It's typically pretty easy to tell when a law firm has engaged a outsourced content writer to produce their content for them.
It's particularly simple to tell when that content has been produced by people who have extremely limited visibility on legal practice, and precious little actual knowledge on the topics they are writing about.
This isn't a good thing.
There are, of course, excellent content writers out there that produce high quality work any law firm should be proud to publish. They tend to charge accordingly.
This article, however, is not about them. It's about the slightly larger pool of available content writers who churn out material at a rapid and cost-effective rate.
So – should you pay the (relatively) small amount of money required to get articles written?
Let's Start with the Good Side
Writing articles in-house is expensive.
Even if you're not billing by time, the fact is that having a highly trained lawyer apply themselves to writing articles is quite expensive. Beyond that we have the fact that lawyers aren't really trained to write well for marketing purposes – some do well, others less so. The result is you can sometimes end up with a product that is quite expensive to produce but doesn't necessarily fire on all cylinders from a marketing perspective.
With all that in mind, outsourcing your writing to one of the cheaper content creating pools can be fairly cost effective. Provided you can come up with an idea for content, they can typically write something about it and at the very least you will have stuff being published on a consistent basis.
So that's good.
But Then Again…
The main problem with the end product is that they tend to read… strangely. I accept this is a nebulous description, but it is a little challenging to put into words.
By “strangely” I mean that the sentence structures, manner of expression, odd repetition, focus points and wording of these articles tends to all just be a little inelegant. This is the case whether or not the writer is a native English speaker.
I am a big proponent of things you write for content marketing sounding, as far as possible, much like it would if you were just talking to someone. And these definitely don't meet that standard, which is hardly surprising given the nature of the engagement.
And unless the clients you are attempting to secure appreciate strangely worded articles, that's not likely to do you any favours.
Consider this: if I am a potential client of your firm, and the available material on your website doesn't read in a natural way, and kind of looks like someone was trying to shoe-horn unusual SEO phrases into an article. Is that going to nudge me closer to calling you, or further away?
I think really the cause of this issue is fairly straightforward: legal articles are very hard to write, often technical in nature, and a non-lawyer getting their head around a legal topic for a couple of hundred bucks results in a fairly tenuous understanding of the topic. With a tenuous understanding comes a slightly less focused article.
Ways to Fix It
There are three.
First, keep your writing tasks in-house. Of course this leaves you with the problems we described earlier, the main one being that you don't produce much content, but at least the stuff you do produce will be a bit more authentic.
Next, implement a system where you read the articles generated, not just for technical correctness but also for style and presentation. Treat the product you get from the author as a rough draft, and finesse it to suit your firm's branding and presentation. Of course this increases the cost of production, but also improves the quality of the end product.
Finally, hire an agency like us to do it for you.
But would I just publish things straight off the confirmation email? No. No I would not.