How to Give the Right Instructions to a Legal Copywriter

How to Give the Right Instructions to a Legal Copywriter

Have you recently hired someone to write copy or blog content for the purposes of search engine optimization for your law firm? Many of the most common breakdowns between clients and freelancers, who serve in this capacity, have to do with instructions.

As an attorney, relying on someone who has expertise in this field, such as a legal SEO writer who has been working with attorneys and law firms for many years can help to bridge the gap and minimize the chances of confusion over instructions. The better instructions you can provide to a freelancer, the more likely it is that the final copy will require fewer revisions and be exactly what you need. What follows are some guidelines for giving instructions to a legal copywriter.

Explain What You Do and Don’t Want

One of the most effective ways to give instructions to a freelancer is to explain what you are looking for as well as what you are not. If you have examples of other law firm websites that do not resonate with the tone, voice or overall style you'd like to see on your own blog, provide this information to the copywriter at the outset of the relationship. I often ask my clients, when I am blogging for them, if there are any topics that are off limits.

For example, plenty of personal injury attorneys practice in the realm of accidents only and don’t want me to write about medical malpractice news or defective products. Having this information upfront is helpful because it means that I don’t waste my time researching and suggesting blog topics or blog pieces that are not in line with their core practice areas. Understanding what someone is looking for as well as what they aren’t looking for drastically decreases the time you have to go back and forth having conversations about the copy itself.

Certain attorneys have aversions to particular words or because of their state bar rules, cannot use particular words. For example, most attorneys know that the word "specialize" or "expertise" does not work well in legal content or may not even be allowed as established directly by the state bar. Other attorneys know that the subtle nuances of the state bar's requirements such as anything that appears to be too promotional could get them in trouble. Understanding this information upfront and providing it to a legal copywriter, not only decreases the chances of revisions, but ensures that you minimize the risk of facing complaints lodged with your state bar. This is particularly important for attorneys in practice areas that are extremely competitive for which your competitors might be watching on your website for potential violations.

Don’t Provide Too Many Details

Occasionally, I have seen prospective clients for legal copywriting come to me and present documents of over 15 pages with instructions of what to do and not do when writing their legal blogs. If you are working with a freelancer on a very small project, such as a 500-word blog that you intend to request once per month, there is not enough work here for the freelancer to have to sort through 15 pages of materials that have excessive instructions.

Sometimes writers like me will turn down these projects because the writing becomes less creative and more formulaic. I have had clients who have detailed down to the exact number of characters they expect to see in sub headers. This can be more of a hassle than it is worth. So, know that if you have too strict instructions, that freelancers are unlikely to comply with it just because you appear to be too difficult.

Provide Examples of What You Would Like to See

Giving direct examples of what you would like to see, such as titles of prospective blogs, practice areas you intend to grow in the next couple of months, and successful pages that are already on your website, give a legal copywriter a jump start in terms of figuring out where to go from there.

For one of my long-term retainer SEO legal writing clients, I ran a report to figure out the 10 highest performing blogs on their website and then created related content that we could link to from that primary blog. It was clear that people were already interested in those 10 highest performing pages. So, coming up with related content that answered similar questions and concerns was extremely helpful and allowed the law firm to propel their rankings for those additional keywords as well.

Provide the Freelancer the Opportunity to Ask Questions

Not all savvy legal SEO writers or legal copywriters will know that it is just as important for them to ask questions of you as it is for you to ask questions of them. At the outset of the relationship, provide the freelancer an opportunity to ask questions or to give feedback.

Unless you are an internet marketing expert, be open to the fact that a knowledgeable legal copywriter who has been working in this field for years might have more knowledge than you do. Some of the common ways that a copywriter might know better than you include issues like social media, how long pieces should be, or how often keywords should appear in the document. You might be hiring a legal copywriter primarily because you can rely on their expertise, so give them the opportunity to live up to their reputation at this point in time.

Provide Bare Minimums

The contract or statement of work with a legal writer or freelancer should include the bare minimums. When it comes to legal writing, for example, you will want to clarify whether or not you need citations listed, photos included, the overall length of the piece and how the piece should be delivered.

Clarifying this information upfront makes it a lot easier for the freelancer to turn in their work on time and cuts down on your back and forth. As a busy attorney, you should not be involved in any project where you have consistent email chains or phone calls going back and forth with the freelancer over instruction related questions. Get these details outlined in your instructional document, so they know what to do and then verify that the established guidelines you have created work well for them. Working with a legal copywriter should be an easy experience and one that cuts down on your time while also producing top notch copy for your website.

Ready to start working with a legal copywriter for your law firm? Contact us today.