Should Lawyers Write their Own Website Content?

Pages of content flying into or out of a laptop screen. Caption reads, Writing for the Internet requires more than simply throwing words on a page. It is a carefully honed skill like any other, with some being better at it than others. Lawyers should not be ashamed if they fail to write content that gets results. Most are great writers of another form.

The average lawyer is an excellent communicator. Most attorney’s spend upwards of eight years writing essays and drafting mock contracts for classes. In this time, they hone their writing skills such that they know how to use their language to best serve their clients. Regardless of the type of law an attorney practices, their writing and communication skills are generally excellent. Practice, especially in a law practice, in the case of written and verbal communication, does make perfect.

Perfect is a Relative Term

English: Books on legal writing at the law lib...
English: Books on legal writing at the law library of the UC Berkeley School of Law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, so now I am sounding like a lawyer, I know. But the simple fact is that not all writing is equal. Not every form of communication is the same. Just because an attorney knows how to draft air-tight contracts or win court cases against all odds does not mean that same attorney can draft a blockbuster novel (unless that lawyer is John Grisham). Most lawyers already know that they are not novelists. Writing a novel is an entirely different form of writing than they practice every day. Writing a novel requires a different skill-set.

Just because an attorney knows how to draft air-tight contracts or win court cases against all odds does not mean that same attorney can draft a blockbuster novel (unless that lawyer is John Grisham). The point is, most lawyers already know that they are not novelists. Writing a novel is an entirely different form of writing than they practice every day. Writing a novel requires a different skill-set.

In the same way, most lawyers would say they could not write perfect children’s books or technical manuals for the latest software. Or perfect sales copy. Or marketing materials.

See, there are many forms of writing that the average (or even above-average) lawyer is not prepared to create. It is not because they lack the talent, but rather, the skill.

Perfect writing for fans of Stephen King is vastly different from perfect writing for fans of J.K. Rowling. Sure, both authors deal with elements of the supernatural, but that is about as far as the comparison can reach. Both are very different writers with very different writing styles writing for very different readers. And therein lay the point to this post.

Writing for the Internet is NOT Writing for the Legal System

Pages of content flying into or out of a laptop screen. Caption reads, Writing for the Internet requires more than simply throwing words on a page. It is a carefully honed skill like any other, with some being better at it than others. Lawyers should not be ashamed if they fail to write content that gets results. Most are great writers of another form.
Writing for the Internet requires more than simply throwing words on a page. It is a carefully honed skill like any other, with some being better at it than others. Lawyers should not be ashamed if they fail to write content that gets results. Most are great writers of another form.

When the Internet grew from its infancy, the dot-com boom appeared. Some of the first to jump on board were law firms. Many attorneys knew that the Internet was the way of the future and they did not hesitate to launch websites. They also knew that websites had to have words. They knew that websites needed to provide information to potential clients. Because so many already knew they were excellent writers, they often created their own content (or, had their legal secretaries do so).

In some cases, the law firm website performed well. In most, it did not. Many were baffled. They knew they were good writers, good communicators. But people did not seem to come to their website and if they did, they often did not return. I know this because in scouting hundreds of law firm websites, the single biggest common denominator I have found (aside from being law firms) is they all have very high bounce rates.

Bounce rate is the rate at which visitors to the website leave after viewing only one page. It is a metric used to understand how appealing a website is to visitors and plays a role in search rankings.

The key reason many lawyers fail to achieve the results they want for their websites is simple, really: Writing for the Internet is as different from legal writing as writing a Harry Potter book. The skills needed to attract and keep readers are different. The elements needed to market the content to the public and search engines are very different from anything a student will study in law school.

So, it only makes sense that a law firm outsource the writing of content for their website. But when choosing a freelancer or outsource agency, how can a law firm know which will get the desired results?

Well, I naturally have my own opinion…Oakes Writing. We offer free consultations and Guaranteed results, so naturally, I am biased. Regardless of whom you choose, just be sure to track the results via Google Webmaster Tools or Analytics. If you do not see positive results within a few weeks, look elsewhere.