What to Remember when Writing Online in Legal Practice
By Jay Fleischman
In legal practice, it’s easy to become so accustomed to writing for clients, judges, and other attorneys, that you forget how to write for the common, everyday person. When you’re writing content online, though, that’s exactly what you have to do.
If you don’t write for your target audience, it won’t take readers long to become confused (or distracted, or bored)… and they’ll hastily click the “back” button to find information elsewhere.
Here are six tips to help you write effectively when you’re marketing your practice online:
Write in first person, not third person. It might seem more comfortable to say, “John Smith is a bankruptcy attorney working in the Long Island, New York area. for the past 15 years, he has…” The problem is, writing in the third person doesn’t engage your readers – they feel like they’re reading a newspaper article instead of a blog or web page. “I’m John Smith, and I’ve spent the past 15 years working as a Long Island bankruptcy attorney…” is much more engaging and personable.
As much as possible, avoid “legalese” and technical terms. You’re writing for someone who is looking for solutions to their problems, not a legal professional. If you need to use a legal term, make sure you explain it in plain language.
Keep paragraphs short. When you write in long paragraphs, readers tend to skim over the content… and they often miss the most important parts. A good rule of thumb is to limit paragraphs to three sentences each whenever possible.
Numbered lists and bullet points are great for breaking down important information. These features provide a means of visual separation, so the reader can easily digest the information they contain. Plus, breaking down information into a list or bullet point format makes it easier to remember.
Vary the length of your articles or blog posts. This keeps your pages from looking overly structured, and is more inviting for your readers.
Be concise. When internet users are looking for information, they want it now. Posting wordy, meandering content is one of the quickest ways to make sure that visitors leave your site quickly (and never return).
Writing Letters to Others
1. Do not put anything in writing that you would not want a judge to read out loud in court.
2. Do not put anything in writing that you do not want your mom to read.
3. Do not put anything in writing that you do not want to be Exhibit A to a jury. (Okay, this one was mine.)
Those are some good rules to follow. Be careful about what you put in writing, and before you send it, or click “send” on your e-mail, make sure that you are comfortable letting the world read what you wrote.