Lede, follow, or go home


If you want more people to read what you write, write a headline that flags them down as they go sailing by and “forces” them to pay attention.

Because if you don’t, they’ll won’t, and they will (probably) move on and read something else.

One way to get their attention is to write something unusual, as I did with the archaic, journalistic spelling of “lead” in the headline of this post. It makes you stop and wonder if I misspelled the word or I mean something else.

For a second or two, you’re reading and, therefore, a bit more likely to continue reading.

Remember, you can’t bore people into reading. So do something different, interesting, or fun.

But that’s not the only way to do it. You can’t go wrong promising benefits, asking a thought-provoking question, or sharing a surprising fact, statistic, or quote.

You can also win friends and influence readers by leading with a story.

People want to hear what happened to your client, your friend, your friend’s client, or you.

Your headline should be simple, make the reader curious, and give them a reason to read your first sentence. Of course, that first sentence has to be good enough to get them to read the second sentence.

You can also get attention with images and other visual elements: charts, lists, color, bullet points, sub-heads, unusual typography, and a P.S. (in a letter or email).

But while all the above is true, it’s also situational. If you’re writing to someone who knows you personally, or to your list of regular readers, to some extent, you can assume you have their attention and can get away with being clever, mysterious or weird. People who know you are probably going to read what you write because they know you and want to hear what you say.

Which is why you will find more than a few of my headlines make you question my sanity and want to see my bar card.

Just having fun. Because if it’s not fun for me, I’m pretty sure it won’t be fun for you.

And if it’s not fun, why bother?

How to write something people want to read


Could this be true?


I was on social media the other day. Yes, I do that occasionally. A company had surveyed a group of lawyers, asking them what they wanted out of their practice, and posted the results.

Nearly everyone said they wanted better systems and automation, to make their practice run more smoothly. They also wanted more affordable help.

Makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that only 14% said they wanted help with marketing—“getting more good clients, more reliably.”

Why so low? Who doesn’t want more good clients? What’s going on here?

Ah, what’s going on is that the firm that conducted the survey helps lawyers automate their practice. So their clients’ and followers’ primary interest is in becoming more organized and efficient.

That’s their bias.

Go ahead and survey a cross-section of attorneys and I think your results might be a little different.

Of course my list is also biased. If I did a survey, I’m sure I’d find that most want more good clients and cases.

Because who doesn’t want more good clients?

Okay, some lessons.

  1. Before you draw any conclusions about the results of a survey, make sure you know who’s conducting it and of whom.
  2. Surveys are a great way to engage your list. People like to share their opinion and are curious to see what other people say about the subject.
  3. Surveys are an easy way to generate content for a blog or newsletter and social media. I just did that and it wasn’t even my survey.

Go forth and survey some folks. Or find someone else’s survey and talk about it.


The law is boring. You aren’t.


Most people who read your content aren’t interested in hearing about the law. Not all the time, anyway, and not in as much detail as might interest another lawyer.

Keep that in mind when you fashion your next blog post, article, or video.

Give ‘em a summary, the highlights, the down-and-dirty version, because if you do more, at some point, they’ll tune out.

“Yes, but. . .” you say. “What should I write about if not my area of expertise?“

Write about the reader. Their life, their business, their industry, their niche, their local market. Write about things they are experiencing and talking about and worried about, or might be soon.

Even if there’s nary a legal issue in sight.

If a legal issue applies, mention it. Explain it (briefly). Provide advice and how-to’s, to warn them, protect them, and add value to their life or business.

But your readers are more interested in themselves, so talk mostly about them.

Of course you should also write about your actual clients, since you know them best of all. Tell their stories, their problems, their cases, and how you helped them.

Real people experiencing real problems or seeking to protect themselves from harm.

Again, mention the law if it’s applicable, but sparingly. Your readers are more interested in hearing about what happened to your clients, and what to do if the same thing happens to them.

What else?

Well, your readers also want to hear about you.

Oh yes they do. Especially if they’re thinking about hiring you or referring you. Yes, you, slayer of problems, bestower of benefits, protector of rights, friend to the friendless.

People want to know about what you do and how you do it.

Tell ‘em.

To do that effectively, you might want to start documenting what you do, so you’ll have it on hand when you need it.

Keep a journal or database and, at the end of each day, make a note about what you did, who you helped, the victories, struggles, defeats, and what you think (and feel) about it all.

Then, when you’re looking for something to write about, you can go back to your log and find something worth sharing.

You may think your account would bore your readers, because to you, it’s just another day doing more of the same. You’re too close to it, my friend. Record the days, step back, come back later, and you’ll be surprised at how interesting your days will be to your readers.

The law itself might be boring; you aren’t.

But even if your stories are as boring as dry toast, your readers will still want to hear them. Because as you tell your stories, you’re also telling your clients’ stories, and to someone who is similarly situated, those stories are endlessly fascinating.

How to write interesting stories


The best place to find ideas for your blog or newsletter


Ideas for blog posts and articles and other content are literally everywhere.

Find a post written by an attorney or other expert in your field, for example, and write a post about the same subject.

