Many lawyers struggle to write about the law and their legal services in a way that connects with the average person. Whether it’s by focusing too much on accolades or by relying too heavily on convoluted legalese, lawyers, in all their brilliance, sometimes need a little direction. In this competitive market where it’s said that there are “too many lawyers,” speaking about the law and representation in an engaging and relatable way is necessary to appeal to prospects. Here, we’re going to look at four common mistakes lawyers and law firms make in their digital content and how to fix them.
Four Common Mistakes & Simple Solutions
Problem: Lack of personality. Lawyers tend to forget that they need to focus on more than just the law when they’re representing themselves. Part of appealing to your audience is focusing on your and the firm’s personality. This humanizes the firm and gives your audience something to relate to. Whether you like it or not, you’re marketing yourself as a brand!
Solution: Be authentic. Be honest about what type of lawyer or firm you are and the type of client you want to attract. If you’re friendly and forthcoming, don’t position yourself as elitist and competitive. Figure out who you are and what types of clients you want and describe yourself appropriately. Do some research into what your audience is looking for and try to portray that tone and voice in your marketing content.
Problem: Too much legalese. Lawyers want to avoid risk, so they often rely on legalese to be precise with their word choice. The English language is complex and has many words with multiple meanings open to interpretation, so precision is important. But this formal, jargon-heavy language can alienate ordinary people and make them feel inferior. While it’s important to communicate a deep understanding of the law to the general public, the language used needs to be accessible. The hallmark of understanding something well is being able to explain it in clear, simple language.
Solution: Use plain language. While legalese is appropriate in a court of law or when drafting up a contract, it’s effectively a language barrier when communicating with clients. Keep in mind the principles of plain language, that text be clear, concise, organized, and appropriate for the intended audience. Check out the Center for Plain Language’s Five Steps to Plain Language or these Top 10 Principles for Plain Language.
Problem: Overuse of “I/we/the firm.” In an effort to make your website or social media content stand out, you talk about “the cases the firm has won,” “the awards we’ve received,” “my ivy-league education,” and “our big-name clients.” While it’s important to demonstrate experience and expertise, this should not be the focus of your messaging. A visitor to your website isn’t there to listen to you congratulate yourself, they’re there because they need legal help.
Solution: Use the word “you.” It’s important to speak directly to your audience. But don’t just use the term “client,” or “our clients.” Where appropriate, take it a step further and use the second-person pronoun, “you.” “You” is personal and direct. The reader needs your help, so you should speak directly to them.
Problem: Lack of thought leadership. A thought leadership strategy is necessary for today’s legal marketplace. 54% of decision makers say they spend more than one hour per week reading and reviewing thought-leadership content. Thought leadership extends visibility and demonstrates your knowledge of a subject, industry, or issue and how it affects people. Lawyers are subject matter experts in their area(s) of practice—don’t be afraid to show it!
Solution: Storytelling. People relate to stories. Our brains are hardwired to feel the events of a story as if they happened to us. Brand storytelling isn’t just about your firm, it’s about how you help people. Lawyers need to identify how their services have helped their clients and tell a story about it. Who is the protagonist? Who or what is the antagonist? What’s the main conflict? The law with its dualities and dichotomies of “defendant and prosecutor,” “legal and illegal,” and “right or wrong” is primed for these essential storytelling elements.
Now that you know how to avoid these common mistakes in your content, let’s look at some questions to help you generate stories as well as where and how to share them.
Questions to Generate Compelling Stories
- What is the story behind what you do at the firm? How can you describe this story instead of just the cold, hard facts?
- What stories is your audience already telling? Can you incorporate them into your content?
- Focus on your services—what problems do you solve? What benefits do you offer? What differentiates you from competitors? How have you helped your clients?
- What types of stories work for your content marketing? Personal stories? Testimonials or case studies? Celebrity lawsuits? Company history?
- What style of language can you use to connect with people that they can then visualize in a story-like context? A humorous or serious tone? Narrative, descriptive, or expository writing?
Where and How to Share These Stories
- Social media platforms such as LinkedIn where thought leadership shines
- Articles and tips based on different areas of law
- Legal humor posts
- Firm news and events
- Blogging—56% of marketers who leverage blogging say it’s effective and 10% say it generates the biggest return on investment
- Inspirational quotes or videos
- Q&A posts
- Other relevant news articles that you can share your take on
Lawyers and clients are after the same thing when it comes to their professional relationship: trust. Good communication builds trust, and lawyers know just how important the words they choose are. Using this awareness to communicate with their audience will help build rapport. When a client or prospect feels understood and respected, it’s because the content is speaking directly to them. When they read about legal services in a way they can relate to, they feel seen. Not only will this generate trust, but it will also generate more business.
Want to dive deeper? Check out our other Insights posts: Law Firm Content Marketing: 5 Solutions to Common Obstacles and The Right Way for Lawyers to Publish Content on LinkedIn.