Why you need a story diary


You are a storyteller. You tell them to friends, colleagues, clients, and juries. You put them in blog posts, articles, and presentations. You use them to make a point or share a light moment. 

Stories are how humans connect with each other. They help us win friends and influence people. 

And you need a steady supply of them. 

Where do you get them? By keeping your eyes and ears open and noting what other people talk about, write about, and do. You get them by observing your world. 

The best stories are usually about things you did or that happen to you because you have an emotional connection with those stories (and the people in them).

You solved a problem, did something new and interesting, or met someone who made an impression. When you share these stories, you help people understand, appreciate, and remember your message. 

And you.

When you talk about a troublesome case, for example, you help the reader or listener step into your shoes, see what you saw, and feel what you felt. It’s an effective way of illustrating something important or something you care about and think your audience will, too. 

Now, since stories are so valuable, you should create (or expand) the habit of collecting them. 

Set up a “story” file and add notes and articles and quotes you might use someday. In addition, take two-minutes at the end of each day and make a note of what you did (or saw or heard) that day. 

Who did you speak with? What problems did you solve or work on? What did you see or hear?

Did you sign up a new client? Settle a case? Improve a skill or start learning a new one?

Record your day in a diary or journal. You don’t need to write out the entire story. Just jot down enough details to help you remember it when you want to use it.

Your journal will make you a more effective writer, speaker, and communicator. It will help you win more friends and influence more people.


Ai ain’t Cyrano


Ben Settle was talking about email copywriting, but it applies to any kind of writing if your objective is to get someone to do something, buy something or believe something. 

So, writing.

And we would do well to remember it when we toy with the idea of using Ai to do all of our writing.  

It might be a good idea if you just want to shovel words at a reader. But not if you want to persuade them (and get paid lawyer money to do it). 

Settle said, “Email is a transfer of emotion and energy from writer to reader”. 

Which is something Ai can’t do. 

A professional copywriter can. You can. But Ai can only transfer information, not emotion or energy, which is why we shouldn’t let it turn our heads.

Use Ai for research, for outlining, for ideas, even for first drafts. But not for anything that requires the human touch. 

Someday? I don’t think so. But what do I know? I’m only human. 


The “one thing” every lawyer can do to build a more successful practice


I often refer to the “Focusing Question,” posited in the book, The One Thing: ‘Ask yourself, “What is the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary”.’ My usual advice for lawyers, of course, is to improve your marketing. 

And I’m not going to change my mind about that today. 

There’s nothing more important or remunerative than getting better at bringing in new business and keeping it. 

But there is something that is a close second.  

If you’ve read me for a while, you won’t be surprised to hear me say it is, “improve your writing”. 

Yes, many lawyers have brilliant practices or careers without being talented writers. Trial lawyers might be good orators, for example, business lawyers, good negotiators or networkers, and those skills can more than make up for any deficiency they might have with a pen or keyboard. 

But any lawyer can be even more successful if they are also good writers. 

But you know this. You’ve heard me talk about it enough. About how improving my writing helped me build my practice and several successful businesses. 

For one thing, writing is a key component of marketing. Yes, you can delegate or outsource much of your writing, and many successful lawyers do, but for instructing those writers (and/or ai) about what you want done, and making sure you get it, there is no substitute for having some writing chops yourself. 

Besides, the most effective writing you do will come from you. And only you. 

Improving your writing will help you create better content, achieve greater engagement with your clients,  your social media crowd, and your professional contacts. You’ll get more repeat business and referrals and build your professional reputation, all with the power of your words. 

Improving your writing will also help you create better content and better work product, and do it faster. If it now takes you two hours to write an article, but you can get to where you can do it in 30 minutes, would that be valuable to you? 

Writing is also a competent in thinking, planning, and strategizing. The more you write, the better you become at formulating ideas and plans. 

So, how do you get better (and faster) at writing? By writing. You can benefit from reading books and taking courses, but there is no substitute for putting your butt in the chair and pounding out words. 

Hold on. I know you already do a lot of writing. It’s a big part of what lawyers do.

Do more. 

Write something other than your regular work and do it every day, even for 5 minutes. “Free write” to limber up your writing muscles and let your words pour out onto a page. Don’t worry about how good it is. Nobody will see it until you show it to them, and for now, you don’t have to do that. 

Write a journal, scribble a half page of ideas, or re-write your notes about something. The idea is to move your hand and spit out words and do that as often as possible. 

When I started, I did it first thing after I rolled out of bed, yes, before coffee. With my brain half awake, I was less critical and learned to write freely and naturally. 

Was it any good? No. That came later. But it came, and if you keep at it, it will come for you. 


The best way to improve your content


Content means information, right? About the law, how to recognize a problem, what to do and not do, what an attorney can do to help them (and why it should be you).

All good, but not necessarily compelling. 

You want readers to take action: click and visit your pages, read your articles, download your reports, view your presentation, and especially to contact you and hire you (or refer you). 

