Legal Writing Isn’t The Same as Marketing Copywriting

Most lawyers think of themselves as excellent communicators.

And sometimes it's actually true.

But, by and large, the way lawyers have learned to write bears little resemblance to effective copywriting for marketing purposes.

So what needs to shift in order to turn your legalese into an effective marketing tool for your law firm?

Change the Topic

I've mentioned before my general loathing of the “timely case update”.

That's not necessarily always because the topic itself is dry and the concept is indicative of a non-existence marketing strategy.

As often as not, it's because the execution of the “timely update” style article is… bad.

It goes like this:

  • we haven't written something in a while;
  • nominate someone to trawl through the latest cases and decisions;
  • person finds a case;
  • timely update gets written.

The problem with this method is mostly in the last two steps. Because of the mentality that's going into the content selection and the fact that you're all lawyers, you end up with an article about the case.

And nobody cares about the case. They don't care about what the Court below said, they don't care about who the judge was, and they don't care about whether it was unanimous or by majority.

They care about the TOPIC.

So write an article about property settlements, or insolvency in trusts, or key dates in conveyancing contracts – but don't write an article about Smith vs Smith.

Change the Formula

As a law student, you became accustomed to the idea that people would read every word you wrote and assess you on it.

As a lawyer, you took that concept and ran hard with it. This is why legal advices tend to be overly long and contain information that doesn't need to be there, with the actual advice either at the end or tucked away in various paragraphs throughout. It's not because you're being deliberately elusive, it's just because you're assuming that people will read the whole thing.

That's not how marketing works.

In fact if you manage to write something that people read all the way through, then you're onto a winner.

To do that, you need to change your entire approach to writing, with each step existing almost entirely to ensure that they read the next step.

That means:

  • your headline exists to get someone to click;
  • your first line/paragraph exists to get someone to read the next one;
  • the headings within the article exist to get people to read the content underneath them;
  • the content of your article exists to get people to take some action on your site.

This is a starkly different mentality from legal drafting, but one that will significantly change the way you approach copywriting.

Change the Tone

I'm guessing that the way you present legal submissions before a Court is different from the way you talk to your mum, right?

In the same way we need to consider how the way we write formally in legal correspondence should be altered when we're communicating from a marketing perspective.

For most lawyers in most practice areas, the long, referenced articles that we know and love really just exist in the realm of professional development. They usually serve little helpful purpose for your marketing endeavours.

So how can we change up the tone? Perhaps it means adding conjunctions. Perhaps it means an occasional joke or anecdote. Perhaps it means expressing a personal opinion rather than a legal conclusion.

If I had to offer one piece of advice on tone, I'd say this: lighten it up. A helpful, easy to read piece for your firm's website, written specifically for an audience you know and understand, will generally be a better choice.

Time for Change?

Take a look back through your website articles. Can you tweak anything and republish? What would you change if you had to do it again? Do you see the less helpful elements from your legal writing creeping into your marketing work?

It's not a big change, and it's easy to do – you just need to think about it when you next start producing your content.

I look forward to seeing it.



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