American novelist Ernest Hemingway’s office and typewriter at his home in Cuba as they were at the
time of his death in 1961. Photo: Joe Forward
To be a lawyer is to be a writer. In this profession, there’s no way to escape putting pen to paper, or more realistically, fingers to keyboard. Many attorneys do so much writing on behalf of clients, the thought of setting time aside to write for one’s self is overwhelming. However, getting published is a powerful marketing tool.
Writing is the easiest way to build your book of business without spending big bucks on advertising. It can boost your public profile and help you gain credibility if you do it consistently. While forcing yourself to sit down and pull those words out is the only way to get your writing done, there are several tactics you can use to make the task easier and get the most out of it.
Google Is Your Biggest Fan
From a marketing perspective, the number-one reason to become a regular writer is that Google and other search engines will pick up what you have to say.1 Whether you are posting a blog on your own website or drafting an article for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Google will respond as quickly as someone waiting for the next book from their favorite author. If you are consistently putting out writing that other people are spending time reading or linking to, search engines, including Google, will start sending more readers your way.
The most important thing to do to get search engines to notice you and recommend you to more people is to write as frequently as possible, but there are a few other things you should do as well.
Your Writing for Marketing To-Do List
First, consider which topics you want to be known for. Google’s search algorithms rely heavily on keywords the search engine has read and indexed itself, and noticed that its users are interested in as well.2 The more you write, the more the search engine knows about you and can associate you with particular keywords. For example, you will likely get associated with the keyword attorney, but writing about your practice area can get you linked to valuable words and phrases specific to your practice area.
If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can take a look at what search terms are already leading people to your website. That is going to be a pretty good estimate of your current keyword list. You can alter that list, or increase your web traffic for a particular subject, by intentionally using specific keywords in your writing.
Not sure what other keywords you should be using? Do a Google search for something you think would be a good keyword for you. Then scroll to the bottom of the search results page and see what other words and phrases Google considers “related searches.” If any of them are something you want to be known for, add them into your writing. You can also take a look at your competitors’ websites and see what words and phrases you see them consistently using. Consistently including keywords you want to be associated with in your writing will pay off in the long term.
Second, spend some time thinking about who your ideal clients are and why they might do a search for the type of services you provide. Be as specific as you can. What is going on in their life that makes them a potential client? Where do they live? Do they work in a particular industry? What personal characteristics do they have? Once you have a clear understanding of who you would prefer to work with, start writing with those people in mind:
As much as possible, include in your writing keywords you want to be known for that overlap with the keywords that those people might use in a search engine when they are looking for the services you provide.
Use geographic identifiers such as the town, county, or region where you work to help search engines pinpoint your location. That way, when someone searches for “lawyer near me,” the search engines will be able to point them in the right direction.
If you use analogies, or tie a story into your writing, try to make it something that will resonate with your ideal clients.
Third, try to write pieces that are around 500-1,500 words. Most potential clients aren’t going to read a legal treatise. They want straightforward information from a credible source. Write enough to show your grasp of the subject, but don’t get lost in the weeds. If a lot of people are finding your writing, but quickly clicking away from it, search engines will take note and ding you for it.3
Finally, always include a call to action or next step readers can take if they need your services.4 This could be a link to another page on your website that contains additional information or your contact details. Make it easy for your ideal clients to move from readers to prospective clients.
Become an Influencer in the Legal Community
Raise your profile, advance your career, and share your expertise with other legal professionals by writing or speaking for the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Through our nationally recognized publications and seminars, there are so many ways to show your stuff.
Speak at a State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® seminar or other State Bar event attended by legal professionals from across the state and nation.
Write for Wisconsin Lawyer™ magazine, InsideTrack, or other State Bar publications that go out to nearly 25,000 members.
Become a PINNACLE book author and add your expertise to the go-to source for attorneys in a multitude of different practice areas.
Love to read? Provide a book review
Have an opinion? Pen a Final Thought, send a letter to the editor, or write an As I See It opinion piece.
Share a Members Only professional announcement and let the legal community know your recent accomplishments.
Are you a legal blogger? Find out how to contribute to WisLawNOW, Wisconsin’s community of legal bloggers.
Whether your interest is in public speaking or writing, there’s a way for you to share your knowledge and help shape the profession. For more information and to contribute, visit wisbar.org/contribute.
Gain Instant Credibility
Marketing professionals have long understood that having a trusted source vouch for you is a shortcut to success.5 It’s one of the reasons celebrity endorsements are so common and every online shop wants you to review your purchases. Even lawyers who don’t like to think about law as a commodity know referrals can make or break a practice. Writing is a way to build credibility by tapping into the goodwill associated with someone who is willing to publish your work.
Local papers, community organizations, and trade groups are all looking for compelling content to offer their audience. If you can provide it to them, they will gladly publish it. Most of the time you just need to reach out and ask if they would be interested in having you write something for them.
If the organization has writing guidelines in place, be sure to tailor your work to them. If you can also write in a way that search engines will respond to positively, as discussed above, that is a bonus. Most organizations cross-post their content online, so writing with that in mind can help you squeeze a little extra juice out of your work.
Your Post-Publication To-Do List
If you want to get the most out of your writing, the work doesn’t end at publication. Sharing your work with your target audience, and tracking the effects of your writing, are crucial tasks.
Sharing Is Caring. It is okay to be proud of your work and share it with others. Particularly in the legal industry, where so much of your work product is not for public consumption, having something you can show off is rewarding. Post a link to your writing, or a photo of your name in print, on every social media account you have that you are comfortable using for marketing purposes.
