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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Write a Blog Post in Less Than an Hour

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We know that when you're busy, blogging is the last thing on your mind. However, blog posts can bring your firm attention and in turn, get you new clients - so it's imperative that your firm has a blog, and one that is active and informative. To help you make time for your blog, we prepared a 7-step guide to writing a weekly blog post for your firm in under one hour. That one hour can translate to a lot more billable hours, so it's in your best interest to get started.

Step 1: Keyword Planning

Time: 5 minutes

If you have not yet read our SEO series on planning keywords, now is a good time to catch up. Keywords are important in marketing your firm and getting your pagerank up in Google search results (so that more people can discover your content!).

If you already know which keywords you want to focus on, write down at least 4-8 of them, and keep them on top of your draft blog post. These keywords will be your guide as you choose the topic you want to cover. 

It seems more intuitive to pick a topic, then find keywords that match - but if you know what keywords you need to include in your post to boost your SEO, it's actually easier to come up with a topic that can encompass all or most of them. 

Step 2: Come up With Your Topic

Time: 10 minutes

Now that you know which keywords to focus on, you can either brainstorm your own topics or use this handy blog topic generator tool from HubSpot and enter they keywords to come up with catchy titles. The titles will be your topics. 

We generally use an altered version of the titles they provide, and keep entering keywords until we find one that fits perfectly. 

Step 3: Research

Time: 10 minutes

Researching does not have to be daunting or time-intensive. If you are writing for your clients about your chosen area of law, you are probably familiar with the process and the major concepts - so you can intelligently write at least the basics without citing any research. However, if you do need sources to cite, a quick Google search should do the trick; Google Scholar is especially useful, as it includes academic research and case law.

If you need more resources, check out our Awesome Research Tools for Lawyers post for a quick overview. 

Step 4: Outline

Time: 5 minutes

Before you even write a word, constructing an outline will help guide you and make it easier and quicker to write your post. It can be as simple as creating headings, creating steps like this blog post, or simply listing key topics you want to cover. Anything to guide your writing. 

When you have the bare bones outline (and, mind you, it does not have to be perfect), you can then start writing. 

Step 5: Write, and Write Again

Time: 20 minutes

Now comes the fun part: Writing!

Assuming you picked your keywords and topic, and that you did your research, you can now start writing. When you write, it should begin as a brain dump of all the information you know on the topic in a somewhat coherent sentence structure. In your initial draft, don't think about word choice or grammar - instead, focus on fitting the information you have into the grid of your outline.

When you are done filling in all the space between your headers or steps, you can then go over it with a fine-toothed comb and add citations, references, examples, and tools that your readers will find useful. This is what we mean by write again. You wrote a very rough draft, and now you have to rewrite and fix all the errors. You will find a lot of them, but re-writing is almost cathartic because you're improving your blog post and fine tuning it. 

Step 6: Edit

Time: 10 minutes

Editing is different from "writing again" because you are now finalizing the piece. When you write the first time, it's just a brain dump of all the information you know. When you write the second time, you are including citations and including the details or missed information. Editing means adding in all the keywords, checking your grammar and word choice, and making sure the sentences makes sense and are structured correctly.

Luckily, there are quick ways to edit your posts: Grammarly and Google Docs.  Both are excellent tools for catching grammar mistakes and making changes quickly. Grammarly even has a Google Chrome extension that you can install; it edits any document (including blog posts, emails, and more) that you are working on and shows you all your grammatical mistakes. 

We prefer Google Docs over MS Word because it seems to do a better job at catching mistakes, and understanding some of the technical language that Word just does not pick up. Also, Google Docs is a better tool for collaboration: you and anyone else who may be editing a blog post can see each other's edits in real time, and can chat during the editing process. 

The key things to remember during the editing process are:

1. Check for grammar mistakes and spell checks;

2. Verify all links and citations are correct; and

3. Make sure all the keywords are included and are bold, italicized, or underlined. 

Step 7: Publish 

That's it! You are all set! Publish away and track your results. 

If you follow the 7 simple steps outlined above, you should be good to go and have a powerful blog post on a weekly basis! 

