Good writing is good writing, right? Yes and no.
Readers’ expectations for a blog are far different than for a law journal. Blogging started as a form of an online journal so the style has always been more personal and casual. Readers expect that through a blog, they will get to know you. the writer. They also expect the content to be easily digestible and fun to read.
That’s a lot of expectation so we’ve put together a few of our favorite tips for getting it right, inspired by some of the top bloggers on the LexBlog Network.
Step 1: Adopt a conversational tone. Sometimes lawyers can be afraid to write with a casual tone because it seems less professional. But in reality, a casual tone is what helps potential clients get to know you and your personality. Plus, the more you reduce the legalese in your posts, the more your audience will be able to connect with your content. LexBlog author, Dan Schwartz (@DanielSchwartz) says he writes all his posts with his next door neighbor in mind. This keeps the legalese to a minimum and ensures your language is easy to read and comprehend. And it’s working: his blog, Connecticut Employment Law Blog is one of the most popular on our network.
A great example of writing in a conversational and engaging tone is a post from Robin Shea (@RobinEShea), former journalist, now a labor lawyer with Constangy. This post contains a funny letter to the EEOC chair.
Step 2: Have an opinion. Taking a stance can be scary. Won’t you alienate those with a differing opinion? Not necessarily. Two things happen when you write with strong opinions.
One, your posts get better. The passion you display for your subject shines through. This makes your post more interesting to read and more fun for you to write.
Two, choosing a side can bring you business. When you’re demonstrating your expertise on one side of an issue, those who agree will flock to you. And when legal counsel is needed on that side of the issue, you’ll be top of mind in a way that neutrality on the subject won’t offer.
Steptoe & Johnson’s Stewart Baker and Gray Reed’s Charles Sartain stand out as a couple of our network’s top examples. Stewart served as the first Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security where he set cybersecurity policy, including inward investment reviews focused on network security. His posts are highly opinionated on the topic of cybersecurity and are written in an accessible way for the general public to enjoy. Likewise, Charles Sartain writes on the hot topic of fracking and energy law with a conservative bent that keeps his audience coming back.
Step 3: Format for the web and mobile. You may have heard a lot from LexBlog about formatting your posts for easy readability, but this point bears repeating. Ensuring your post looks attractive to your reader, no matter what device they’re using when they come across your post, is key for keeping them coming back.
First, remember that your title may appear by itself on Facebook, LinkedIn and even on Twitter. So your title needs to draws readers’ attention and makes a statement right off the bat. It also should make sense outside the context of the blog. It’s important to avoid acronyms few people know, and to keep it under 70 characters so that the whole title is visible in Google and other social sites.
Second, use photos in every post. This makes your post more attractive to read but beyond that, remember the images chosen will show up when you (or anyone) who shares your content on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Third, make your post easily scannable. There is a reason why list posts or “listicles” are so popular. They are easy to scan over and get the main points without exerting a lot of energy. Your posts don’t all have to be lists, but if you format them in a similar way with sub-headings, short paragraphs or bullets, you’ll make your post much more easily digestible. This is more important now than ever with the widespread adoption of mobile technology.
Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights has a great example. When you check out his blog, watch how nice it looks when you resize your banner–go ahead and size it down to mobile phone dimensions. This is called responsive design and Jeff’s blog looks great and is easy for his audience to read on the go.
If you’re struggling with how to turn up the personality dial, where to draw the line in appropriateness, or just how to write better, contact your LexBlog account manager. They’re available to help you make the most of your blog!
Thank you to Colin O’Keefe for contributing his deep knowledge on this topic! For more information on writing well, visit our private Reach Community for LexBlog authors and view the recording of July webinar hosted by Colin O’Keefe on the 3 Writing Secrets of Top Legal Bloggers.Photo credit: josef.stuefer