Don’t be shy about asking others to share your work as well. Your employer and colleagues can share your work, and you should do the same for them. If it seems appropriate to ask your family and friends to post something you have written, that is fine as well.
If there are specific people you think would benefit from reading your writing, don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly. Share a link or mail them a hard copy so you know they have seen it rather than hoping they happen upon it by chance.
If you want to get your writing seen by even more people, consider participating in the State Bar’s WisLawNOW program.6 WisLawNOW is a blog aggregator that will pull articles you post on your website into a collection of articles written by other Wisconsin lawyers. Top articles are then pushed out via email to State Bar of Wisconsin members. It is an easy way to expand your audience to potential referral sources.
Proof of Concept. The final thing you need to do to ensure you are getting the most out of your writing is look at your analytics.7 This will tell you if the time you spend writing is giving you the marketing boost you desire.
If you are posting your work online, you can check out your website’s Google Analytics, or the data on reach and engagement provided by social media accounts you use. However, the most important datapoint is the number of potential clients your efforts bring to your door.
Each time a potential client contacts you, ask them how they heard about you. If someone says they saw something you wrote, that’s a win. Other indicators of success include a gradual improvement in your search-engine rankings and steadily increasing web traffic.
The Write Stuff
Consistently publishing quality writing is the most important thing you can do if you want to ramp up your marketing efforts without spending a bunch of money. There is no shortage of ways to get your work out into the world. As long as you are writing in a way that is appealing to your target clients and search engines, you likely will get a boost from your efforts. You can then measure your success by paying attention to the number of readers you have and your methods of client acquisition.
Authors In Action
Here are a few recent examples of Wisconsin lawyers putting writing to work for them.
Eido M. Walny of the Walny Legal Group LLC in Milwaukee was recently quoted in the article “6 Clear Paths to Pass Along Wealth” in the September 2021 AARP Bulletin. Walny has cultivated relationships with writers, podcasters, and others in the media to try to maximize his marketing. “At the end of the day, anyone can buy paid advertising, but I really try to leverage the media as a way of showcasing myself as a thought leader, an expert in my field, and someone whom clients should want to work with.”
Nonresident member Ronald Sokol, who has been practicing law in France since 1973, frequently contributes op-ed articles to the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, and Christian Science Monitor. His most recent article, in The Connexion, asks, “Why are there so few lawyers in France compared to US?” The article highlights his familiarity with both legal systems.
Wisconsin lawyer Bratislav Stankovic, the acting supervisory patent examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, teamed up with his colleague Dominic Keating to author a journal article. “Serving America: The USPTO’s IP Attaché Program” in the Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society (JPTOS) provides a behind the scenes look at the work of the USPTO’s “IP Attachés,” who are able to perform duties in different countries across the globe as part diplomat and part IP attorney.
The State Bar of Wisconsin’s WisLawNOW program is a relatively new tool Wisconsin lawyers can use to share the blogs they post on their website with a broader audience. Members who opt in to the program have blogs automatically pulled from their website, republished on the WisLawNOW landing page, and shared in an email to members.
Don’t be shy about finding ways to share your writing and raise your profile.
Meet Our Contributors
What was your funniest or oddest experience in a legal or marketing context?
A few years ago, an attorney I was working with called me to complain because one of their former clients gave them a bad online review. I had encouraged them to follow up with clients to thank them for their business and ask for reviews, so the bad review they received was, in their mind, my fault. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to tell attorneys that they should only ask for reviews from clients they suspected had a positive opinion of them. I now emphasize that you should never ask for a review you don’t want. It’s the legal marketing equivalent of the age-old advice that you should never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to!
Emily Kelchen, Kelchen Consulting.
Become a contributor! Are you working on an interesting case? Have a practice tip to share? There are several ways to contribute to Wisconsin Lawyer. To discuss a topic idea, contact Managing Editor Karlé Lester at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6127, or email email@example.com. Check out our writing and submission guidelines.
1 Google Search Central, The Basics of How Search Works, https://developers.google.com/search/docs/basics/how-search-works (last updated Sept. 9, 2021).
2 How Google Search Organizes Information, www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/how-search-works/organizing-information/ (last visited Oct. 6, 2021).
3 mailchimp, Glossary: Bounce Rate, https://mailchimp.com/marketing-glossary/bounce-rate/ (last visited Oct. 6, 2021).
4 Anita Campbell, What is a Call to Action and Why Do you Need One On Your Website, U.S. Small Bus. Admin. (Oct. 30, 2018),www.sba.gov/blog/what-call-action-why-do-you-need-one-your-website.
5 Philipp Schmitt et al., Why Customer Referrals Can Drive Stunning Profits, Harvard Bus. Rev. (June 2011), https://hbr.org/2011/06/why-customer-referrals-can-drive-stunning-profits.
6 State Bar of Wis., WisLawNOW: A Community of Wisconsin Legal Bloggers, www.wisbar.org/NewsPublications/Pages/WisLawNOW.aspx (last visited Oct. 6, 2021).
7 Emily S. Kelchen, Don’t Settle for Snake Oil: Learn Where Your Clients Come From, Wis. Law. (Sept. 2020), www.wisbar.org/NewsPublications/WisconsinLawyer/Pages/Article.aspx?Volume=93&Issue=8&ArticleID=27939.
» Cite this article: 94 Wis. Law. 41-43 (December 2021).