A Hard Truth: Attorneys Rarely Write Effective Law Firm Website Content

By The Black Fin Team

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Category: Blogging


How’s it going, polymath?

Wait… what did we call you?

Polymaths are highly proficient people whose expertise encompasses a broad range of subjects and skills. And if you’re a lawyer, there’s a pretty good chance you are one.

You practically have to be. The law touches nearly every major issue and area in modern life, so lawyers tend to have at least a passing familiarity with many different arenas, even if only from distant memories of classroom lectures long ago.

With experience and education comes capability. Lawyers tend to be strong communicators, and by necessity, they’re at least fairly handy with a pen.

“All lawyers are writers” is a maxim we’ve heard more than once, and in a very literal sense, that’s true.

Pen and paper are the attorney’s tools, and whether your practice is primarily transactional or more focused on litigation, you probably work with the written word on a somewhat regular basis.

So when it comes time to launch a new website for a law firm, many attorneys naturally assume they’ll write the firm’s web content for themselves.

We’re here to tell you that’s a mistake.

In fact, there are many reasons — great reasons — why that’s a big mistake. And even if that sounds outrageous now, once we’ve laid them out, we think you’ll agree.

1. You Have Better Things to Do

How big is the stack of folders on your desk right now? How many unread messages in your inbox? How many court dates on your calendar? How many phone calls to return? How many baseball games and classroom concerts do the kids have coming up at home?

You don’t have time to write a lot of content for a website. And you probably don’t really want to do it either.

We find that when lawyers do make the effort to write copy for their own website, it ends up being shorter than it should be, arriving later than it ought to, and can come across as rather passionless for the reader.

Look, you already have a career. It’s a busy one. Don’t try to take on another. It’s not good for you, your website, or your firm.

2. You Probably Won’t Stick with It

In our experience, attorneys who insist on writing their own web copy are rarely still standing by that plan six months later.

That’s a problem because SEO is largely a long-term game. A lot of factors come into play, but one of the most important is high-quality content published on a regular, ongoing basis.

Remember: Google’s entire aim to is give web users what they want. What they want is fresh, new, up-to-date, helpful, relevant, content. They want it to be good, direct, and easy to read. And they trust a blog article from July more than one from January. It’s just human nature.

So if your site isn’t adding content on a regular basis, like clockwork, you’ll have a hard time keeping a grip on that Page One placement. It’s a competitive space, and only the firms with an aggressive SEO game stay there.

Like so many New Year’s resolutions, attorney’s dedication to writing their own content on a regular schedule tends to waver with time. That’s human nature too.

3. Someone Else Can Do It Better

Look, we aren’t saying you don’t write well. A lot of lawyers do. (Then again, many don’t… sometimes by their own admission, and sometimes in spite of denial.)

But practice makes perfect.

Professional writing is a career. Natural talent plays a part, but as you probably tell prospective clients about your own skillset all the time, there is no substitute for experience.

Copywriters spend all day, every day, engaged with the written word. They eat, sleep, and breathe it. They’re better writers today than they were yesterday, and they’ve gotten that much better every single day. For years.

If you’ve spent your time in casebooks and courtrooms, you’ve invested in a different skillset — an adjacent skill, yes, but a fundamentally different one nonetheless.

That’s okay. But it doesn’t change the fact that there’s someone out there that can do a better job at this than you. Because it’s their thing. It’s what they do. Let them do it for you.

That way, they’ll help you get bigger and better cases so you can more effectively do what you do.

4. Writing for the Web Isn’t the Same as Other Kinds of Writing

One of the reasons a professional website copywriter is better suited to this task: writing for the web is a completely different animal from any other kind of writing.

For starters, you need to write for more than one kind of reader. Real people read this stuff, but so do machines (er— webcrawlers… not quite robots, but with A.I. advancements, that’s probably not too far off!).

Text looks different on a screen than on the written page too, so web copywriting has a rhythm, structure, and style all its own.

Filling your site with less than the best (and right) kind of writing is doing it a disservice.

5. People Don’t Like Lawyers

Not to put too fine a point on it, but all those lawyer jokes are around for a reason. Unfair as it might be, there’s an age-old skepticism toward attorneys out there, and along with that comes an inherent resentment toward “legalese.”

So even if the content on your site carries an attorney’s byline, it ought not sound too “lawyerly.”

The right tone is both professional and personable… careful but casual. Readers want authoritative voices who are also easy to read.

In other words, the less it looks like a memo, brief, treatise, or complaint, the better. And if that’s the mode you usually write in, well, legalese is tough to shake.

6. Do You Even Know the Keywords You Need?

Keywords aren’t the SEO end goals they once were. In fact, we recently identified an excessive focus on keyword content as one of five SEO practices that don’t work anymore.

But they still play a part. As we outlined in the aforementioned article, today’s algorithms use latent semantic indexing (LSI) to read words the way humans do.

Too often, lawyers who handle their own copywriting simply pick potential keywords out of the sky and hope they’re hitting the right targets. When you hire professional copywriters, they can research the most opportune key terms and phrases and then strategically develop LSI-savvy content around them.

7. You Wouldn’t Handle Your Own Divorce

Just as doctors shouldn’t treat themselves, attorneys are often advised against handling their own legal affairs when personal interests are at stake (case in point: a divorce). Your website can be every bit as personal.

We find that even among the most modest attorneys, egos can come out to play when writing for one’s own business. The temptation to show what you know can be too big to bear. In fact, you might not even realize you’re doing it. You’re just too close to the subject matter.

8. You Might Know Too Much

Speaking of the subject matter, you know all about it. But here’s the thing: your prospective client who didn’t even need a lawyer ten minutes ago but is now eager to find one? They don’t need to know all about it. At least not yet.

There is a critical difference between a blog article (or webpage) and a legal treatise. But when lawyers sit down to blog about the law, their inner Chemerinsky comes out. Suddenly, what was supposed to be a 1,500-word guide to getting help after an auto accident becomes the latest volume in the Examples & Explanations series instead.

You aren’t teaching a law class on your website, nor is it your obligation to summarily highlight every rule, exception, and interesting footnote from English common law on your slip and fall landing page.

Even when we caution attorneys about this, though, the temptation to teach a torts seminar can overwhelm them. Heck, you might feel downright irresponsible if you don’t go over each iota of precedent. We understand; that’s those ethics courses kicking in. But your website is (to borrow a phrase) improper venue.

Clients can get overwhelmed, and “the man (or woman) who knows too much” is seldom the best rainmaker, at least where the web is concerned.

Entrust the Experts to Craft You Words That Work. Hire Black Fin.

Mind you, there are lawyers who make for pretty excellent marketing copywriters. They’re the ones who’ve largely left the everyday practice of law behind and now focus on legal marketing and copywriting as a profession instead. In fact, we work with some of those very lawyers here at Black Fin.

For that matter, our entire content team is experienced and oriented toward one singular goal: using the internet as a tool for building up business in law firms.

If you want your website to get better results, put its content in the capable hands of true experts. Get in touch with the team at Black Fin and learn more about how we can use words to boost your bottom line.

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