There are several ways to use your content to accomplish that. 

You can overtly disagree with what other lawyers say, to show the reader you’re different, i.e., better. Don’t just tell them what’s available, give them the pros and cons of various solutions, provide more nuanced comments about the risks, and follow with a well-reasoned recommendation. 

Tell them what and why. 

If you’re hesitant to do that without first speaking to the reader about their specific situation, use “if/then” writing to cover yourself and provide additional context. 

Another way to stand out and get readers to see you as the better lawyer is to explain how things work in the “real world”. Take them “behind the curtain” and show them why things are done one way and not another.

Or, when other lawyers provide “just the facts” and are serious and boring, you might take a lighter approach (if appropriate) and make your content more interesting and maybe even fun. 

The best thing you can do? Provide client success stories, to illustrate your points and show readers there are solutions to their problems—here’s proof. 

Give them hope while you educate them. 

But many attorneys tell client success stories. If you want to be more effective, don’t just tell the stories, make them personal. Tell the reader what the client told you, what you thought, how you felt, and what you did (and why).

Personal stories, for the win. 

You want readers to see you in their mind’s eye, asking questions, feeling what the client felt, considering the facts, weighing the options, and then being an advocate for or advisor to your clients. 

Why get personal? Because prospective clients not only want to know about their risks and options, they want to know what it would be like having you as their attorney. 

If you want to demonstrate your knowledge and experience, write about the law. If you want to build a following and get people to choose you as their attorney, write about your personal experiences.

How to write a newsletter that brings in more clients


If they snooze, you lose


For writing “content” (blog posts, articles, presentations, etc.) many lawyers struggle to get results for one simple reason–they write like lawyers, meaning they write like they were taught in law school. 

The inverted pyramid, IRAC, et al., are fine when you’re writing something “for people who are paid to read it,” as the author of an article I read recently put it.  

Your clients and prospects certainly aren’t. 

Your content needs to have helpful information, the kinds of things prospective clients look for when they’re searching online, but if it has to be interesting. If you write it the way they taught you in law school, you risk boring people into clicking away. 

Structurally, capture their attention with a good headline or opening and keep their attention by continuing to write about things that interest them. 

Here’s how to get better at doing that:

  1. Read a lot. Read the kinds of things your audience reads. Look at the subjects, the structure, and the pacing of the information. See how they capture attention with a good headline or opening and use sub-heads and/or bullet points to draw the reader into the article and through it. 
  2. Write a lot. Practice and you will improve.
  3. Edit a lot. Your first draft is usually not your best draft. Shorten sentences and paragraphs, use active verbs (and active voice) and make sure everything is clear. If you write about anything “legal,” explain the terms and provide context.
  4. Put people in your articles. Talk about their desires, their problems, their pain, and the solutions they seek, and how things turned out (with your help). 
  5. Have fun (if appropriate). Give readers something to smile about, nod their head about, think about, and remember. 
  6. Tell them what to do next. Don’t leave them guessing, tell them to call (and why), tell them to join your list (and why), or tell them what to read or watch next. 

Give them a good experience and they will come back to read more and contact you when they’re ready to talk to you about their situation. 

Finally, if you are writing for other lawyers, or others who are paid to read your writing, it’s okay to write like a lawyer. But you don’t have to. And if you don’t have to, don’t. 

How to write an email newsletter clients want to read


What, me practice?


I heard this on the Internet so it must be true. It’s called, “The Rule of 100” and states, “…if you spend 100 hours in a year, which is 18 minutes a day, in any discipline—you’ll be better than 95% of the world in that discipline.” 

So, writing, speaking, sales, poker, options trading… anything? 

18 minutes per day isn’t much. A year isn’t much. Since it is a big world, with a lot of people in it, I can see how this might be true, at least for many things. 

For everything? Who knows? 

But the point is well taken. If you practice anything every day for a year, you’re going to get a lot better at it.

As professionals, we depend on our communication skills, our ability to persuade others to a point of view. We sell our ideas and our services and writing (and speaking) are essential tools for doing that. 

If you want to get better at writing and speaking, are you practicing? Every day?

If not, you’re not going to get the results you want for yourself and your clients. 

I recommend writing a newsletter or blog, yes, to attract more prospects, build your list and fill your waiting room, but also because it is a great way to practice your core skills.  

Same with our old friend, marketing. 15 minutes per day. Every day. 

If you do, you’ll be more successful than 95% of the lawyers in the world. I heard it on the Internet so it must be true.


How to write a blog post or article in 30 minutes or less


Yesterday, I said you have all the time you need to market your practice. I used the example of creating content, which might seem to be problematic for a lawyer who has a lot to say and feels they have to say it all.

Fear not. You really can write an article or blog post in 30 minutes, if you do these three things:


If you write “when you have the time,” you’re unlikely to do much writing. When you commit to a writing schedule, however, put the days and times on your calendar, tell your subscribers when to expect your next post, and tell your staff not to book any appointments for you during those times, you’ll be much more likely to keep your schedule. And because it is a commitment, when the deadline is approaching, you’ll work quickly to get the work done.


