Are you nuts, you can’s say that!

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If you’ve ever felt like you aren’t a good writer, or if you think you’re okay but want to improve, I have some advice.

Put people in your writing.

Facts and logic are obviously important. But people provide context and an emotional element, helping your reader understand, relate to, and remember your message.

Tell stories. Give examples. Use your cases and clients and prospects to illustrate your points.

The other day, I read an attorney’s email newsletter. There were some good ideas in it but I can’t remember any of them. The information was good but his writing was abstract and boring.

So, don’t do that. When you talk about a problem, tell me about someone who had or has that problem. How does the problem affect them? And. . . what happened?

Yes?

Now, there’s one person in particular who should appear in your writing. You.

People want to know who you are, what you think, and what you’re like as a person. Prospective clients want to know what it would be like having you as their attorney.

Put more of you in your writing.

Don’t make it all about you. Nobody wants to read that. But don’t hide yourself, either, something I see a lot of attorneys do in their writing.

I used to do it myself.

As a young attorney, my writing was stiff and formal. One day, I decided to take the stick out of my assimus maximus and write like I speak.

Less formal, less measured, more transparent.

I was afraid I might hurt myself by sounding unprofessional. I was afraid I might reveal something about myself that I shouldn’t, or say something I thought was funny and wind up being offensive.

I’ve done all of the above, but, on balance, putting more of my personality in my writing was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Try it. It may take some practice but once you get into the swing of things, once you let down your guard and have some fun with your writing, I know you’ll be pleased with the results.

One caveat: if your gut tells you you’ve gone too far, show your draft to your spouse or secretary or someone else who cares about you enough to say, “Are you nuts, you can’t say that!”

How to write a more effective newsletter

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3 simple ways to quickly create content

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You need more content for your blog or newsletter or channel. You don’t have a lot of time. What do you do?

Here are 3 ideas:

(1) The simplest source of new content is old content. Find something you’ve written before and re-use it. Convert a blog post into a video or vice versa.

Or, re-write it. Add some new information or examples.

Done.

(2) Almost as simple is to re-write something written by someone else.

Find a blog post or article by someone in your niche, put it into your own words and add your own examples or stories. Or, summarize the other person’s article and comment on it–what you agree with, what you don’t, and why.

Done.

One more.

(3) Respond to comments or questions posted on your social media, blog, or in your email inbox.

You can get some of your best content this way because you’re responding to real people with real questions about things you’re already thinking about or talking about.

And, done.

Wait, what? You don’t have any comments or questions you can respond to?

No problem. Go find someone else’s blog or social media and answer one of their questions.

Now, since you don’t have a lot of time, I’ll shut up and let you get to work.

More ideas here

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A practice loaf

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My wife is learning how to bake her own bread. Watching videos, trying different things, learning the ropes.

I asked her how it’s going. She’s not sure so we’re calling this first effort “a practice loaf”.

It’s okay if it doesn’t turn out okay. The next one will be better.

Remember your first client? Your first trial? Your first appeal? Knowing what you know now, you’re probably cringing (or laughing) when you think about it.

Not your best work. Your next one was better. 

Me too.

Same thing when I created my first web page, my first course, and my first book.

If you’re writing your first book or thinking about it and you’re nervous about how it’s going to turn out, think of it as your practice loaf.

Give yourself permission to mess up. Let it be bad if it wants to. You can fix it or make the next one better.

That’s why I recommend taking some of your old content and converting it into a book. Or recording and transcribing your thoughts about some aspect of your work.

It may not be your “best” book but you will have written a book. You’ll know you can do it and will have learned something about writing and publishing. If you want to, you can then write your second book.

Gotta run. A slice of bread and butter is calling my name.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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My son, the author

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After yesterday’s post about why you need to write a book I’ve heard from attorneys who have written and published a book, are in the process of writing a book or are planning to write a book.

Bravo!

Your book can be one of your most valuable marketing tools, if for no other reason than it gives you the ability to tell people that you wrote a book.

Clients will be impressed. They’ll tell people that their lawyer wrote a book. Prospective clients will be more likely to choose you over the attorney who didn’t write a book.

So, yes.

