In an article on Longreads, Tajja Isen describes how law schools teach law students a method of reading that upends the way the students, many of whom chose to enter law school because they were avid readers, approach the text. It destroys not only their appreciation for the text but even the ability to approach it on its own terms and let it speak for itself. In turning one’s mind into a case summary factory, one loses the ability to afford the author of the text you are reading basic respect. She describes reconnecting with her enjoyment of reading and her path to finding a new purpose for the mature study of texts.
Meanwhile, it is not just law students who find that a sincere connection between writer and reader is getting harder to find these days. Clickbait is everywhere, and it is only getting uglier. It is naïve to think that your law firm’s blog is an oasis of high-quality reading material in a sea of clickbait. Its purpose is, after all, to promote your law firm, if only to direct people to your law firm’s site when they are looking for useful information. How far into the clickbait-ridden wasteland of the blogosphere should you sink, though? The best strategy is to choose carefully which Internet writing tropes to employ and which to avoid.
Do Use Numbered Lists
It isn’t hard to find fluffy, uninformative listicles online, but there is a reason that numbered lists are popular. Lists help readers organize the content in their minds, helping them remember it. It the subject matter of your post lends itself easily to a numbered list, there is no harm in formatting it that way. For example, you can write about the penalties for DUI depending on whether it is a first, second, or third offense. A post on the six types of alimony in Florida likewise lends itself well to list format.
Don’t Resort to Scare Tactics
The 1999 film Bowling for Columbine, released when the World Wide Web was a tiny fraction of its current size, contains a sequence on how the American media produces content aimed at making people feel like they are in constant danger. The barrage of fearmongering, especially in online media, has only increased since then. By the time a reader has navigated to your blog, he or she has already been told to fear toothpaste, lettuce, tomatoes, social media, children’s entertainment, and air. Do not add to the madness with a scary headline. Be the voice of reason and of peaceful resolutions.
Don’t Use Internet Speak
It is not necessary to litter your blog with Latin terms understandable only to lawyers, but use standard English. The language of the Internet changes all the time. By the time you post an emoji or meme on your blog, it will have changed meaning from its use in other contexts.
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The website of your law firm, including its blog, should serve two purposes, namely increasing page views by appealing to readers and search engines alike, on the one hand, and informing the public, including prospective clients, about your practice area. In a world obsessed with quick fixes, the partners at your law firm might grumble during a budget meeting about how, since you started keeping a blog, the number of cases taken on by the firm has only increased by X percent.
This is a misguided view; any law firm only has so many prospective clients, and your sales cannot exceed the demand for your services. If you only had a modest number of DUI defense clients this year, it could be because most people in your county were driving sober or taking Uber home from the bar. Therefore, you should focus on a high-quality blog and avoid these counterproductive strategies that only focus on the bottom line and don’t take into account the realities of the legal profession.
A law firm is not a YouTube celebrity or a social media influencer. While it is endearing to see people in your community wearing T-shirts with the logos of local businesses, it would not be appropriate for a law firm to engage in such marketing tactics. Leave the merch to restaurants and concentrate on defending people’s legal rights.
2. Trashing Your Competition
Celebrities do it. Politicians do it. Many kinds of businesses can get away with doing it, too, but not law firms. You should publish blog posts about real legal cases and court decisions from your state, but don’t use this venue to gloat about how a competitor law firm lost a case that you could have won. Do not re-publish scandalous news about lawyers and judges, unless the scandal is just a background detail. (If you are an estate planning lawyer, for example, you can publish a blog post about an already well-publicized dispute over a deceased lawyer’s estate.) Let the legal issues take center stage.
3. Life Hacks
Impossibly easy solutions to complex problems are the source of many clickbait headlines. You have learned enough, though, that just as a pomegranate a day will not cause stage 4 cancer to go into remission, there are no shortcuts to legally established procedures. Avoid clickbait like “Divorce Your Wife and Marry Your Mistress in 24 Hours!” “Win a Personal Injury Settlement with No Medical Records!” or “Get Your Felony Charges Dropped with This Simple Trick!”
4. Promo Codes
Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, and the cost of legal services is a serious concern for many prospective clients. The time to talk to prospective clients about prices, however, it at a face-to-face competition. Luring prospective clients with discounts looks unprofessional, and you are leaving yourself open to disputes over payment, if your promo codes do attract clients.
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Internships can be a great way to get a feeling for everyday life in a position you are considering. They can also be a thankless job; most internships are unpaid, and interns are often responsible for menial tasks while being expected to go out of their way to make a good impression. Sometimes they receive conflicting instructions from supervisors, and they often leave the internship feeling that everyone is too busy to help the interns learn the profession.
In high pressure professions like law, the professionals sometimes feel that student interns are just there to pad their resumes and to take prestigious selfies for when prospective employers view their social media profiles. The success of the internship experience, from the perspective of both the student interns and the lawyers, depends a lot on how clearly the lawyers determine and communicate their expectations for the interns’ duties before the internship begins. Every law firm is unique, so assigning student interns to write blog posts for the law firm may or may not be a good fit.
Pros of Having Student Interns Write Blog Posts for Your Law Firm’s Website
Most interns at law firms are law students or pre-law students, and these students are, as a rule, good writers; if they were not, they would not have been accepted to law school or been awarded an internship as undergraduates. Strong writing skills are an indispensable prerequisite for entering the legal profession.
