibility of a law firm to honorably represent the firm’s reputation, skills, and reliable services, as well as their reputation.
Strategic planning is the most effective way to offer clients better representation.
With these tips in mind, you are ready to start writing effective and engaging website or blog articles that over time will attract attention to the law firm or solo practice.