More: 

  • Mention your book in your bio, About page, social media profiles, and introduction (i.e., when you are introduced as a speaker)
  • Give print copies to new clients; they’ll see they made the right decision in choosing you. For extra credit, give them extra copies they can give to their friends.
  • Give copies to professionals and influencers in your niche market; they’ll see you as an authority and be even more comfortable recommending and referring you to their clients and contacts
  • When a prospective client wants to know why they should hire you, don’t explain, don’t try to sell them, just give them a copy of your book and let your book sell you
  • Offer digital copies to people who opt-in to your email list; you’ll get more opt-ins and your opt-ins will be glad they found you
  • Sell the book online and get traffic to your site; pre-sold traffic, traffic that PAID to hear what you say
  • Promote the book on social and let the book promote you; you can say nice things about a book that you might not be comfortable saying about yourself
  • Put the book in your “media kit” and get interviewed on podcasts, video channels, radio and TV shows, blogs, and to get booked as a speaker at local events

You can do all that, and more, even if your book isn’t a best seller.  

Now, if you read yesterday’s post and haven’t started writing a book, or planned to do so, I’ll just say, do it. No really, just do it.

Imagine your name on the cover of your new book. Imagine your mom telling her friends. “Oh, your son’s a lawyer? That’s nice. Did he write a book? Mine did.”

And, if you have written a book, it’s time to write another one. Because being an author is great but being the author of two (or more) books in your field is even better.

Have you taken my free referral course?

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A book is just a bunch of words

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You need to write a book. It’s one of the best things you can do to market your practice.

The odds are, you already know this. The odds are you don’t think you have enough to say to fill a book, or you don’t have the time or talent to write it.  

But you do. Because a book is just a bunch of words and you wrangle words for a living.

One way to write a book is to take things you’ve already written and stitch them together.

Blog posts, articles, white papers, reports–they’re all fodder for a book.

Five or ten chapters, exploring themes related to your work, illustrated with stories and examples from your practice, and congratulations, you have a book. 

Another way to write a book is to sit down and write it. Or record it.

Could you speak about your practice area for an hour? Do it. Speak, record, transcribe, and you’ll have the makings of a book.

Or, have someone interview you for an hour or two. I was interviewed by an attorney and turned that into a book. I interviewed an appellate attorney and turned that into a book.

You can, too.

Your book doesn’t need to be a tome. Your book could be as little as ten or twenty-thousand words. You could crank that out in a few weekends.

You don’t need to be a brilliant writer. You don’t need to have a publisher. And you don’t need to spend months or years turning out a bestseller.

But you do need a book.

How I turn interviews into books

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Obfuscate, equivocate, prevaricate, and other big words

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Some people don’t like lawyers. When we parse words, say we didn’t mean what we said, play games to prove we were right or get out of something we said we would do. . . it drives them crazy.

It’s hard to blame them. When it comes to words, we’re tricky.

We choose our words carefully because that’s how we protect our clients and ourselves. We hide behind our words because we don’t want to reveal what we really think or how much our client is willing to accept.

We’re notorious for being hard to read and hard to pin down.

But we need to know when to turn it off.

When we speak with a client or prospect (or a friend), ambiguous language and exploiting loopholes is off-putting, frustrating and breeds mistrust.

We may win a lot of battles with our clever ways but in the end, we lose more than we’ve won.

If we want people to like and trust us, hire us, and stay friends with us, we need to speak clearly and plainly. No loopholes, no footnotes, no arguments preserved for appeal.

How do we do this? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

How to get referrals from other lawyers

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“Do Not Commit Crimes With Checks”

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On the NBA on TNT Thursday night, Charles Barkley had some advice for Jussie Smollett, causing Shaq to convulse in laughter and spit out his coffee. The crew joined in, posting a mock-up of a fake check for $3,500 made out to “Muggers” with “Mugging Supplies” penned in the memo.

Everyone’s talking about the hoax and the future of the actor’s career.

Are you?

Are you using this story (the basic story or the Barkley version) in your speaking, writing, newsletter or blog?

You could. And should. Because when you talk about what everyone is talking about, people notice.

You can leverage the story without getting into politics or racism.

How?

You could review the legal issues for your readers, tell them what happened and what could happen next.

You could mention the story and then talk about one of your clients who did something stupid, got into trouble (civil or criminal) and hired you to help them.

You could quote Barkley and then talk about something else he once said (funny, pithy, strange, or otherwise) and use that other quote to segue into a story related to your practice.

Or you could do what I just did, tell your readers what Sir Charles said and then tell them what you think, e.g., it’s funny, not funny, premature, etc.

For the record: I laughed. Out loud. Especially when I saw the mock up of the check.

Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time.

