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Educational content > must be tailored for your audience

Lawyers need to tailor the educational content on their blog or Web site to the audience they are trying to reach. That means both providing the information your audience is looking for and speaking to your audience in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

All too often I look at law firm sites and ask what the heck they were thinking when they published the informational content on their site. Lawyer’s sites are full of content only a lawyer would be impressed by, if they are easily impressed, and content that may be of importance to a lawyer doing legal research. Lawyers are not coming to your site for research.

If you are a firm trying to attract smaller business or consumer clients publish content that would be of interest to smaller business owners or consumers – not lawyers.

That means no law review articles, no articles published in a bar journal and no CLE presentations. You can bury that stuff in a documents section on the site for your own use or as an example of what you have done in the past. It’s not the type of stuff prospective clients read.

The best guide to use in preparing content for your site is to write just like you talk to prospective clients. Think about the stuff you tell new clients on a regular basis. Imagine yourself talking to a client, now just key your words into your computer. Dictating may make it easier as you just imagine the client is sitting there and talk into the machine. If it helps any, imagine a client asking a question and answer it. If you wish, answers to questions can be presented in FAQ’s format on your site.

Each time a new personal injury client came in, I ran through the same issues: liability, damages, source of collection, working up a claim, negotiating with insurers, commencing suit, how long things will take, the difficulties we can anticipate, continuing medical care, working with the people in my office, a contingency fee agreement, the benefits of having a lawyer etc. Along the way I answered similar questions time and again. Some days while talking with the client I’d be thinking about how many times I ran through this with folks and wondering if I was doing a particularly good job on that occasion. When it came time to doing a Web site, I just published this information.

Make sure your content is ‘consumer friendly.’ No legalese. Your audience is generally not lawyers. No “notwithstanding,” “thereby.” “therefore,” or “to the effect that.” This type of talk is the reason people hate lawyers. I can’t tell you many times people told me on the Internet they liked me because I talked like them. Average people did not expect lawyers to speak like average people do. That’s scary.
Talk like a real person. Try replacing:

  • “to the effect that” with “that”
  • “subsequent to” with “after”
  • “on the part of” with “by”
  • “notwithstanding” with “despite”
  • “the fact that” with “that”

If you need more help talking without legalese or to see how silly we must sound check out UCLA Professor Volokh’s Eradicate Legalese Page.

Do not cite to case law or other authority. Your site users want to know what the law is or what they can expect working with you. When was the last time a client asked you to cite authority when you old them the law? It just doesn’t happen. Do not cite authority on your Web site just to show you are a lawyer. Your site users already know that.
Write with empathy.Often people looking for legal help are upset, confused or emotional. Show them you are understanding, you care and have been there for people just like them. Don’t just tell them this like all the other lawyer sites. Show it in the way you speak on your Web site and with the information you provide. Do this no matter the type of client – whether a battered spouse or a an entrepeneur going through the headaches of getting ‘everything’ set up correctly.
Ask non lawyers to read the information on your site. See if they find it helpful and easy to understand. Ask what questions they still have. Staff, existing clients and their families are good guides. Plus you get your staff & clients into the process of creating something special for your firm.

Bottom line is to you use your common sense. Just like a trial lawyer tells her jurors not to leave their common sense at the front door when deliberating. Don’t loose your common sense or forget that you are still a ‘real person’ when publishing information on your blog or Web site.

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