So What Should I Write About?

The law, for starters – but there is a bit more to it than that.

Here are some suggestions, adapted from the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Guide to Business Development for Women Lawyers (January 2013). They are equally applicable to men.

  • Choose your topic carefully
    • write about something you actually practise, know about or want to develop as an area of specialisation
    • you don’t want people to think you’re an expert on the basis of one article
  • Recycle old work
    • a memo for a file could be the basis of a client piece
    • but be careful to remove any information that could identify your client
    • strip out technical terms, footnotes, citations
    • make sure you bring things up to date
    • the same piece can (within reason) be published in more than one place, often with only minor adjustments
  • Get your piece in front of the right audience
    • a legal journal, magazine or newspaper may be read by other lawyers but not by businesspeople
    • think about industry/trade publications or general news outlets – you have a better chance of being read by non-lawyer clients
  • A descriptive piece on recent developments in a particular area of law is always good
    • also easy to write and can get broad readership
  • Other ideas
    • what challenges are your clients facing? how do other industries cope with similar challenges? tell a story based on real examples
    • what are the current trends in an industry or area of law you know about?
    • what kinds of questions have you been getting from clients or readers?
    • what have you read lately, and what can you add? (but don’t be catty about other people or present law as a world of insiders commenting on each other)
    • what interests you about your practice area? (but remember that not everyone may share your enthusiasm for the law of drainage – you may have to make that interesting for other people, or at least explain why it might actually be important to them)
    • what mistakes have you made and what did you learn? (careful with this one, though; don’t alarm a client or your insurer)
  • Be timely
    • publish as quickly as you can on breaking developments
    • but don’t sacrifice care in thinking, writing, fact-checking, vetting by someone more senior, editing, proof-reading
  • Include a picture and brief bio
    • your piece should be accompanied by a professional headshot wherever possible
    • include a short bio (short!); bonus marks if you can be distinctive without being gimmicky
    • link to appropriate social media (LinkedIn profile, maybe your Twitter handle; not Instagram or Facebook)
    • if you’re writing for an external publication, add a disclaimer that the views expressed are your own and not necessarily your employer’s

Next: lawyerly compounds

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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