Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” If you ask me though, I would say that words are the most powerful weapon used in marketing.
Marketing is a great tool you should learn more about if you want to be rich or influence people. Lawyers need to master marketing, at least until they make it big in the profession if they want to grow their revenues and their influence.
Lawyers are not allowed to advertise or solicit, in India and many other countries around the world. And that is why, learning to write article, which enables lawyers to disseminate information to the masses or educate their potential client base is so important.
It is permissible for lawyers to create educational or scholarly content. It is 100% legitimate and legal activity and it can really help you to create a track record in a certain practice area, get noticed by potential clients and other lawyers, as well as build up a brand for themselves.
That’s the reason why we ask our students to focus so much on article writing as a part of their learning process. We have lots of article writing training sessions as well as minimum 1 article a month target for students of our premium courses.
Also, regular writing on legal topics will help you to develop a better understanding of the law.
However, it has been our experience that while writing sounds like an easy endeavour, it is not so… when you finally sit down in front of your computer.
The words seem to elude you and even if they do come to you, it’s always in a random and haphazard way. You end up writing, erasing and rewriting…rinse and repeat.
In this article, I want to talk about this. What really stops you from writing a legal article? The challenges that you face and how to solve them once and forever.
But first things first…
Legal writing vs legal article writing
Legal writing is not the same as legal article writing. Legal writing is drafting legal documents that are usually filed and argued in court.
As per the Harvard Law School website, “Legal writing refers generally to the analysis of fact patterns and presentation of arguments in legal memos and briefs.” The bail petition, the written statement, the affidavit, the notice…every one of these requires top-notch legal drafting skills.
But that’s not the same as writing an essay on “seat of arbitration vs place of arbitration”.
This is not going to be used in the court but you have to conduct research and put together a solid argument in favour or against a hypothesis, or perhaps, a critical analysis of the merit of a case study. You need to write something that your audience will appreciate and want to save for future reference, and maybe forward to their peers and friends.
Both are different in their scope. Both require different skills and approaches. However, a solid understanding of Indian laws is required in either case. And the ability to “think like a lawyer” (I will explain this in a later email.)
Now that you fathom the difference between these two types of writing, let’s proceed to the challenges faced while you are writing a legal article.
What should I write on?
The first problem is, always choosing the right topic. Many of the law students and lawyers, when they decide to write a legal research article, get stuck at this stage. What should they be writing on? Nothing seems to be important enough.
Even if they find a topic that seems worth writing about, it has already been covered in a journal or a blog.
Okay, there are two solutions to this. Keep reading as much as you can. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, whatever you can get your hands on. It can also be in other non-legal industries like health, finance and technology. The more you read, the more ideas you will generate, provided you are thinking about potential topics.
Secondly, do know that even if a certain topic is already covered in a blog or a journal, it does not mean that you cannot write on it again. All you have to do is find a unique angle or add in further information to the article.
Your only concern is to be useful and relevant to your audience, not to be unique. If you add value to your readers, you are good.
I am not good at research
Even if you choose your topic, you may have the objection that you are not adept at researching facts and materials. And tell you what, I don’t agree with it.
In most cases, good research depends on enhanced thinking ability. The research essentially starts with creatively thinking about different aspects of the topic and coming up with relevant questions revolving around it.
This is the reason why we always focus on creating an outline of the article first. The biggest mistake while writing a legal article is starting right away without a plan. You cannot start to research without a plan either.
An outline that lists the most important points to be covered in the article not only helps you ensure a seamless flow but also maintains cogency and coherency overall.
Not enough material, now what?
Ever faced this issue where you come up with a unique topic that’s not covered anywhere else, and when you start writing on it, the real problem sets in—that there is nothing written on it till date?!
If there is nothing written on it, what the heck are you going to write on it?
Let’s debunk the myth first. Writing is not about copying and pasting information from multiple websites. Writing is about expressing a new thought or idea, it’s about new research and a new conclusion. Writing is not about repeating what someone has already said.
Now that you know you have to “create” something every time you set down to pen something, the right way to tackle this problem is to break down the topic into minute parts.
The bigger topic into multiple sub-topics… the sub-topics into further sub-sub-topics…and so on.
You need to keep doing this ultimately you get to where you can get information on it, online or offline. Google is not a know-it-all entity, you know. It only knows what stays online. For the offline stuff, you might have to frequent the local library.
Sometimes even that is not going to work, and you need to speak to people instead. You need to pick up the phone and talk to people in that case.
You can also reach out to subject matter experts if you want to. You can use HARO or simply get on LinkedIn and post your question. The best way to reach experts is to visit where they visit. For example, if you are reaching out to CEOs, LinkedIn is the right platform for you.
If nothing works, you might have to use a little common sense and knowledge of the subject matter to make sensible conclusions. Don’t go overboard though, and most importantly, keep away from making any rash and drastic judgments.
This matters a lot in the legal industry.
More is less and less is more
This is the opposite of the point above. I have seen that when someone finds a LOT of subject material during the research phase, they tend to include EVERYTHING inside the article. Oops, a big mistake!
Imagine you are cooking something. Just because you have a bucket of garam masala seated in front of you, it does not mean that you have to put all of it into your tarka. To make it taste the way it should be, you need to put as much as is needed. No more and no less.
When you are writing a legal article, you must always have the end goal in mind. What are you trying to drive at? What is your big idea? What’s your ultimate conclusion? Every word, every sentence and every paragraph works together to enforce this idea…and if any word or sentence does not serve its purpose, it does not belong in your piece.
No compromise. When Willam Faulker said, “kill your darlings”, he must have been thinking along these lines.
Where do I publish?
Okay, so you have already written the article. All well and good.
But where do you publish it? The first choice is always to publish in the popular legal journals. However, they usually publish their issues on well-defined themes and even if your article is of extremely high quality but does not conform to the specified theme, your article might be rejected.
Starting your own blog rarely works, because it takes ages to get any traffic or to start ranking on Google. You can do that only if you are very serious about continuing to write a big volume of articles over the years, in which case it may be a good investment. But for most, it makes sense to find a well known website with thousands of articles and a big audience to publish.
If nothing else works, just create an account on Medium.com and start publishing your articles for free. However, potential clients and peers will always prefer to read articles from trusted websites and have higher respect for an article that has probably gone through an editorial process.
For this same reason, it is always a great idea to try and publish through a newspaper or online news website that is well recognized.
My English is not good
Last but not least, many of you also say that you are rather weak in English and that acts as an impediment to writing legal articles. True, indeed.
If you are writing an article in English and you do not have command over the language, it will become extremely difficult to convey your thoughts and ideas in a clear, concise way. Weak vocabulary, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and confusing sentence syntax can wreck an otherwise great article.
If you are facing this issue, you can check out our new course on English communication for lawyers. This course is specially created to improve your written and spoken communication skills in English for you to start communicating effectively within a few months.
Not only while writing your article but this course can also help you draft better in English, plead better in English and listen better to your clients’ problems.
These are the most common issues that you will encounter while writing a legal article. Now that you have the answers to your problems, you can start on your next article without hesitation.
If you still need help from our side, you can always get in touch with us. Give us a call on 011 4084 5203 and ask for a writing expert. You can also comment below with a message, “I want to write better articles.” Our writing experts will get back to you shortly.
But first, I want you to give it a try…the way I advised in this article.
To your success.
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