As specialists in media training for law firms, we help partners and other spokespeople to do media interviews in a way that raises the profile of the firm and positions partners as experts in their field. Why should lawyers engage with the media? Well, the most important reason is that helps them to generate new business.
The goal of bringing in new work and instructions has also led us to help paralegals create content. We’re finding that our business writing courses for paralegals and our content creation workshops for law firms are increasingly popular.
What does business writing training for law firms entail? We work with paralegals and their colleagues to help them to create great content quickly and easily. Here are some brief but essential tips from our business writing workshops for law firms.
1. How to identify content subjects.
It’s essential to find something topical and relevant to your audience – and then think about a new and unique angle. Are you providing advice? Or a warning? Are you recommending that your readers take action as a result of the issue that you’re writing about? How can you frighten your audience just enough to make them sit up and pay attention while also reassuring them and demonstrating your knowledge and experience?
All of our media trainers and business writing trainers are working journalists operating under strict NDAs, and this means that they know what makes a media story and what will appeal to target audiences. Every day, thousands of events take place, but only a few will be reported in conventional and social media, and even fewer of those will become the subject of conversations among colleagues and clients.
Our trainers help paralegals and others to identify good subjects for blogs and other content. According to the University of California–San Diego, we consume about 100,000 words daily, the same as reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. In our workshops, we talk about what is topical and relevant to the target audience, and we look at what else will give a story “legs,” in other words, help it cut through the mass of information we receive every day.
2. Structuring the content.
Once we’ve looked at what makes great content and advised on finding ideas for blogs and other pieces, we provide the paralegals and others on our business writing courses for law firms with tips and techniques for structuring their output. Lawyers often start at the beginning with their writing – for journalists, it’s the opposite.
“With so much information we often don’t know where to start writing,” one paralegal told us recently. But by providing her and her colleagues with different structures and templates that can grab the attention of the audience and keep them reading (clue: don’t start at the start, start at the interesting bit), we can help bust writer’s block and ensure that the final product has a logical and engaging structure.
3. Getting the style right.
Our business writing trainers are unashamed stylists passionate about words and good writing. This means they take great interest in how ideas are expressed, and messages are communicated. They offer advice on the words and phrases that are appropriate to audiences and will, therefore, engage them and retain their interest. Instead of talking about “companies” or “directors”, for instance, talk about “you” and “we”. The first and second person are more natural, direct and conversational.
Our trainers are familiar with the little psychological tips and techniques that help to persuade audiences. For example, rather than verbs, in some cases, nouns work better. Research shows that if you want to persuade people to vote, for instance, don’t ask them to vote, ask them to “be a voter,” and they’re up to 17 per cent more likely to do so.
4. Adding extra detail.
As professional writers and journalists, the trainers on our business writing courses for law firms are used to pulling information together quickly and telling a story. In our workshops, we explore what else paralegals and other writers can add to their articles and blogs. Are there surveys you could refer to? Can you include quotes from academics and other experts alongside your firm’s insights and expertise? How can you introduce storytelling and case studies without compromising client confidentiality? We also look at opportunities and break out boxes for “pull quotes” and infographics – all these extra elements can help improve communication and attract audiences.
5. Editing quickly and effectively.
We know that many paralegals edit articles written by partners – and we also know that this can be a complex and time-consuming process. “By the time we’d edited it, the subject wasn’t really topical anymore, and so it was pretty irrelevant,” one paralegal said sadly.
One tip for editing is to start at the top level and then work your way down. In other words, don’t start editing words and sentences right away. Start with the big picture – does this piece of writing hang together? Is its argument clear and understandable? If not, you’ll need to sort this out before you come to a “line edit.”
The next stage is to look at structure – even if you understand the argument the piece is making, does it make that argument logical? Does it flow and take you through the points step by step? Only when you’re happy with that should you start looking at editing the sentences and individual words.
Media Training for Law Firms
We also help paralegals and others in law firms head off editing nightmares by providing advice on commissioning articles from partners and others and managing conversations about content ideation.