One of the things I hear from lawyers is: “I want to write, but I don’t have the time/know where to post/want to start a blog.”
Now I’m not in the blog-selling business or believe that every lawyer should have a blog because I’m not in the blog-selling business. (Get ready commentariat.) Not every lawyer can write (there commentariat… go!), but if you want to write, I’ll offer my thoughts. I offer them because this is my column, and I can do whatever I damn well please and I feel like it.
The first thing you have to determine when thinking about writing is your audience.
Unfortunately, many of you law review types actually think anyone out there wants to read something closely resembling a law review article. You can’t write anything without citing to case law or other articles no one has read or wants to read. You believe you’re still writing for adoration of your ability to analyze the history of some statute. You believe you can’t write anything unless it takes you weeks to research and is perfectly cited. You believe writing is done to impress rather than educate or inform.
When you write, you’ll see — ahem — comments about the writing style. Those are coming from those that can’t write like normal people. They spent months writing some over-cited, boring article that no one read and are raging against anyone who writes something interesting that contains a non-law-review-type writing style…
If most of your business comes from law professors, go for it. But if your audience is other lawyers or heavens forbid — clients — dumb it down. Write as if you’re talking like a normal person.
Writing is marketing. Clients don’t pay attention to the writings of lawyers because, “Man, that guy has the best footnotes.” They pay attention because the article conveys that “this lawyer seems to know this issue.”
As a PI lawyer, do you think you’re going to get more “hits” (what we used to call “readers”) writing about the history of comparative fault, or an article about the five things not to do after an injury? As a civil litigator, do you think it’s better to write about the evolution of notice pleading, or the pros and cons of mediation vs. litigation?
If you need a guide, write something that would be a good speaking topic. Would you find an interested audience as a corporate lawyer if your topic was “(some obscure UCC code) and its effect on (some international convention)” or “tax consequences of various corporate structures”?
If you’re going to post online, and you should, know that most people search for legal issues, not lawyers or law firms. Write about things that interest people, not just things that interest you.
Now let’s talk about publishing.
If you want to start a blog, first make sure that if you work for someone, you get permission. Then consider how often you could post. A new blog will get nowhere unless you post at least once a week. If you don’t have 10-20 topics in mind, forget it. Also consider whether you’ll want to write about recent news in your practice area. If so, you’ll need to post more often.
Do not outsource your posts to some shorts-wearing, mommy’s basement-dwelling hipster. If you’re too busy to write and post, do not write and post.
When you write something, send it to your friends, online and offline. Tell your clients, current and former. You shouldn’t tell them every time you write something, as not everything you write is interesting (despite what mommy tells you), and people will get bored and annoyed.
Determine whether there are any publications that may be interested in an article from you. Many legal publications are constantly looking for content, and even if you can’t get something in right away, they will give you space in a later issue. Remember that if you are writing something that will not be published right away, you need to stay away from current events and stick to something that will be timely regardless of its publication date.
Finally, one issue I hear a lot is about length. Who said that anything a lawyer writes has to be a certain length? You don’t impress readers with the amount of your words, you put them to sleep. A 300-word informational article will get you more readers than some 2,000 word, citation-filled analysis of something about which no one cares.
So cut the crap about time and length and your fear that your old law professors will be disappointed in your down-to-earth article geared towards the public. Most people reading your articles are just looking for information, or your point of view on an issue.
And I mean that.
Really, I do.
Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.