This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.
On Saturday I shared with you this article and told you how important it is to write and publish for progressing in the legal profession quickly. If you are inspired to write more in the new year now, today I am going to share another amazing secret: how to produce amazing articles much faster than everyone else.
I may not be a practicing lawyer, but I am a very practiced writer. I write almost every day. I get very less time to write, and I have to really innovate to write good content quickly.
Also, I have to teach tons of people how to write articles. I have begun to take weekly classes for all the LawSikho students on popular demand. After all, they are required to write and publish an article every month while they are studying with us! I need to train them to write.
So let me share with you what I have been teaching so far.
In my first session, I covered the issues of audience and selection of topic. Choosing the right topic with a clear audience in mind is critical. I would also suggest that you should have an outcome on the mind. What would be the benefit of reading your article? How will it help the reader, who is from a specific target audience? What will they remember 48 hours after reading it, if asked about what is their take away from that article? Will it be impactful? What sort of impact are you aiming for?
There are a lot of things to figure out before you start writing the article. If you are going to spend 3 hours writing, it is advisable that you at least spend 30 mins thinking through such issues and making notes simultaneously.
However, once you have decided your topic, people make the biggest mistake at this stage. Even the very advanced writers often make this mistake, and it results in them writing boring, cliched, uninspired content that takes a lot of work but doesn’t get as much appreciation or readership.
I have written articles online that have been read lakhs of times, and I had to learn the hard way.
You don’t have to because I will show you what the pitfall is and how to avoid it right in this article.
The biggest pitfall is research. Most people, when they get a topic, start with a google search. The moment you do it, you have screwed up. Before you start googling or reading textbooks or any other research, there is a very important step. That is the framing of research questions.
If you start with that kind of research where you google and see what others have written already and then decide what you are going to write, then you have let yourself be influenced, not done any original thinking, shrunken the space for originality and creativity, and increased the chances of coming up with something run of the mill.
This is the biggest pitfall.
This is the step where most people mess up and end up writing average stuff.
After you have a topic if you do not start researching, then what do you do?
The answer is: spend some time thinking and coming up with questions that you may answer in your article. And come up with the most logical questions, unadulterated by research so far.
At this stage, you may think, as most people do: how can I frame questions without research?
Yes, you can. You are not used to. But once you start trying it will work like a charm.
Examples of how to do it
Here are some examples I used in yesterday’s class for my students. I asked them to give me a topic for us to come up with these questions and a skeleton structure.
The first one we took was “Should death penalty be abolished?”
I asked the students what basic questions we must answer in that article. We got a bunch of answers. When we wrote down and arranged those questions, without ever having to do a google search, we ended up with the following structure in less than 5 minutes of discussion:
Should death penalty be abolished in India
What offences are subject to death penalty in India?
What does Indian law say about death penalty?
How has the death penalty jurisprudence evolved in India through judicial pronouncements?
5 most important supreme court decisions regarding death penalty
What are the moral, legal or jurisprudential arguments in favour and against death penalty?
- Arguments in favour of death penalty
- Arguments against death penalty
- Alternatives to death penalty
Why not just life imprisonment?
Is death penalty a real deterrent?
What will be the consequence of abolition of death penalty?
- Experience of other countries which abolished death penalty
Now doing this initial groundwork ensures that you will be able to research and write this article rapidly. Just research each of those questions and answer. Those who do not follow this technique will never be able to match those who do in output or quality when it comes to article writing.
After we were done with these, some students said, “well, this was easy because we know about this topic, but what if it’s a topic we know nothing about?”
I told them to take a topic they do not know. This time we chose “consequences of inadequate due diligence in M&A transactions”. Great. We repeated the same exercise. Again, in another 5-7 minutes we ended up with the following structure:
Consequences of inadequate due diligence in M&A transactions
Why do we need due diligence in an M&A transaction
Where do people usually go wrong in doing due diligence
Examples of big due diligence disasters in M&A transactions and how they affected those transactions
What is the process of due diligence? What are the objectives?
When is it OK to have a limited scope due diligence?
What are the risks that due diligence protects us against?
How can we know if due diligence has been done properly and adequately?
What can be done if you discover that due diligence was inadequate? What is the solution?
Can the law firm or service provider be held responsible for conducting faulty due diligence?
What kind of terms to enter into with service provider to protect against bad due diligence?
Is it important to make sure that the service provider has a substantial malpractice/professional insurance?
How to select the right service provider/ law firm for due diligence?
After the 2nd exercise people started to grasp how this is done. Then I threw them a really wild one. I said we will now work on a topic we know nothing about and then we will come up with a skeleton structure, with zero googling.
The topic I said will be “How to set up a law firm in Uzbekistan”. Surely none of us had any clue about Uzbekistan, and certainly, we knew nothing about their legal system let alone how to set up a law firm there.
And nonetheless, again after brainstorming of 10 minutes, another amazing skeleton structure was ready.
How to set up a law firm in Uzbekistan
What qualifications do you need to practice law in Uzbekistan?
What are the laws that govern the law firms and practice of law in Uzbekistan?
Who can set up a law firm in Uzbekistan?
What are the major practice areas of law firms in Uzbekistan
Restrictions on foreign lawyers in practicing in Uzbekistan
- Do foreign lawyers need any local qualification?
- Can foreign lawyers participate in arbitrations in Uzbekistan?
- Is the culture or language a barrier to entry?
- Is there enough opportunity for foreign law firms in Uzbekistan?
Can accountants practice law in Uzbekistan
What would be the business form or structure of the law firm?
What are the different types of lawyers? Is there a distinction between solicitor and counsel?
Do big 4 have a presence in Uzbekistan?
What is the paperwork required to set up a law firm?
What are the major law firms already existing in Uzbekistan?
What is the law firm culture like in Uzbekistan?
What is the outlook for the Uzbek legal industry?
One warning to keep in mind though, remember that there are always more questions that can be asked. But remember that you are not trying to write an exhaustive book on the subject, just a 1500-2000 word long article most probably.
It is possible that once we begin to research some of these questions may turn out to be redundant. You may even feel the need to add certain questions. So before you freeze the skeleton structure, go ahead and read whatever else is available in the webverse. And that is absolutely fine.
Just don’t waste a ton of time reading content and thinking it is research. That brings to the 2nd biggest pitfall of writing articles.
Bonus: 2nd biggest mistake
That is spending a lot of time researching and not simultaneously writing. When you begin to write, it’s already too late, you face last-minute pressure, don’t get to do justice to the work etc. The same story repeats. I have heard it a million times. I faced it myself when I was in college.
So you will probably relate to what I am saying if you have been trying to write articles.
To beat that there is another easy way. The 10-minute rule. If you research for 10 minutes, then you must spend the immediate next 10 minutes writing whatever you can based on the research you just read.
Otherwise, you will spend days researching and reading thinking that you are being productive when in reality you are wasting time because when you begin to write you may remember precisely little of these things you read earlier and will in almost all probability read them again anyway.
So I told you about two big pitfalls people get into when they try to write articles.
Do start writing if you haven’t and see how your life and career jumps ahead. Consider joining our amazing online courses on law, regulations and business where you can learn fantastic skills every week. We make you write and publish one article every month, among many other benefits you will want to learn more about. Just visit the course pages and read the description, you will learn a lot even from that!