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ONE OF A KIND

Four Tips for Writing Legal Blog Posts That People Will Actually Read

By Jay Harrington

Legal blog posts follow one of three formats: the case law breakdown, evergreen analysis or future forecast. Here’s how to write a well-structured case law breakdown post.

Let’s face it. Many legal blog posts are easy to ignore.

They’re long-winded, lack structure and fail to serve the reader.

Want to write better blog posts? I’m assuming you’ve got the substance nailed. This article is mostly about style. And when it comes to online writing, both substance and style really matter. So let’s get started.

Here are four tips to grab the attention of your readers and get them to read your legal blog posts all the way to the bottom.

1. Use an Appealing Structure

See it once and you’ll start seeing it everywhere: The most popular blog posts follow similar patterns and formats.

And it’s no different when it comes to legal thought leadership. By my estimation, 90% of blog posts you’ll find on law firm websites fit into one of three formats, which I call the 1) case law breakdown, 2) evergreen analysis and 3) future forecast.

Each one has its own template structure that you can follow.

Structure is critical for law firm blogs, because readers start by skimming your content, and if it’s not immediately obvious that a post has the answers they’re looking for, they’re moving on.

The case law breakdown is the most common type of blog post, so we’ll use it as our example. Here’s a structure you can use to create an outline of your case law breakdown posts:

  • Headline
  • Intro
  • Point 1
  • Point 2
  • Point 3
  • Conclusion

Now let’s examine how you can be creative and make an impact using this structure.

2. Invest Heavily in Your Headline

No words matter more than the five to 15 words in your headline. It doesn’t matter how great your analysis is if no one clicks on it. For a case law breakdown, here’s a framework to try:

[X] Things [who it’s for] Need to Know About [what happened] to [why it matters]

You can play with it a bit. Here are a couple of examples:

  • 3 Things Employers Need to Know About the Supreme Court’s Vaccine Ruling to Avoid Liability
  • 5 Reasons the C-Suite May Lose Sleep Over the SEC’s New ESG Reporting Standards

When it comes to writing a headline, be clear, not clever. Make it immediately obvious to readers why they should click on your post relative to all the others that cover similar ground. One of the best ways to do this is to be really specific about who the article is for. Contextualize it for a specific audience (e.g., “the C-Suite”) and name the audience in your headline.

Remember: Write for someone, not everyone.

3. Invert Your Post (the Conclusion Becomes the Intro)

Once you’re ready to build out the body of the post, avoid the common mistake of starting with what happened and concluding with the implications. Invert that structure. Flip it upside down.

So, instead of starting your intro like this:

“On March 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, issued an opinion in the case of Party v. Party …”

(Ugh. You already lost me.)

Try this instead:

“To avoid fines and lawsuits, here are three things employers need to know about the Supreme Court’s vaccine ruling: (1) thing 1, (2) thing 2, and (3) thing 3.

In light of the Court’s decision, employers and their legal counsel should discuss adopting [policy 1] and [policy 2]. Now let’s take a closer look at what the Court said and why.”

See the difference? By following this approach, in just a couple of concise paragraphs, you can give the reader what they’re looking for.

4. Use Subheads to Make Your Post Skimmable

To make your post a breeze to read, organize it in easy-to-skim sections, separated by subheads that break down your main points in greater detail (kind of like I did in this post). You’ll lose your reader if all they see are long blocks of text.

Next, recap and reiterate in your conclusion and, voila, you’ve got a well-structured case law breakdown blog post.

Keep it simple. Keep it skimmable. That’s what makes it readable online.

Here’s Your TL;DR Recap for Writing a Case Law Breakdown Post

  1. Almost all blog posts fit into one of three formats.
  2. Spend plenty of time on your headline.
  3. Invert your post — what you think should be the conclusion should probably be the intro.
  4. Use subheads to make your post skimmable.

Image ©iStockPhoto.com

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Jay Harrington

Jay Harrington is the owner of Harrington Communications, a leading thought-leadership PR and marketing agency that specializes in helping law firms and lawyers build awareness, influence and new business. Jay is the author of three books for lawyers on issues related to business and professional development, including “The Productivity Pivot,” “The Essential Associate” and “One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Practice.” He podcasts at The Thought Leadership Project. Previously, he practiced law at Skadden Arps and Foley & Lardner. Follow him @harringj75.

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