In this instalment of Words that Bite, I investigate whether small law firms should bother posting updates for clients on their websites.
In the past, I’ve mentioned the problems I see with the updates and other publications on many law firms’ websites. When I talk about legal updates, I am referring to the law firm version of a blog. Essentially, the idea is that a firm publishes short updates on issues that are likely to be of interest to clients. The update will probably also be presented as an eNewsletter that is sent out to clients via email.
There are a number of advantages in being a law firm that blogs.
There is no doubt that a well-written and punchy legal update can attract clients to your firm. Most large firms put quite a bit of effort into their publications. Some even have publications teams devoted to producing the best possible updates and other publications. The reason? Punchy updates and publications can act as magnets for clients.
So, if you are the kind of firm that has a team of lawyers with the ability to explain the law in a way that is comprehensible to non-lawyers and you are willing to put some effort into your publications, you should think about asking your lawyers to write updates on issues that are likely to be of interest to both existing and prospective clients.
There is no doubt that a well-written update posted on a firm website can raise the profile of the lawyer who wrote it, and even persuade a potential client to retain him or her, rather than a competitor. That is, it might be the little piece of gold that persuades a client to call a lawyer at your firm instead of another lawyer down the road.
If you become a contributor to Mondaq (an online resource which distributes content from professional advisers all over the world), you can ensure that your article reaches potential clients, as well as other practitioners, thus helping you boost your professional profile.
Posting legal updates on your website can also be an effective way of boosting your ranking on Google. There is nothing Google likes more than a freshly updated website and, if you ensure that your update is sprinkled with the right keywords, or even answers the kinds of questions that clients type into a search engine, updates can be a very powerful SEO tool.
One of the main factors that turn small firms off updates, is that preparing them is a lot of work. If you are a lawyer working in a small firm, where you not only have to look after your clients but devote yourself to the day-to-day business of running the practice, you need to consider whether you have the time and energy to write updates.
There is no point sugarcoating it – writing updates involves a lot of work, especially if you want them to be of high quality.
Quite often, small firms try to get around the problem of their more senior lawyers not having time to write updates by flicking the task to the third paralegal on the left and hoping for the best. Does this work?
It can, if your paralegal is a rocket scientist, and understands that updates aren’t just about outlining valuable information but are a marketing tool.
In short, delegating the task to someone further down the food chain can often be a disaster.
Unfortunately, most paralegals write updates in the same way they write their assignments for law school. By this, I mean they tend to use very academic language and, quite often, fill their updates with prose that can only be described as turgid: full of legalese that might impress their lecturers but will baffle most clients. In addition, if a paralegal is still at university, they’re probably not quite ready to analyse the law in a way that might be interesting or useful for clients.
So, while you can try delegating the task to a paralegal initially, you will need to make sure they are closely supervised. This involves checking that what they produce is correct, and ensuring that a client will find the update easy to read, as well as valuable to them in a practical way.
I believe that, on the whole, updates are better when they are written by a senior lawyer who sees them as a way to boost their profile. At a minimum, the author should be a lawyer with a few years’ experience, and who has some idea of how to communicate with clients who might not be lawyers.
So, instead of just delegating the task to a paralegal, it might be smarter to train them, by asking them to do some research on the topic and possibly even have a crack at a first draft. You can then work with them on the draft and, through that process, show them how to structure and shape an article.
You also need to retain the services of someone to copyedit and proofread anything you are going to publish on your firm’s website.
Because there is nothing like a fresh pair of eyes for a freshly minted article, especially if those eyes belong to a trained copyeditor. A talented copyeditor can do wonders for anyone’s prose, especially that of a lawyer who is used to writing advices.
To some small firms, this may seem too expensive. However, it is not an area where you should try to cut costs.
Obviously, it is vital that anything posted on a website is proofread by a professional. Nothing looks worse in a law firm update than typographical or grammatical errors.
I believe investing in legal updates is like investing in anything. If you put the work into producing high-quality updates, which are relevant and well-written, you will get a return on your investment.
You should also ensure that your updates are read, by boosting the number of readers through using an online resource such as Mondaq, which distributes hundreds of articles each day.
If, on the other hand, you approach producing updates in a half-hearted way and your lawyers see it as a chore, you probably aren’t going to get the kind of results you were hoping for.
Obviously, it helps if a firm provides lawyers with budget relief for writing articles, and it isn’t just something that they do when they don’t have much work.
Ultimately, the question of whether a small firm should bother posting legal updates depends on the firm.
It helps if the firm is one that supports a culture of article writing and can see the benefits of it. After all, article writing makes lawyers better communicators. And if lawyers become better communicators, they become better practitioners. Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned above, writing articles may also lift an individual’s profile within the profession.
There is little doubt that if a law firm encourages its lawyers to publish well-written and punchy updates on its website, as well as ensuring those updates are read by a wide audience, this will:
However, if your firm is not willing to put sufficient resources and effort into the task, you are probably better off forgetting updates altogether. In short, the old adage applies – if you are going to do something, do it properly or not at all.
Do you want assistance with your law firm’s publications or updates from someone with a legal background? The Pink Rottweiler specialises in helping law firms produce publications and updates that reflect their brand and are written in a way that attracts clients. If you would like to chat about your firm’s publications, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.