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. 


What do you plan to do with this information? 


Best-selling author Ryan Holiday said, “When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information?” 

That’s the reason we read, isn’t it? Yes, we also read for entertainment and to learn about subjects that interest us, but the primary reason we consume content is because we want to do something with the information. 

We have projects to complete and goals to achieve. We want to grow our business and improve our life and we use the information we gather to help us get better results. 

Holiday seems to suggest that deciding what to do with the information is best done before we read it, or at least while we’re doing it. We get more out of it that way because we see the information in the context of our work or an important area of our life.

So, when you buy a book or bookmark an article or video, think about what you want to get out of it. What do you hope to learn? To which project or area of your life do you think it will apply? 

By considering this in advance, when you read the material, you’re more likely to pick up on things you might have missed, and ask yourself more probative questions that can improve your understanding and use of the material. 

Then, when you read the material, take notes and put those notes in your own words. Don’t merely record the facts or ideas, write down what you think about those facts or ideas and how you can use them.

Do you agree with the author? See a better way? Think of additional ideas? 

Add tags or labels to your notes  to make them easier to find. Add links to your other notes to make them more useful. 

And decide if the information is good enough to read more than once.

Finally, if you realize that the material isn’t what you hoped it would be, don’t hesitate to skim the remainder or close the book and find something else to read. 

Because information is only as good at what you can do with it. 


It’s not just what you say, but when you say it


It’s called “staging” and it makes your written or spoken message more effective by putting your points in the most effective order. 

For example, you stage your material when you start an article or presentation with the problem, not the solution, and follow that by explaining the risks of ignoring the problem or choosing a poor solution. 

After you describe the risks, you build on that with examples of what might happen, the costs, delays, pain and suffering, and secondary problems that can occur. 

Now, you have your reader’s attention and the desire to hear the solution. When you then describe the solution, e.g., your services, they’re all ears and ready to know what to do to get this solution. 

You tell them what to do, e.g., call, fill out a form, etc., and to seal the deal, you tell them the benefits of taking that next step—clarity, relief, a proven plan of action, saving money, etc. 

That’s staging. That’s using a logical order to improve your audience’s understanding, build tension, and show them a way to release that tension precisely when your reader or listener is most likely to do it.

But staging isn’t just the order in which you present the elements of your message. It’s also about how you transition from one element to the next. 

Want an example? (There, “Want an example?” is an example of a transitional phrase that pulls the reader forward to the next element, in this case, an example).

Transitional phrases keep readers reading and listeners listening. They do that by asking questions and painting pictures in their mind with statements that get them to focus on an image or feeling, ready to hear more.

There are many ways to accomplish this. For example, you can ask, “What do you think might happen if. . ?” and letting their imagination do the rest. Or, “Imagine how you’ll feel when you no longer have. . .”. 

You can also use transitional phrases to transition to your call to action or close. 

A few examples:

“At this point, there are 3 questions you should be asking yourself. . .”

“When I show this to people, they usually tell me/ask me. . .”

“Here are your options. . . which one makes the most sense to you?” 

“If this describes your situation, here’s what I recommend. . .”

Think of this type of transitional phrase as a palate cleanser, making the reader ready for the next course. 

Anyway, this is just a brief introduction to staging and transitional phrases. You don’t need to be a marketing expert or copywriter to use them. But do pay attention to how others use them in their writing and presentations, and consider how you might use them in yours.


Going on a research diet


If you’re like me, you never know if you’ve done enough research. There’s always more to look at and, God bless us, we can’t help ourselves—we keep looking. 

In school, in business, and in a law practice, due dates and deadlines come to our rescue. We “call a lid” because we have to get the work out the door—or else.

When there is no deadline imposed by a teacher, a client or court, however, it’s a different story. 

How long have you been planning and researching that book or business project?. Exactly.

You never know when you’ve done enough research so you keep doing more, just in case.  

Perfectionism? Self-doubt? Imposter syndrome? Call it by any name, but it boils down to our fear of making a mistake. 

But we can’t spend our life in perpetual research. At some point we have to say, “enough”. 

But how? 

One way is to redefine the project or goal. Instead of doing enough research to write the book, for example, the task is to do enough research to START writing the book. 

But that’s only a partial solution because you will inevitably see something that calls for you to do more research. 

What then? How do you know when you’ve done enough? 

You don’t. Not by any logical metric, anyway. You’re better off trusting your gut. When you feel pulled towards the finish line more than you feel pulled to doing more research, you go with that. 

It’s your only option. Unless you’re prepared to hold yourself accountable to someone else. A partner, spouse, or friend—someone who won’t let you get away with endless research. 

Someone who will kick your butt for you. Like your teacher, your client, or the court. 


3 keys to effective content


The reason you publish a blog or newsletter, post anything on social media, or deliver presentations, is to achieve a desired outcome. You’re not merely exercising your fingers or your voice, you want to inform or persuade people to do something. 

If you do, your content is effective. If you don’t, you might want to make some changes. 

There are lots of things you can do to improve your content and make it more effective. Editing, formatting, optimizing for readability and search, and more. But there are 3 things your content should always be or have:

  1. Clarity. Nothing you write or offer will do you or your readers any good if they don’t understand it. Your message must be clear and easy to follow, with sufficient detail and precision so that readers know what you want them to know or do. Explain terms, provide examples, and show them what you want them to see. If you maintain a publishing checklist, make sure “clarity” is at the top. 
  2. Helpful. Your message should help readers be, do, or have something they want or need. Your message should give them a reward or benefit for taking the time to read or listen. Teach them something important or useful, get them to think about something, or help them make a better decision. And if you can’t write something helpful, at least write something they will find interesting. 
  3. Next. Tell them what to do with this information. How to start, how to do it better, where to go to find additional information. End your piece with a “call to action” so they know exactly what you want them to do. That might be to call you, share your content, fill out a form, sign up for your webinar, or download your report. Tell them what to do, and why, i.e., how they will benefit from doing that. 

Make your message clear and easy to follow, provide helpful or interesting information, and tell them what to do next. These are the keys to effective content.