Most lawyers are decent writers. Given enough time, they can compile the law and the facts and pull together a good article. But lawyers are not always given the time. That article or white paper opportunity that seemed like a great way to enhance your reputation three months ago starts to spark panic attacks as the deadline looms. You know what you want to say, and have a file-folder full of notes and research, but “real” work obligations are pressing and you simply lack the time to pull it all together.
Don’t Panic! Really Good Help Is Available
Some lawyers consult with outside writing consultants—or ghostwriters—for their important projects. The lawyer provides the legal expertise and the professional writer contributes speed, news context and a clear, persuasive style. A good ghostwriter can help in a number of ways:
- Meet deadlines. When deadlines loom, a ghost can be a rescuing angel. A good professional writing consultant can interview the lawyer, review the notes and research, and then pull together a good draft in very little time. The draft goes back and forth until you are completely satisfied that the final product accurately and ethically represents your knowledge, opinions and professional voice.
- Help select topics and venues. A writer experienced in working with lawyers keeps up with legal news and can help you choose (or fine-tune) a topic so that it will catch the attention of print and electronic publishers—along with clients and potential clients. Most ghosts are trained and experienced journalists. A good ghost reads the major national newspapers each day and uses an online aggregator to follow important legal blogs and online legal news sites. That information is used to provide you with story ideas about both breaking news and emerging trends, or to provide an attractive “news peg” for an article in progress.
- Translate complexity into clear language. Lawyers are schooled in Bluebook style, which sets the rules for legal communications. Professional writers are schooled in the AP Style Manual, which sets the rules for virtually all business and consumer publications—and many legal publications as well. A publisher is much more likely to accept an article that complies with their style guidelines right from the start, saving them the task of heavy editing.
- Deliver what publishers want. Publishers want articles that relate to a breaking news story or a relevant trend. They want articles that focus on providing useful information to their readers rather than “puffing” about the author. They want articles with short, active sentences and paragraphs, broken into sections with interesting headlines and subheads. Finally, publishers want articles with plenty of interesting and timely examples that illustrate abstract concepts in a clear and compelling manner.
Good ghostwriters never create a lawyer’s article from scratch. They work closely with you to quickly “translate” legal expertise into clear and persuasive language that resonates with publishers and their readers.
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter and blogger who works closely with professional services providers—especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations—to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the Web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She blogs at Constant Content and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.