January 23, 2018 Practice Points

10 Writing Tips for Young Lawyers

How to use writing as an effective marketing tool

by Charles W. Stotter

As a young lawyer, it is important to develop expertise in your area(s) of practice. Equally important is that you begin to let others know of that expertise as you network with other attorneys, clients, and potential clients, and to market yourself as a practitioner and thought leader. Apart from speaking before industry and professional groups, one of the best ways to become better known is to write on the subjects you know best, through articles and client alerts for your law firm’s website, for industry and professional organization newsletters and publications, or even for legal profession newsletters and publications such as those of the ABA or state and local bar associations. Many such publications are hungry for content to be submitted, so there are many opportunities to publish. When you do, you want to be sure your material is read, so here are ten tips you should consider further that goal.

  1. Be useful. What can the reader do with this information? Is it a purely new legal development or legal analysis of an existing business or professional matter? Are you providing litigation strategies, business advice, or preventative measures? Make your major, important points up front—leave details for later in your piece.
  2. Know your audience. Don’t write solely about “the law.” Write about how your topic affects a particular set of facts that may impact your readers’ business or profession.
  3. Tell people why to click on your article/alert. Craft a title that shows why the article/alert will be useful to readers, not merely what they’ll get if they do click on it. If it is about a time-sensitive matter, capture not just why they should read this, but why read this now.
  4. Break up your writing with cues. Use headings and sub-headings within the article/alert to break up your text and the points you seek to make. Let readers scan them and determine relevance and usefulness.
  5. Use quotes, subheads, images, charts pulled from and set out from the text for emphasis and as clues to show the reader at a glance “this piece is written for me.”
  6. Structure the article/alert like a formula: 1. “This happened.” 2. “Here’s how it impacts you.” 3. “Now do this...”
  7. Capture risks and unknows. Help your readers understand broader implications of your topic.
  8. Include action items. Suggest to the reader the next steps to take right away—include a “bottom line” or “takeaway.”
  9. Try to predict the future. Suggest the potential impact of the matter you are addressing.
  10. Publish regularly. One article or alert per quarter, or more frequently if possible.

Remember that articles and client alerts are a different type of written product than a legal brief or memorandum of law. While the form, format and presentation are different, they still require thought and attention to who the target audience will be, and how best to get that audience to read your work.

Charles W. Stotter is of counsel with Carlton Fields in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Copyright © 2018, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).