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.  


Some lawyers are weird


It’s true. Some lawyers have strange interests or hobbies, extreme lifestyle choices or political views. But most people know this because most lawyers do a good job of keeping their personal life to themselves. 

Other lawyers do the opposite. They tell too much about their personal views and lifestyle. If you look up the phrase “over sharing” in the dictionary, you might see their photo. 

Of course, neither extreme is advisable. 

The thing is, most lawyers lean towards not sharing any personal information. Not on social media, on their blog or in a presentation. They may be great lawyers, but they look and sound like every other lawyer in their field (except the weird ones).

And have a hard time standing out or being remembered.

I get it. They want to maintain their image as a hard-working, dedicated professional, who works night and day to serve their clients. Anything personal might make them look weak or is at least irrelevant to their job. 

But clients know their lawyers are humans and they like them that way. They like knowing some things about their lawyer and what they do when they’re not working.  

The solution? Share a little personal information, but not too much. 

Do you have kids? Tell people about them. People like people who have kids. And all you have to do (if you don’t want to do more) is refer to them parenthetically. 

“I picked up my daughter from ballet class the other day. . .” tells your readers that you have a child and you are involved in their life. You don’t have to say more. 

But you can if you want to. 

When I took my daughter to ballet class years ago, I had trouble putting her hair in a bun and asked one of the moms for help. That added detail makes the experience easier to picture and might make it more relatable to parents who have had a similar experience.

Don’t over-share (especially if you’re weird), but do share some details of your personal life. Clients want their lawyer to fight for them and deliver good results, but they also like their attorney to be normal.  


Every lawyer does it


Not all lawyers litigate, negotiate, or speak in front of groups. But every lawyer writes. 

Writing is a lawyer’s super power. 

Write well and you can persuade people to write you, call you, and hire you. Write well and you can get clients to hire you again, share your content, and tell others about you. Write well and you can create content that gets more people to your website, to learn more about what you do and how you can help them. 

Write well and you can get more leads, better clients, and bigger cases. Write well and you might even generate an additional source of income through books, courses, and consulting. 

Writing gives you space to think, to figure out what you want, and why, and discover what you’re willing to do to get it.

Writing can make you a better lawyer, and a more successful and happy one.

Years ago, I took a look at my work product and realized that form letters and boilerplate documents might make my work easier but did nothing to improve my writing. And I wanted to improve my writing because it was stilted and boring. 

I started by writing more creative demand letters. I got some adjusters and lawyers to notice and while I can’t say this lead to better outcomes (or it didn’t), I enjoyed it and was encouraged to continue.  

So then, I wrote articles, reports, and ads that were different than most lawyers write. Later, when I started a newsletter and blog, and wrote books and courses, my commitment to liberating my writing served me well. 

It will serve you, too. 

What’s the best way to improve your writing? By reading about good writing, by reading good writing itself, and mostly by writing more. 

Write something every day. Practice. Play with words and ideas. You’ll get better at explaining the law, telling stories, and crafting persuasive arguments—the kind that win cases and new clients.

And have fun with it. Start small if you want to. A single colorful sentence or turn of phrase can be enough to make you stand out and convince yourself that there’s more to writing than form letters and boilerplate. 

How to write emails that bring in more clients


How-to articles for lawyers are good. This is better.  


Lawyers write a lot of blog posts and other content that explains how to do things. That’s good because “how to” is a very popular search term for people with legal issues. 

But prospective clients also want to know “why”.

You tell them to do something, or avoid doing something, but your advice is much more persuasive and valuable to them if you tell them why. 

If you handle personal injury cases, don’t just tell people what to say to the other driver, and what to avoid saying. Tell them why. 

In fact, it’s a good idea to write blog posts and articles with a headline or title that features the word “why”. When someone sees that word, they become curious. “Why should I do that?” “Why is that a mistake?” and they read the article to find out. 

You should also use the word “why” in your calls-to-action. 

You want them to call and make an appointment? Tell them why. What do they get if they do? What are the benefits? What will that appointment help them do or avoid?

You want them to download your report? Fill out a form? Sign up for your webinar? Hire you (instead of any other lawyer)?

Tell them why. 

Don’t stop writing how-to articles. They always have and always will be effective. But they are more effective when you also tell people why. 


Just google it?


When you’re fresh out of ideas for blog posts, newsletter articles, or other content, you can always head over to your favorite search engine, put in some keywords related to your field, and see what people, a.k.a. prospective clients, are searching for. 

Not only will you get ideas for your next blog post or article, you can use the same search terms they use, or a variation thereof, in your title or subject.

The subjects they search for, the questions they ask, can not only provide you with subjects to write about, but search traffic to your blog or article.

You can wing it and see what comes up, or use a more methodical method:  

Type a keyword in the search field, press the spacebar, type the letter “a”, and you’ll get 10 search results (on Google) in the drop-down menu. Copy these and search again using the same keyword and the letter “b”. 

