If you’ve read anything about Precision Impact, you’ll know that we write content for a number of highly technical industries, including law firms. As such, I’ve spoken to quite a few lawyers about how they approach their content, as well as digital strategists and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts. Each side has legitimate concerns with the other, and there is certainly merit in both perspectives.
Lawyers tend to prefer to keep a hand on the wheel, regardless of how busy they might be. Some will outsource their writing to some form of expert, be it a writer or a marketing firm, but even they are concerned about the quality of their content.
However, from the SEO perspective, content simply needs to be written and put out there, particularly when it comes to blog articles. Google hates an infrequently updated website, and most lawyers don’t have the time to write and upload a thoughtful, relevant, carefully laid-out piece of content every single week (or every other week, or every month even).
As with most arguments, the truth of the matter lies somewhere in the middle. To make sure that your online content is effective, efficient, and not harmful to your firm’s reputation, these 7 considerations must be taken into account:
1. You’re Right to Fret Over Your Content.
Everything that gets published, whether or not you have a third party working on the content, is released under the name of your firm—and often with the by-line of a senior partner. Quality is an extremely important factor; in every single piece of content, online or off, you want to sound knowledgeable, approachable, and, above all, competent.
Quality counts. Some digital marketers who are unfamiliar with the legal industry will attempt to cut corners on content quality to offer you a lower quote. These ‘low-balls’ invariably produce sub-par content for the sake of quantity.
2. Content Must Maintain Accuracy & Authenticity.
In the field of law, accuracy goes without saying. After all, you can get in a significant amount of trouble with your local bar association if you publish false or misleading information on your website. A specialized, professional writer will allot themselves the time and resources to research any topic about which they write, whether it’s conducting general research, looking up scholarly articles, or even pulling up public court records.
However, factual accuracy isn’t the only requirement. The article cannot misrepresent who you are, what you do, or what you represent. This is what is meant by authenticity, and it can be an extremely difficult area to tackle. There is no actual science behind it, per-se; it relies upon your writer’s familiarity with your firm, and their ability to speak in a voice that is congruent with your own. Writers will often attempt to establish this in an initial interview, and then work to further shape their style with subsequent edits.
3. The Buck Stops with You.
While having a third party produce your content can save you a great deal of time, it’s not a completely hands-off transaction. You are ultimately responsible for what you publish, and should insist upon having final approval of each post. Most often, a partner will have a paralegal provide most of the back-and-forth with regards to subject matter, ongoing edits, and so forth, but a piece of content—regardless of whether it’s a blog post, a flier, a web page, or even a print ad—should always pass by the eyes of a partner before being sent into the public.
4. Lawyers Should Cost More than Writers.
In my research, I have been surprised to find a handful of content writers who themselves possess law degrees. My surprise comes from a perspective of value: A high-end writer will often work at hourly rates comparable to a low-end lawyer. For the time required to produce quality content, a fully qualified, practicing lawyer should be prohibitively expensive—and their law degree doesn’t have any bearing on the specialized field of copywriting, particularly when writing content directed towards readers with no legal expertise.
While it does, indeed, seem tempting to mark legal credentials as a plus when searching for a writer, the math simply doesn’t add up. If they’re charging lawyer-rates, then how do they justify the cost for a service that is outside their area of expertise? If they’re not charging lawyer-rates, then why are they taking a pay cut from what they ought to be earning by practicing law? Are they really applying the time and effort required to make quality content?
A legal background can potentially help to inform a content writer, but it’s important to recognize that, when you are writing content to be read by the general public, quality and readability should be your highest priority.
5. Content is closely tied to SEO. Particularly Social Media.
It is very common for law firms to turn to their digital marketing or SEO firm for online content. This can be an excellent idea, particularly for consistent short-copy projects such as your social media feeds. A solid digital/SEO firm will have comprehensive keyword research in-hand, and most have several social media experts in their rolodex.
However, when it comes to long copy, any lapses in quality will very quickly become extremely apparent. While many SEO firms have specialized writers to whom they outsource their long copy for technical industries (myself included), many simply rely upon ‘content farms’ that produce content as quickly and cheaply as possible.
If you get your long-copy content through a digital marketing/SEO firm, be sure to keep a careful eye on the quality of the content that they output.
6. In Every Content Strategy, Consistency is Key.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, there are a number of approaches that lawyers take when coming at online content. Some post to engage with visitors and offer prospective clients valuable insights. Some post to ‘bump’ content into the timelines of prospective clients’ social media feeds to keep their firms ‘top-of-mind’. Some post in accordance to an SEO strategy to raise their Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rank on Google. Some simply occasionally post news relating to their areas of practice to keep their clients informed.
Regardless of the goal, a constant, reliable content schedule is obligatory. If you don’t consistently put out content, people will stop following your blog. This means they won’t see you in their social feed, they’ll stop receiving your insights, and they won’t have a chance to read your news posting.
This is often the bane of the law firm who attempts to handle blog posts in-house; as I’ve mentioned, blogs take time. Many lawyers don’t have the time, let alone the specialized expertise, to efficiently make a professional-quality blog post every week (or other week, or month, depending on the strategy), particularly during your busy season.
7. Know When a Lawyer is Required.
While a writer can be better-equipped to efficiently convey information to clients, there are some documents that you should absolutely leave in the hands of legal professionals. Communications meant to be kept within the legal field, such as contracts, letters of intent, and legal notices, should be written by a professional who is trained in standard legal verbiage and phrasing, not a third-party writer who is attempting to make the document more engaging and easier to read.
However, if you want accompanying documentation that explains complicated legal language in common terms, then the project crosses into the realm of the writer.
If You Need a Writer, We Can Help.
I have personally been writing and editing content for law firms for years. In fact, my first piece of content published at my first agency was for a law firm out in Simcoe, Ontario. If you would like a writer, an editor, or even just some advice on how to handle your content strategy, I invite you to learn more about the variety of services that can help get you started, or get in touch for a free consultation.
He is also unable to make a 'Penseur' pose without looking at least a bit ridiculous, as evidenced by his profile photo.