Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting Comfortable Handing Over the Reins -- Having Help with Writing Your Legal Blog

Many lawyers are perfectionists.  Many other are micro-managers.  In law school, attorneys-in-training are drilled to understand how even a common put in a different position can completely change the meaning of the law and the outcome of the case.  This mindset serves lawyers well when working on behalf of clients.  However, it can also be a hindrance on the business-side of the practice of law, where outsourcing and matters of efficiency have to be factored into the equation.

The law firm content writers on our team run into theses issues each and every day.  We are flexible in our writing approach and adapt depending on the needs of each attorney with whom we are working.  Some prefer a completely hands-off approach and like to check the blog occasionally, provide a bit of feedback, and otherwise be free to devote their time to other tasks.  At the other end of the spectrum, some attorneys have very negative experiences with writing assistants, because they are not truly comfortable ceding any writing control to another.  Of course, having to re-write an entire article received from a law firm ghostwriter is completely counterproductive.  The re-writing occurs for one of two reasons; (1) The quality of the writing is objectively bad; or (2) One finds it impossible to accept a writing style that is different that their own.

Understanding the difference between those two is important, because is signifies either a bad ghostwriter or a need to have a bit more flexibility with a writing assistant.

Each legal content writer at our firm appreciates that no two people write exactly the same way.  Of course, writing is an individual endeavor that is shaped in all of us over the course of our lifetimes.  From the moment we first master the alphabet to the time that we sit down to write the essay portion of the Bar exam, our own writing style is being molded.  The ultimate style that each of us develops is a mix of our own innate abilities, the teachers we've had, the books we've read, the writing tasks we've been forced to complete, and a myriad of other factors.

That individual style influences what words are use and how those words are put together to share an idea.  If thirty people are told to describe the same picture in a paragraph, none of those thirty paragraphs will be identical.  Some may be more similar than others but each will have a slightly different fingerprint.  There is no way of getting around that entirely, and even the best legal blog writers cannot mimic another attorney's style exactly.

In fact, if mimicry is the ultimate goal of a ghostwriting project, then the project is destined to be mediocre.  When expressing a particular idea, every writer is going to have an instant opinion about how that idea should be expressed.  That natural reaction can be checked and altered, but it will come at a cost.  Trying to change one's natural writing style is like writing with your less dominant hand.  You can get better at it over time, but in virtually all cases the finished product will not be as good as it otherwise would have been.

In short: we urge all those considering having help with legal blog writing to understand their own perfectionist writing tendencies.  Our writers do this work specifically because they are capable of writing well about the law.  There are many ways to alter the tone, topics, and structure of an assignment to meet different preferences.  But at the end of the day the particular style of the legal writer will still shine through.  That is a good thing!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Law Firm Blog Topics -- No Size Fits All

As legal ghost writers we work with attorneys in wildly different practice areas, geographic locations, firms sizes, personal styles, and the like.  Even a cursory look at our work makes clear that there is certainly not a "standard" way to write a law firm blog.  Most notably, potential topics for the blog--which is the most important aspect of the process--run the gamut.  There is not necessarily one "right" way for a blog to develop.

This presents some challenges from our perspective.  Many lawyers contact us for help and, rightly, expect us our legal content writers to explain in detail the exact right way that they should use their blog.  Of course, we have very clear thoughts about ways that the blog can be used--and we create content toward that end--but our way isn't necessarily the only way.   This is most true when it comes to topic selection.  Search engine optimization, for example, does include some pretty clear rules which should be followed by every firm in their blog writing.  However, SEO does not say all that much about what the content should actually be about.  When it comes to actual topic ideas, there are several ways to make it work.

As we have previous written, there is a difference between a "law firm blog" and a "lawyer blog."  Each suggests a different tone to the posts and basic writing style.  Beyond that, however, each kind of blog can come from a range or combination of perspectives.  Here, in no particular order, are a few main topic styles that we have seen, written, and know can work.  Which one is best for your firm and blog depends a lot on your own personality, practice area, and perspective.

1) Legal Analysis:  Of course, this is what some blog gurus think is the "only" way to successfully use a blog.  Legal analysis focuses mostly on case summarizes--describing hot legal issues, explaining the current perspectives, and taking a stand one way or another.  On one hand legal analysis topics are great at presenting the attorney in a sophisticated light--making it easy for potential clients to feel like that are contacting a hought leader in the area.  However, these posts are much harder for potential clients to actually understand and, in reality, the specifics are often ignored.
2) General Interesting Information: These posts are essentially the exact opposite of the legal analysis posts.  General interest posts may not actually touch on the law much at all.  For example, a personal injury lawyer who takes brain injury cases may talk about a new research study that was just released which offers hope for treatments or diagnosis in TBI victims.  The post itself may say nothing about how this might affect a TBI legal case.  However, potential clients will likely be interested to follow along with this information.  These posts make clear that the attorney cares about the things that the client cares about even outside the law itself. 
3) Firm News: Many firms use the blog primarily to comment on issues directly related to the firm itself--discussing cases that are underway, referring back to old issues, and even discussing basic office protocol and policy. The main downside with this perspective is that this material  is often best when posted permanently as a new static page on a firm website.  In addition, firms that view their blog only through this lens often fail to update with new posts as much as necessary. 
4) Basic Primers: Straddling the line between firm news and legal analysis, many firms create posts that are summaries of basic legal issues.  This differs from legal analysis in that these posts do not necessarily touch on hot topics or controversial issues.  Instead, they are generic outlines about how a certain legal process works.  In this way they are probably the most interesting type of post for searching potential clients.  However, as with firm news, sometimes this information is better utilized as a static content page on a firm website rather than a dynamic blog.

Our law firm ghostwriters do not believe that any one of these perspectives is better than any other.  Some firms may have various reasons for liking one over the other.  Usually, the best bet is to include a mixture of all of them.