You can go through the entire alphabet and get more results. You can then type in keyword phrases instead of single words and go through the process again. 

And then, if you want even more results, choose a different keyword (or phrase) and search again. 

30 minutes of searching and you’ll have more topics than you can shake a stick at. 

But there’s more. . . 

On the Google search results page, look for the “People Also Ask” section. You’ll see questions related to your search term. Grab some of those questions and answer them in your next post. 

Then, scroll down to the bottom of the search results page and look for the “Related Searches” section. Yep, even more ideas.  

You can also use the “Google Trends” tool to find more current or newsworthy (trending) ideas.

But you’re not limited to using dusty old search engines to find ideas. Now you can use one of the many AI tools that are popping up everywhere.  

This morning, I asked one of those AI Chabots, “What are some ways to get ideas for blog posts other than using google?” It gave me several suggestions: 

  • Look at your competitor’s blogs, “to see what topics they are covering. this can give you ideas for new topics, or inspire you to approach a topic from a different angle.”
  • Ask your readers what they would like to see or see more of. Use a poll, email, social media, “or by simply asking for feedback in a blog post”. 
  • Peruse social media popular posts or hashtags to see what people are asking or talking about.
  • Attend industry events (to learn the latest trends and news in your niche and write about those subjects).
  • Use tools like BuzzSumo, Feedly, or Pocket to see what’s being covered. 

And that was just a few results from asking a very general question. 

You can ask these bots much more specific questions that elicit more detailed responses related to your field and your target market.

Ask it what estate planning subjects are popular with people in your area who now work from home. Ask it to tell you the questions burn victims typically ask when they’re looking for an attorney who specializes in this field. Ask it to tell you which market sectors are more likely to buy or sell commercial real estate in the next few years.

And if it doesn’t give you enough information, or specific enough information, ask follow-up questions until it does.

My favorite part: unlike simple search engines, these bots remember what you previously asked, and the answers it provided, which means you can carry on a conversation with it and get better results.

Don’t rely completely on anything it tells you, of course. Use the results you get as a starting point—ideas to research and write about.

More ideas than you could ever use.


I’m working


One of the nice things about being a writer, or an attorney who does a lot of writing, is being able to indulge our other interests.

When we watch videos about something that interests us, for no other reason than because we enjoy it, we not only give our brains and bodies a brief respite from our busy schedules, we learn things we can use in our writing.

Examples, stories, new ideas or new ways of looking at old ideas help us illustrate our points and make our articles and posts more interesting. 

They can also stimulate us to be more creative and productive. Seeing how others do presentations, structure their articles, or make their points can give us new ways of doing what we do. 

Reading books about history can make us better leaders and problem solvers. Reading about entrepreneurship can help us get better at building our practice or business. Reading mysteries or doing crossword puzzles can make us better problem solvers and keep our brains from getting rusty.

Read widely. Every day, even if just for ten minutes. Take notes, even if it’s just a quote or one sentence about what you read.

Follow your curiosity. Go for walks and think about whatever is on your mind. 

And don’t feel guilty about taking time to do this. 

What you read can teach you, inspire you, and help you become better at what you do.

You may not be able to bill for the time you spend doing something other than your core work, but you’re still getting paid.


Write for yourself first


We write for our subscribers and followers, to show them we understand them and can help them. So, besides talking about their problems and our solutions, we talk about their world—their industry or market and subjects that interest them. 

Because if we don’t, if all we talk about is the law and “how-to’s”, prospective clients might read us today (when they need us) but might not read us tomorrow. 

And tomorrow might be the day they do need us, or talk to someone they can refer. 

Writing a blog or newsletter or other content isn’t just about “getting the sale”. It is also about building relationships. 

And that’s why marketing folks (myself included) tell you not to make your content all about you. 

But this doesn’t mean you should never make it about you.

You are important in this equation. People want to know not just about your work, or even exclusively about their world, they also want to know about you. 

A relationship is about two people and you’re one of them. So, in addition to writing for your readers, it’s important that you also write for yourself. 

That means sometimes you write at length about your life and weave in lessons or stories that apply to your readers. You might talk about your trip to the bookstore, something interesting you saw in the courthouse, about your kids, or something about your hobby, and share a lesson told by the experience.

Other times, you simply mention these things in passing. “I was running errands on Saturday, looking for a parking space, and thought of something I want you to know”. 

If you don’t write for yourself, writing a blog or newsletter can eventually feel like drudgery. You’ll run out of ideas and energy and your writing will become boring and ineffectual. If you write for yourself, however, you’ll enjoy it and continue doing it because talking about yourself is enjoyable. 

A good rule of thumb is to write your first draft for yourself. Write what you want to write about, not just what the market wants or needs. Say what you want to say, what you find interesting, inspiring, or that made you laugh. Forget about your reader on this first pass and tell your story the way you want to tell it.

Then, on a second pass, bring them into the picture. 

This will help you write more effective content