You can even use their article as a template. Rewrite the headline and bullet points, add your own comments, recommendations, and examples, and be done in minutes.

Make sure you follow the blogs and subscribe to the newsletters published by attorneys in your field.


It is a quick and easy source of ideas. But there’s something even better.

I’m talking about the blogs and publications written for and read by the people in your target market.

If you want to represent people in the health care industry, read what they read, and write about the things they’re doing, talking about, worried about, hoping for, or working towards.

Write about the issues, the people, and the tends, in their niche. Write about the things they care about.

Other lawyers may write about generic legal topics. When you write about topics that are specific to an industry, occupation, or niche, your content will resonate with readers in that niche.

Your content will also be completely original. And valuable to the people in your target market, which means they are more likely to see you as the go-to expert in their market, and share your content with their colleagues and contacts in that market.

Write niche-specific content and you can own your niche.

How to write content your readers what to read


Ask me anything


A Chicago law firm encourages visitors to their website to fill out a contact form, or call their office, to ask questions about any legal matter, which a lawyer at the firm will answer free. Questions and answers are then posted on the firm’s blog.

“We get so many good legal questions that aren’t worthy of a full blog. So every few months I like to group the “best of the rest” in to one post.  Here are some great questions we’ve received recently:“

They do answer these questions. But I see a problem with their approach.

They say they answer questions, “Every few months”. But when someone has a legal issue, the clock is often ticking and they need immediate answers. Even if they could wait a few months for an answer, most people don’t want to. They’ll go find another lawyer who won’t make them wait.

So I hope the lawyers review these questions every few days and reach out to the people who need immediate answers.

Help the folks now; post your answers for others to see later.

Besides, what do they (the lawyers) do when they can’t answer a question without getting additional information?

They need to talk to the folks. I hope they do that.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to like about this strategy and it might and it might be something other lawyers should consider:

  • It’s easy to do. And you can do research if you need to and edit your answers before posting.
  • It gives you new content for your blog, newsletter, and socials.
  • It might bring in new clients or cases. Probably not a lot, but even one new client a year could be worth it.
  • It’s free to the public and might generate publicity and positive word-of-mouth for your firm.
  • It can bring traffic from people with questions, helping you grow your email list and social media following.
  • It can bring you prospects you can refer to lawyers in other fields, earning their good will and reciprocal referrals.
  • It can help you promote your other services to visitors. There may be nothing that can be done about their immediate problem, but they might remember you favorably when they have another issue.
  • It gives you something to promote when you speak or network. Tell folks what you’re doing. They might send people your way, or want to know more about you and your services.

It takes time to do this so you might consider an alternative: periodic “call-in” days.

You talk to the folks and get additional information that allows you to provide more complete answers. They immediately know what they can or can’t do. And you know if they have something you can help them with (or refer).

Nobody has to wait months. Except readers of your blog who don’t care when the questions were asked or answered.

Your blog can make your phone ring


The 5-minute interview


If you like the idea of interviewing lawyers and other people with something to say, don’t be put off by the thought that an interview will take up a lot of time because it doesn’t have to—you can do everything via email.

Including “the interview”. No need to schedule anything or talk to anyone.

Step One: Email (or call if you want to), explain that you’d like to interview them for your blog or newsletter or book, tell them why you chose them and what they get out of it, e.g., exposure, supporting a good cause, etc.

And. . . tell them everything can be done via email and should only take a few minutes of their time.

Step Two: Once they agree, send them 5 to 10 questions and provide some context about your readers—what they do, what they know, what they want to know, and why this is important to them. Thank them for helping and give them a brief window of time to reply, say, a week or so.

Generally, don’t ask yes-or-no questions or questions that invite one or two-word answers. It’s an interview, not a survey. But don’t expect them to write long, detailed answers.

On the other hand, encourage them to add any additional information or thoughts they think your readers might like to know.

Ask for their bio or a link thereto so you can properly “introduce” them. Finally, ask if they have anything they want to promote or offer to your readers.

Step Three: When they respond, do a light edit, write your post (including their intro and offer), send them a copy and thank them again. When your post appears, email a link and yes, thank them again.

Because there’s always next time.

For more about email interviews, see my book


Blog or newsletter?


Many ask whether they should start a blog or a newsletter to market their practice. They require different resources and workflows and it’s understandable to ask, “Which one is better?”

But that’s the wrong question. The right question is, “Which one should I start first?” because, ultimately, why wouldn’t you have both?

If you write a blog post, why not email it to your list? If you email an article to your list, why not also post it on ye old blog?

Why not also post said content on social media, record it as a video, repurpose it as an ebook, and print it for a handout?

Why indeed?

So, that’s the plan. But if you’re just starting down the content marketing road, where do you start?

I’d start with a blog. It’s easy to set up and the sooner you do that, the sooner you can get some traffic coming to visit your “store”.

Visitors will consume your content and share it. Search engines will index you and send you more eyeballs. And while folks are consuming your content, they will learn what you do and how you can help them.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Once you set up your blog and post 10 or 15 articles, start your newsletter.

And send all of your blog posts to your list.

