The Write Way: How to Make Your Byline a Beeline to New Clients
By H. Joseph Gitlin
Getting published is the best and easiest way to develop a successful family law practice. Once published, getting articles printed becomes progressively easier as you build your reputation as a legal author.
By about my tenth year out of law school, I was practicing largely family and criminal law. I wanted a mastery of the law in the area in which I practiced. I found that the body of criminal statutory and case law was overwhelming, so I decided to practice only family law, where the body of law was more manageable.
My practice is in Woodstock, Illinois, a small town about 65 miles northwest of Chicago. My best referral sources are from Chicago area lawyers. I have been writing monthly law columns for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin for more than 30 years. My goal has been to put my name on lawyers’ mental screens so that they would think of me whenever they seek to refer a case in my part of the state.
Whether you should write for a national or local publication or both depends on your goals. Most of us practice in one state and usually only in our own county and neighboring counties. Thus, your best bang for the buck is local publications. But once you are known through publication, referrals will come from all over the state and sometimes from all over the nation.
What to Write About
Generally, stay away from articles that attempt to be a primer on any subject, e.g., contempt. Instead, be topical. For example, if the supreme court of your state accepts the review of a family law case, study the intermediate appellate court opinion and become knowledgeable about the area of law. When the supreme court opinion comes down, you can immediately write an authoritative article.
Target your writing to a particular publication. Become knowledgeable about its subject areas, writing style, and submission requirements. Query the editor about a topic or submit an article for publication.
Start with the rule that local publications are the most practical. If your county bar association has a newsletter, begin there. Next, look to the family law section of your state bar association. Such sections publish newsletters. Next turn to your state bar journal. These publications tend to be more learned and follow the scholarly style of law school journals. For building your practice, law school journals are a waste of time.
Is Publishing Nationally Worthwhile?
It depends. If among your goals is to be on some national “best lists,” e.g., being listed in The Best Lawyers in America, national writing and lecturing is the route. The main national family law groups are the ABA Section of Family Law and American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. As you know, Family Advocate is the quarterly membership magazine of the ABA Section of Family Law. Each issue addresses a different theme, such as trial of a custody case or what is electronic evidence. Practicing family law attorneys serve as editor in chief and as issue editors. If you are going to submit an article, contact Family Advocate to determine subjects to be addressed in the next year or so and focus your articles to the targeted topics. (See Instructions to Authors on the Family Advocate website (in the How to Contribute Articles section).)
Family Law Quarterly is the section’s “learned” publication. Each issue addresses a particular subject area from a scholarly perspective. (See submission requirements on page ii of each quarterly issue, or visit the FLQ website for more information.)
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers publishes the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which also is more scholarly and is limited to one subject per issue.
Among the best places to publish an article that receives national attention is the American Journal of Family Law, published by Aspen Publishers, Inc. It also is a quarterly publication, but issues are not subject limited.
Published in Family Advocate, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Fall 2006) p.30. © 2006 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
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