Thus, if you assign blog content creation tasks to student interns, they are certain to produce grammatically correct content and to research the blog posts according to your instructions. Oral and written communication with a variety of audiences, such as clients, judges, experts, and other attorneys, is an important skill for lawyers, and writing a blog with prospective clients as its target audience could help student interns develop one aspect of that skill.
Cons of Assigning Your Law Firm’s Blog to Student Interns
Interns are students, and they require more instruction than you might anticipate. Unless you are very specific about how you want your blog to sound, the interns might return something that sounds like an essay written for a class or like generic blog content. Interns might be disappointed to receive this assignment; they might have been hoping to be assigned the task of writing legal memorandums, which they might see as a more valuable professional skill-building experience.
Student Writers Are Good, but Professional Writers Are Better
Student interns are usually write well, but they are not professional writers, so the best choice for writing blog content for your law firm’s website. The best choice is to outsource your blog writing to professional writers who are not distracted by simultaneously having to write blog posts and learn how to be lawyers.
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Paying for Blog Content for Your Law Firm’s Website Is a Better Investment Than Pricey Analytics Services
Part of the appeal of attending one’s high school reunion is seeing how much your classmates have aged. Your unrequited high school crush and the glamorous girls who spread malicious rumors about you in high school now look like life happened to them, just like everyone else. Whether the grueling experience that aged them was medical residency, chronic illness, home schooling their children, or any other long-term source of stress, people who are old enough to attend a 20-year high school reunion know that time and money are scarce resources.
All of this is to say that lawyers are in good company among people who life is too short to keep up with all the latest trends, especially those that are expensive and time-consuming. Is it worth the effort to make your law firm’s website appear on the first page of Google search results for relevant keywords? Yes, it is worthwhile to invest in content marketing to boost your law firm website’s search rankings, but it need not be anything too fancy; a relevant, frequently updated blog will do just fine.
Yes, You Can Pay to Have Your Site Appear at the Top of the First Page of Results, but It Isn’t Worth the Expense
When you enter a search term into Google, you often have to scroll past several ads before you get to the organic search results. Those ads above the organic results, which are labeled “ad,” are there because the owners of the sites paid Google AdWords to put them there. Business owners pay big money to get their sites listed above the organic results, but the operative word is “scroll past.”
When was the last time you bought a product that you found out about from an ad that played before a YouTube video you wanted to watch? People do not like to feel like they are being advertised to, even when they are searching for information about a service they plan to engage. Hiring a lawyer is a serious enough decision that people do not just click on the first website they see and call it a day.
Quality Counts with Law Firm Websites
Creating and updating a blog is more effective than paying to have your site appear at the top of the results page, and it costs a whole lot less. Making frequent updates to your site counts for a lot in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). Writing a blog full of information about your practice area also helps bring in leads and increase traffic.
You will get people who are just looking for information about a topic (such as students or people who want to draft a will, employment contract, or child custody agreement, for example, on their own without hiring a lawyer), which will increase the sheer number of clicks your site gets. As people continue reading, they will learn more about your services; thus, the ones who make it as far as calling you are more likely to hire you.
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Someday, during a temporary Internet outage, the old folks might get around to reminiscing about how different life was before our society came to be bombarded with video content around the clock, most of it aimed straight at our wallets. Grandma and Grandpa might tell the kids about how, after The Tonight Show or Saturday Night Live, television sets would broadcast a combination of white noise and grayscale pixels known as “snow,” and, if you were lucky, you would see infomercials. Grandpa, what’s an infomercial? Well, kids, it’s when a B-list star with a loud jacket and a louder voice pontificates for half an hour about the virtues of some gadget that can be yours for three easy payments of $19.99.
The kids will respond with confusion. You mean, like, merch? Who watches the same video for half an hour? The moral of the story is that, today, video content that wants to sell you something is everywhere, not just on the television screens of insomniacs. Today, info, minus the commercial element, is precious and rare. Your law firm’s website should be one of the Internet’s last bastions of informative content, where people can look for advice about their legal predicament without being ambushed by one cynical cash grab after another.
How to Assure Prospective Clients of Your Success Without Singing in the Key of Advertising
One of the main objectives of your law firm’s website is to convince prospective clients to engage your services. Client testimonials, in text or video format, may or may not be appropriate, depending on your practice area. Generally, the more mundane the services that clients seek from you, and the smaller the amounts of money involved, the more appropriate testimonials are. In other words, if your services are a convenience, such as helping small businesses draft contracts or helping people challenge traffic citations, then video testimonials are appropriate. People read reviews and look for testimonials when seeking to hire a lawyer for these services, just as they do when trying to choose an accountant to help them file their income taxes.
When large amounts of money or suffering are involved, it is best to use your blog to describe cases you have won and to stick to the facts and the legal issues. Doesn’t it seem icky to produce promotional video content aimed at people who stand to go to jail and lose their civil rights? Likewise, people who have received personal injury settlements for catastrophic injuries probably do not want to smile for the camera and relive their trauma. People who need a personal injury lawyer or criminal defense lawyer can figure out that you are the right choice just by reading your blog. Write about cases you have won. Even writing about cases in which you were not involved can help give potential clients an idea of how the process will work if they hire you.
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