Lawyer Communication 101

 In Georgia State Bar Grievances

How to simplify your message so your audience will actually read (and understand) it.

In a recent meeting with my marketing firm, PracticeProfs, we were discussing the growth of my blog readership. Fortunately, folks are interested in the topics, and attorneys like you now visit my blog more often than my homepage. The data shows that readers are interested in finding answers and tips rather than an overview of the firm. Website visitors are staying longer, viewing more pages, and then calling to follow up. I certainly feel honored. Thank you.

During our meeting, we also looked at some other law firm websites. As I viewed their prospect- and client-focused content, I was surprised at (but interested in) what I saw:

  • Homepages with over 1,500 words, three times this article length.
  • Text, text, and more text, with no summaries, breaks, or bullets. Better than Ambien.
  • Highly technical details and footnotes that would make a 3rd year law student jealous.

From tell to teach, from sell to solve

communicationAs lawyers, we have extensive legal educations and years of experience. We have a lot of knowledge to share and we want to tell everyone everything in our emails, articles, blogs, and even conversations. Unfortunately, our audience (clients, prospective clients, peers, etc.) doesn’t necessarily want to hear all of that, and it can cause information overload. We need to educate, advise, and connect – not tell.

Here are 5 practical tips to improve your written communications, although they apply to verbal communication as well:

  • Keep it short and sweet. The “KISS” principle lives! Grab the reader’s attention in 5 seconds, and you’ll keep it for 5 paragraphs. If you have more to say, narrow your focus or link to more detail.
  • Write to the three types of readers. Some readers will just scan the headlines, others will look at the bullets, and a few will actually read the content. Make sure you accommodate all three types.
  • Make your bullets… bullets. They are supposed to convey snippets of information. Too much text or too many bullets are actually more difficult to read than paragraphs.
  • Proof your work. Clients pay you to sweat the details, so typos and grammatical errors are not acceptable. Accidents will happen, but don’t blame your secretary or paralegal.
  • Don’t forget the mobile audience. There is a 25% chance that your message will be read on a smart phone. Formatting and brevity are critical, or the reader will move to the next message.

Pretend you’re the reader

How long will you pay attention to this article before your eyes gloss over? Your clients probably have a similar attention span (or less), so make sure you would read what you write. Have your spouse or other non-lawyer read your message.

Simplify your message and your audience will be more likely to connect, engage, respond, and retain. You’ll also make judges and juries very happy…

Douglas Chandler

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