April 17, 2014

Donna Seyle: Law Bloggers – Are Your Readers Bored Yet?

Your blog is worthless if it doesn’t engage your reader. That’s true whether you’re blogging to market, to educate or as a foray into public journaling. If you leave your reader cold after the first two sentences, you’re off their screen. (Are you still with me here?)

Unfortunately, law does not have a reputation among the general public as an engaging subject. Honestly, it’s frequently tedious and often difficult to explain to your clients—almost like trying to communicate in a different language. But writing a law blog gives you the opportunity to bridge the gap. If your target audience is sophisticated financiers, you’re in luck: They’re used to tedium. But if not, you need to find and speak the language of your target audience.

This can be a particularly tough task for lawyers. Law21 and Law Firm Web Strategy blogger Jordan Furlong, a former journalist, has identified several reasons why lawyers struggle with content: “Lawyers tend to be painstakingly utilitarian writers—probably because we also tend to be painstakingly utilitarian people … and many lawyers don’t really believe content has much worth beyond its factual value. Lawyers don’t try to write enjoyably or memorably because they don’t see how it matters. Who cares if it’s engaging or not? I’m not paid to be engaging. I’m paid to be right.”

Well, that may be true, but you’re not getting paid to blog. You’re blogging to increase the chances of getting paid and, in the best of worlds, to help the general public gain a greater understanding of law and legal processes along the way. So while you may be “right,” how are potential clients going to know it if you don’t get their attention?

How to Write to Keep Readers Interested

Here are a few tips that will help you combine substance with style and encourage readers to stay on your website, subscribe to your blog, refer you to friends and hire you when the need arises.

  • Write as if you are having a conversation with a friend. You are not interacting with your monitor, or even the masses of people that will, you hope, read your post. You’re talking to a non-lawyer friend, chatting about an interesting situation and how it would be viewed from a legal perspective. It’s a conversation at the end of a golf game over a good, cold beer on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Enjoy yourself.
  • Assume your friend knows you and trusts you. You’ve been friends for 15 years. There’s a reason for that. You’re likable, reasonable and you know your stuff.
  • Use a “how-to” approach. Most online searches start with the phrase “how to .” Formulate your topic from a practical point of view. What can or should one do in a situation to resolve a dilemma, or what steps should be taken to achieve a desired result?
  • Embellish the topic with an example. Giving examples of similar situations and their outcomes shows that you really relate to the topic and feel strongly about it, so much so that you remember once, about 10 years ago, when …. Just remember, your examplemust be fictional. An amalgamation, perhaps, of several different scenarios.
  • Speak from a “preventative” point of view. No one wants to get entangled in a lawsuit these days—it’s just no fun, costs too much money and you hardly ever get what you want, anyway. Give your friend some wisdom about how to protect themselves and prevent litigation.

As marketing blogger Jim Connolly says, blogging is not something you do after “all your important work is done.” It is important work. Yes, good blogging takes practice, but it can be enjoyable. And if it is enjoyable to you, it will be the same to your readers. Readers like enjoyable.

Donna Seyle is a blogger, writer and founder of Law Practice Strategy, a resource center for lawyers seeking to establish a solo or small firm or wanting to take their existing practices into the 21st Century. She is a graduate of Southwestern University School of Law and has 22 years of professional experience in the law in California, Hawaii and New Mexico. Donna regularly blogs at the Law Practice Strategy Blog. She also contributes to the Attorney at Work blog, where this post originally appeared on August 11, 2011.

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