Getting Published: Writing to Position Yourself as an Expert
We all know that attorneys are taught to think, speak, and write logically and analytically. But as an attorney, what if you could use your logical thinking and analytical skills learned from law school and perfected in practice to promote your firm, market your skills, and position yourself as an expert in your chosen field?
We’re talking about using your writing skills to get published. Publishing articles in well-known periodicals or a book for lay people or fellow attorneys can lead to public speaking engagements, conference panel participation, and especially additional clientele. All of which can help elevate you to the level of expert in your field.
Being a published author, even a self-published one, carries a certain amount of prestige. It also can help you reach your target market, promote the collective experience within your firm, and position yourself as a thought leader.
Writing a Book
Because the practice of law has changed dramatically in the past decade or so, an attorney’s approach to it must change as well. It’s not enough to simply count on referrals from colleagues to get by. You have to be a good attorney, a good marketer, and a savvy business owner in this competitive field. And a book is a great marketing piece for you and your firm. It’s the new business card for the 21st century.
Because you are an attorney, you should write a book. You are a highly educated professional, and your clients and others expect nothing less. A book is your way of standing out in a crowded sea of attorneys performing the same functions and practicing the same field of law.
If that doesn’t convince you, there are several business-related reasons why attorneys write books, and each of them relates to growth: (1) to move into a new and growing market; (2) to build authority in your niche; (3) to build and expand your practice; (4) to attract new clients for your services; or (5) to diversify your income.
Could you accomplish the same with a brochure or a list of FAQs on your website? Not really. Clearly, a book is nothing like a brochure, which is meant to be a concise description of the content typically found on a firm’s website. A book, however, allows you to express your legal expertise on a subject, share your opinion, and educate your audience. A book is FAQs on steroids!
Book Publishing Misconceptions
Many people, including attorneys, harbor misconceptions about publishing, so let’s dispel a few here:
#1 Legal books need to be hundreds of pages. No. The length of a book serving the legal community has changed. You do not need to write a 2,000-page tome to be taken seriously.
#2 I’ll make money off my book. Maybe, but mostly likely not. However, it’s more about the reach the book might have and the opportunities that could present themselves to you and your firm. It’s an investment.
#3 I can’t practice and write a book. Yes, you can. You simply need to commit to the task and start by developing an outline. Alternatives to writing involve recording your thoughts and having them transcribed, or hiring a writer to pull the information out of you and then massage it into a book.
Writing for Periodicals
No matter how you approach it, writing for promotional purposes is a long-distance run and not a sprint to the “more clientele” finish line.
To that end, some lawyers may feel more comfortable devoting time to writing articles for magazines and websites because they don’t demand the same time commitment as a book. Many articles run between 500 and 1,500 words, a more surmountable challenge for many.
The real challenge is to get your article idea in front of the right person at the right periodical so that your article gets read by the right potential client base. Follow these steps:
Google the publications you’re interested in and check the website for its circulation and demographics.
Locate the executive or managing editor’s name and contact information.
Prepare and submit your article pitch—a summary of the article you’d like to write for the publication.
Find five to 10 publications that meet your needs. Many of these periodicals are constantly looking for submissions and fresh content to fill their pages, especially when they publish on a daily or weekly basis.
If you are seeking a legal audience, contact your local bar or specialty bar associations. For a national legal audience, there are news sites such as Lawyerist, Above the Law, Attorney at Work, and Nolo. For a non-legal audience, try periodicals that are community based. Look closer at the ones that are delivered for free to your door or in your mailbox regularly.