Posted by Mary Redzic on Wednesday May 24, 2017 0 Comments

Labels: Law Firm Marketing, Productivity, Legal Technology

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Side Gigs, Soft Skills: Personal Development for Lawyers

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Whether you're looking to expand your skill set, broaden your network, or earn supplementary income, finding a "side gig" may do the trick. Lawyers have indispensible skills that can help them succeed in a variety of fields; here are a few ideas we came up with:

Teaching

Because you studied law for three years, you already have the foundational knowledge required to become an instructor. You don't have to spend years publishing reports, articles, and opinions to become a university professor; instead, use your public speaking skills, knowledge, and experience at law schools to start out as an Adjunct Professor or at a local community college.

Tutoring

The LSAT and Bar Exam have strict requirements for their candidates, but if you are qualified and looking for a side gig, this may be a great option for you. Earn some extra cash and step out of the office to help teach future lawyers. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Mediation

To identify the basic requirements for becoming a mediator or participating in ADR programs, look up your local court requirements or check out an overview of various ADR programs and requirements.

This is a great way to resolve disputes between people without stepping into the court room, while still honing your negotiation skills and earning income on the side. 

Legal Consulting for Movies & Books

If you ever watch TMZ (yes, the entertainment show) you’ll hear a funny little “I’m a lawyer” thrown in at the end of the show. That’s because the founder of TMZ is actually... a lawyer!

Rest assured, you don't have to go all the way to Hollywood or start your own show to contribute. Instead, you can consult for various movies, TV shows, or books. An example is "Law and Order: SVU" which has an entire team of lawyers to help with staged cases and rule of law. Blythe Leszkay is another example of a lawyer who is also a criminal law consultant for writers and filmmakers.

Mock Trial Judge

Contact your law school and see if there is an opportunity for you to get involved in Mock Trials. Some high schools even offer mock trial and pre-law programs, so see if you can find a local gig that you can help with.

Writing for Legal Publications

Writing for legal publications like Lawyerist, Attorney at Work, Legal IT Today, or the ABA Journal can set you apart and bring you a new audience and client pool. Share your knowledge with your peers and establish yourself as an expert in your practice area.

Legal Expert on the News

Seema Iyre is a lawyer who has her own podcast, the Bollywood Lawyer. She recently talked about her experience as a legal analyst on cable news with the ABA. Find opportunities to use your experise on the local or national news, and use Seema's tips and experience as a guidepost on leveraging your skills in your new side gig as a legal expert. 

Writing for the News

In addition to being called as a guest expert for individual stories, you can become a legal writer for various news channels or newspapers on an ongoing basis. If you are an expert in a certain area of law, and you have great writing and investigative skills, you can definitely pursue a career as a legal writer.

Writing Books or E-books

Of course lawyers are great writers - it’s what we do all day! Use your well-developed skills to write the next great American novel or even a “how-to” book for other legal professionals. This will help you gain some publicity and improve your writing skills. 

Blogging for Lawyers

While your firm should have its own blog, you can definitely start your own passion project and share your unique expertise or knowledge with the world. Whether you write about law or not is completely up to you, but you can improve your writing and design skills by making your blog posts both functional and beautiful at the same time. Check out our Legal Blogging 101 webinar for some suggestions. 

Legal Consulting for Nonprofits

Whether it’s your local Legal Aid office or any other non-profit organization, you can volunteer your services to help the causes you care about. If you are an immigration attorney in particular, you will find bountiful opportunities to leverage your expertise to help your community.

You can also find pro bono opportunities at your firm or even at other firms. DLA Piper offers an annual pro bono opportunity for local lawyers to assist small businesses with their legal needs. They provide training on the various subject matters that will be covered, so even if you are not an expert, you can provide some advice and gain some new knowledge.

Podcasts for Lawyers

Podcasts are big these days. There are lots of legal podcasts to choose from, and you can start your own or join in on the fun by being a guest on an existing series. If you're still figuring out the world of podcasts and want to dip your toes in the water, check out our suggestions in our 6 Podcasts to Which Every Lawyer Should Subscribe blog post.

While having a side gig can add fun to your day job or even provide additional income, you should always check with your employer if your side gig is a conflict of interest. It is a great way to earn extra money, market your firm and skills, and develop new ones.

 

Posted by Mary Redzic on Wednesday May 17, 2017 0 Comments

Labels: Career, Productivity

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