Once a week, more often if you can, less often if you can’t, post and email something to your visitors and subscribers. Re-post that content, or links thereto, on your socials, and encourage your readers and visitors to share it on theirs.

And just like that, people are finding you, hearing about your wicked ways, and eventually, ready to contact you to ask questions or schedule an appointment.

You can set up a blog in a few minutes. Click this, choose that, and done. A newsletter might take you a weekend or two, because you have more options and decisions.

You can hire someone to set things up for you or help you, but I suggest you learn how to do it yourself so you don’t have to call someone every time you want to change something.

You should write the content yourself, or most of it, because your blog and newsletter represent you and what you would say if you were speaking to prospective clients in person.

Schedule one hour a week for writing and posting.

If you’re brandy new to all this, you can work on everything “in private” before you open to the public. Write articles, hang curtains, make everything pretty, and when you’re ready, hang up an “open for business” sign in your window.

But don’t wait too long. Clients are waiting to find you.

How to create a newsletter that does most of your marketing for you


The problem with story telling


I once had a client who asked me to. . .

Yeah, a story.

You probably want to hear how it goes. But I’m not going to tell you that story right now, I’m going to give you some advice about story telling.

My first piece of advice is to do it. Put stories in your articles and presentations and conversations.

People love a good story, which means they’ll be more likely to read or listen to you when you tell one. They’ll be more likely to understand and remember your story, more than your other words, and remember you as the one who shared it with them.

Facts tell. Stories sell.

Second, talk about people your reader will relate to, and tell them three things:

What did they want? What did they do? What happened?

The essence of every story ever told.

Third, use “The Goldilocks Rule”: Not too much, not too little, just right.

People love stories, but they don’t have time to read them when they are impossibly long or there are too many in your emails or blog posts.

If they wanted to read a book, they’d read a book.

Which is why most of my emails and blog posts are short and sweet and yours should be, too.

The good news is that you can tell a good story in a few sentences.

Like the time a friend asked me to sign a letter she had written to her landlord, with my name and address typed at the top and filled with typos, and when I refused and told her I would write the letter, on my letterhead, she was hurt and thought I just wanted to ‘make money off her’.

One sentence.

I need one more sentence to tell you ‘what happened’.

What happened is she dropped the subject but never forgot that I ‘refused to help her’ (the way she wanted) and our friendship was never the same after that.

Stories don’t always have a happy ending.

Anyway, I’m done telling that story. I’ve got another one to tell you, but that will have to wait until next time.

If you related to my story, maybe remembered a time a friend or client asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, I’m pretty sure you’ll come back to hear another.

Which is what your readers will do when you tell them stories. But not too many or too long.


Playing with words


Sometimes, I get an idea for a blog post, write it, and add a title. Sometimes, I start with a title and start writing without knowing what I want to say.

It’s all good. And sometimes, it’s a lot of fun.

The other day, I read the phrase, “Use it or lose it” which we’ve all heard a thousand times and thought I could use this as the title of a post about the value of practice and keeping your “instrument” well tuned.

I thought I might get a good article out of it. But I’m weird.

When I see a phrase like “Use it or lose it,” I play with the words. I turn them around, mix and match them with other words, punch the sentence in the face, kick it in the groin, and see what happens.

Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes, something interesting emerges and I use it.

In this case, I turned “Use it or lose it” into “Lose it or use it” and wrote about “losing” bad habits so you don’t use them and make bad things happen like alienating your clients.

And I got a pretty good article out of it. Arguably better than what I would have written had I stuck with the original meaning of the words.

If you’d like to add a creative spark to your writing, consider playing with your words. It can help you look at things differently and generate ideas you might never have thought of.

Try it. Go find a quote, aphorism, song or movie title, or other pop culture reference, and give it a poke in the eye. Twist and turn it and see what you come up.

If nothing else, you’ll come up with something original that people will notice and remember.

It works especially well when you start with something well known. Your readers will recognize something familiar in your title and be curious. Is this a typo? Is something missing? What’s this all about?

And read your article to find out.

If so, mission accomplished.

Email Marketing for Attorneys


If God wrote your blog post


You sit down with your favorite hot beverage, ready to write your blog post, only to find that it’s already written. You look at the blinking cursor and the words on the page and realize that during the night, God himself wrote your post. 

What do you suppose the Lord would write? The eleventh commandment? A call for world peace? Would He demand something? Explain something? Promise something?

I don’t know. All I know is that whatever He wrote, it would be important. His words would be magnificent and would change the world forever.

I also know that anything you or I might write will never be that good, or that important. 

What we write isn’t unimportant. We inform and inspire people. We help them gain clarity and make better decisions. But while we might like to think so, our blog posts and articles aren’t earth-shattering or history-making.

Most people will read what we write, learn something, smile or groan, and get on with their day. 

So, if you haven’t written a blog post lately, if you’re on your 27th edit, if you’re searching for the perfect words for your perfect message, stop all that fussing, publish that sucker, and get on with your day.

Your worlds won’t change the world, although they might change the life of someone who reads them. 

But don’t think about that or you’ll never get the thing done. 

How to write blog posts that make the phone ring