How to use your website or blog to bring in more business

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The cure for writing constipation

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Did you hear about the constipated writer who worked it out with a pencil? 

Okay, jokes aside, if you’re having trouble starting a writing project, or finishing one, or you’re having trouble expressing your ideas clearly and cogently, if you’re in a writing funk or “blocked,” I feel you. It happens to me, too. 

What do I do? 

The first thing I do when I’m stuck is to put the project away and write something else. Something completely unrelated. When I come back to the project, I usually find it easy to get back on track. 

But not always. Sometimes, I’m still stuck. 

I might do more research. Learning something new about the subject, hearing different stories or examples, will often help me see where I need to go. 

Another thing I’ll do is re-write my outline if I have one, or write one if I don’t. I might do a mind map, which gives me a visual look at what I have and how it fits together, and then convert it to an outline. 

If this doesn’t work, I have another ace up my sleeve: free-writing.

I open a new page and start writing whatever comes into my head. I do this without stopping to think about what I’m saying, without going back to correct anything or add anything, I just keep pushing the pen across the page or banging the keys on the keyboard.  

Free-writing acts like a lubricant for my mind. Getting the words flowing, no matter how vapid or unrelated to the project, helps me find my writing voice. 

Sometimes, I’ll free-write for five minutes. Sometimes, I go for twenty minutes or more before taking a break. 

When I’m really stuck and nothing else seems to help, I go for a walk and record myself speaking on the subject. 

I talk to myself about the problem I’m having and reason my way through it. Or I talk to the reader I have pictured in my mind and “explain” the material to them. 

As I dictate, I add notes to myself for ideas that occur to me that I want to explore later. I also ask myself questions I think my reader wants to know, and speculate about the possible answers. 

Writing every day has made me a better (and faster) writer and I don’t get stuck very often. When I do, one of these techniques usually does the trick.

No pencils necessary.

Marketing is easier when you have a plan

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How being a better writer can help you become a better attorney

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An article in Writers Digest, “How Being An Attorney Helped Me Become A Writer,” caught my eye. The writer said: 

“The best legal job I ever had was clerking for a federal judge. I was responsible for writing the first draft of the rulings he would ultimately issue to the litigants. I lost sleep over the first case I was assigned, struggling to figure out the correct outcome. The draft I handed in to the judge reflected my own indecision—the writing was hedged and weak. The judge gently admonished me that the court must always project confidence and authority. He returned my draft with my wishy-washy words crossed out and the following written in: “The Court has reached the inexorable conclusion that . . .” I had to look up inexorable (it means unavoidable), but I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes actual confidence will flow from appearing confident. A reader wants to feel she is in good hands. If you write with confidence and present yourself as a serious person, the reader will feel safe with you.”

Me thinks it works the other way, too. Clarity and confidence in your writing helps clients feel safe with you. 

Is there any wiggle room? Is it okay to act confident even when you’re not?

Ultimately, that’s what each of us has to decide.

Sometimes, you have to bluntly tell the client how the course of action you’re recommending could blow up in their face. Sometimes, you have to offer a more gentle weighing of the possible outcomes. And sometimes, you have to point out all the options and ask them what they want you to do.

One thing is certain. When you’re in court, make sure your conclusions are always inexorable.

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How much information is too much information?

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I’m outlining a new project. This one will be a freebie. Don’t worry, you’re on the list. You’ll get a copy. (Wait. You haven’t been naughty this year, have you?)

I’m using my notes from a live training I did years ago and re-purposing it. The original presentation had 12 topics. I cut that down to eight.

When I looked at my updated outline, however, I realized that eight topics are still too many. So I cut it down to three.

Three of the best. Three things every lawyer can use to bring in more business.

With only three subjects, it won’t take hours and hours to consume, or weeks for me to create.

But it’s still too long.

I want you to be able to consume this in less than an hour, so you can start using it.

So I cut it down to one.

One subject. One strategy. One lesson.

There are two parts to this lesson. They’re both valuable. But guess what? There’s still too much information.

So this morning, I put one part aside. With only one (half) lesson, I’ll have time to flesh out the subject and give you something you can use instead of just read.

If you read a lot of blogs and articles, you see that most of them fall into the category of a “round up”–a  collection of quick tips, ideas, or resources. They’re valuable but they rarely go into enough depth on any subject to allow readers to take action.

I want this to be different.

But hey, if you’re naughty, I might add back the other half of the lesson.

How to use your website to make your phone ring

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