Despite committing to a schedule, it’s human nature to find excuses for not sticking to it. One of the most common is “not knowing what to write about”. The simplest way to overcome this is to maintain a running list or file of topics you can choose, and continually add to it.

  • Keep a list of ideas in a file or in your second brain. Collect ideas, articles by others, notes from books or videos, and copies of content you’ve created before because you can create new content by updating it.
  • Read a lot. You can write what other lawyers write about, for example, agree with it or disagree, or write from a different angle.
  • Write a lot. You’ll get better at finding topics and angles and ideas related to them, and get better and quicker at writing.
  • Choose your topic the day before so can get right to it. Your idea might be a single sentence or you might note your lead or intro, bullet points, examples or stories, or your conclusion. 


By “less,” I mean shorter articles or posts. When you know you only need to write a few paragraphs or a few hundred words, you’re less likely to resist starting and more likely to finish.

Give yourself 10 to 20 minutes to write a first draft and 10 minutes to edit. 

Yes, that means you have to write fast. And that’s the point. 

An article doesn’t have to be lengthy or scholarly. You don’t need to include every argument or example or write perfect prose. 

Good enough is good enough and you can get good enough done in 30 minutes. 

For more ways to write quickly, see this


Keeping it simple doesn’t make you a simpleton


In your job as an attorney, one of your top priorities is to get people to understand you and see that you understand them. That’s true whether you’re negotiating, speaking on stage or in front of a jury, or writing a brief, a blog post or a demand letter. 

Generally, that requires being clear and precise, using simple words, and presenting your ideas in a logical order. 

But it can take some work to get it right. 

When I first started practicing, I thought I needed to impress people with a big vocabulary and a formal writing style. I wanted to sound like a lawyer but, looking back, I’m sure I either confused people or made them laugh. 

How did I change my wicked ways? First, by deciding it was important, and then rewriting, editing and polishing again and again until I found the right balance. 

I worked at it and still do today. Because it’s worth it. 

Unless there is a very good reason for using a formal writing style, or a ten-dollar word when a .50 cent word will do, don’t do it. It makes you look like you’re trying to impress people and makes people wonder why you feel the need to do that. 

Similarly, don’t dumb down your message, or use emoticons or the latest buzzwords just because all the cool kids do. 

You’re a lawyer. Sound like one. Just not one one who is overly impressed with themself. 


Less isn’t always more


Some clients and prospects don’t want to know how you make your sausages. They just want you to deliver the meal. 

Some clients and prospects want to know everything. 

They want the details. What you do, how you do it, why you do it this way instead of that.

Many lawyers don’t provide a lot of details. Probably because they think their clients aren’t interested. But maybe they don’t want to go to the bother of explaining.

But they should explain.

Providing details, the step-by-step procedure, the method behind the madness, gives a client confidence in a lawyer and the legal system. And shows them why that lawyer earns more in an hour than they earn all week. 

Give people the details about what you do and how things work. If a client doesn’t want to know everything, they don’t have to read everything. But I guarantee they will like knowing that you know all the details. 

This goes for your services, your operations (how you run your office), and your content. Err on the side of telling them too much rather than too little. 

When you describe your services, for example, explain the steps you take and the reasons you take them. Don’t just tell them the what and when, tell them the how and why. 

You’re good at explaining things. Explain things. And show your readers where they can learn more. 

Because people want to know.


Writing practice helps your law practice


I don’t have anything planned to write today, so I’m going to do an experiment. I’m going to write whatever comes into my mind, to prove that in a pinch, I can write something cogent and useful. 

I ordinarily have an idea set aside about what I want to write the following day. Nothing elaborate, just a few notes or bullet points. Yesterday, all I had was a one-sentence quote from author Ryan Holiday about deciding what you want to get out of something you’re about to read before you read it. That one sentence was enough to get me started and it turned into 300 publishable words. 

A simple writing prompt, in this case that quotation, can be enough to start with because it taps into the subconscious mind, which is filled with information, memories, ideas, questions, and answers we’ve stored. We think about them or remember them and spit them out onto the page.

Sometimes, more often than you might think, this is all we need to write a workable first draft.  

But it takes practice. Writing every day strengthens your writing muscles and makes you a better (and faster) writer.

And that makes you better at everything else you do in your practice.

To develop your writing skills, I suggest you schedule time for daily writing practice. Even 15 minutes helps. You can write about anything. Or nothing. Jot down something you saw or heard or thought about or want to know.

And do it again tomorrow.

Sometimes, you’ll turn a good phrase and want to share it. Sometimes, you’ll write something you want to bury in the backyard. It’s all good. It’s just practice.

Eventually, with enough practice, you’ll be able to quickly write a decent first draft. Even when you have no idea what to write about. 

Like (I hope) I did today.