From the deeply moving to the pithy, legal history is full of great writing.  

That’s no surprise. Attorneys are known for being skilled communicators and the law is built out of and applied in language.

The law is also both complicated and consequential, meaning that clear, explanatory legal writing is in high demand. 

Content marketing, a marketing strategy that involves the creation and distribution of valuable content, is a natural fit for law firms.

A well-executed content marketing campaign can lead to:

  • Higher domain authority
  • More referral traffic
  • Decreased marketing costs
  • Higher search engine rankings

It can also help you build relationships with your audience, positioning you as a trusted authority in your field and a natural choice when your readers need to hire an attorney. 

So what is it? And how do you do it? Allow us to explain.

Why good content is important for law firms

We promise you: you’re reading a practical guide to getting your law firm the kind of content you need to increase revenue. 

But first, let’s briefly discuss why good content matters (and matters a lot) for law firms.

For lawyers, the need for good content goes beyond the need to be able to communicate what you do to your ideal audience.

Here’s why. Imagine one of your potential clients. She’s getting a divorce. She’s worried about losing her house, her dog, and half of her retirement. She’s never felt so unmoored in her life. 

She wants to feel confident in the attorney she chooses to trust with her future. If your content is incomplete, unclear, disorganized, or unconvincing, she’ll go looking elsewhere. 

In other words, for attorneys, persuasive content isn’t just about marketing—it also demonstrates one of the key skills for which your clients are hiring you.

What is good legal content marketing?

Good content, of course, is more than just a work sample. It should also function as a marketing tool. Thankfully, the requirements of both are similar. 

In a nutshell, aim for smart, clear, human content that demonstrates both an understanding of the law and empathy for the reader.

Let’s say that your prospective client wants to understand how custody laws affect travel with minor children:

New Jersey Statute 9:2-2 says…When the Superior Court has jurisdiction over the custody and maintenance of the minor children of parents divorced, separated or living separate, and such children are natives of this State, or have resided five years within its limits, they shall not be removed out of its jurisdiction against their own consent, if of suitable age to signify the same, nor while under that age without the consent of both parents, unless the court, upon cause shown, shall otherwise order. 

That’s a mouthful! (A 79-word sentence of a mouthful, to be exact).

It takes a long time to become experienced in the interpretation and application of the law (hence, law school).

But while your clients are looking for signs of your experience and skill, that doesn’t mean they’re looking for legalese. Confusing a potential client is a great way to send them running.

Your clients are looking for a fellow human who understands both the law and the challenges of their specific situation—somebody experienced and wise who can guide them through a difficult time using language that demonstrates an understanding of what they’re going through.

So how do you do that? Take a look at our revision here:

We say…Unless the court orders otherwise, New Jersey requires both co-parents to consent to any travel outside of the state involving a minor child.
Exceptions apply for individuals who have lived in New Jersey for less than five years—so if you moved here recently with a minor child, trips back home might not require your co-parent’s consent. 
For longtime residents, however, that annual Florida vacation now requires you to obtain permission from your co-parent, and failure to do so could result in legal trouble.

Content like this communicates a confident, working knowledge of both the law and the law’s potential effect on people. It speaks directly to the client’s potential challenges, which builds rapport and implies that client needs are central to this law firm’s approach.

Just as importantly, this content is free from technical or usage errors, keeps things interesting by varying sentence structure, and modulates tone to accommodate both professional polish and human warmth. 

There are endless variations of style to explore within these parameters (that’s where the voice and tone fun comes in), but in general, if your content communicates an understanding of the law, invites an emotional connection from the reader, and is technically perfect, you’re on your way.

How to pick content marketing topics for law firms

Now down to brass tacks. I’ve convinced you (hopefully) that having good content is critical for law firms, and we’ve also started to discuss what good legal content looks like.

Our next subject moves us from content into content marketing. This is the part where you make sure that your great legal content is doing what you want it to do: bringing in more (or more profitable) clients for your firm.

You probably want to know:

  1. What should I write about?
  2. What should I do with what I’ve written?

These, my friend, are the two foundational questions of content marketing. Let’s start with the what.

Using personas to build content pillars

In order to show empathy for your clients, you need to have a good understanding of who they are—including what they want, what they need, and what they fear. Once you know that, it makes it much easier to deliver content that’s going to help them. 

Whether or not you’ve formally built out personas before, you’ve probably at least thought about who your ideal clients are.

Personas are designed to help you develop a much more clear picture of your client base. They include basic demographic factors, as well details that take your audience from abstract to concrete. For example, our persona model includes  

  • Age
  • Income level 
  • Marital status
  • Brand preferences
  • Goals
  • Hobbies
  • Hopes
  • Fears
  • Sources of motivation 

At the end of the exercise, each persona should feel less like an abstract “audience” and more like a person you already know.

Content pillars

Once you have your personas built out, you’re positioned to begin thinking about the types of content your potential clients might be looking for, which is key because your goals are 1) to be found by your clients, and 2) to hold their attention by providing information of value. 

Enter the content pillar approach.

Content pillars are key areas of focus in your content strategy. Let’s say, for example, that I run a small animal veterinary clinic, and my personas suggest that my target clients are 

  1. Animal lovers
  2. Motivated to keep their dogs and cats healthy
  3. Worried about losing their pets to accident or illness. 

My content pillars might be dog health, cat health, pet ownership, animal welfare, and seasonal advice.

Once I’ve decided on my pillars, I can start to generate subjects for each pillar. Each of these subjects can then generate an almost endless amount of individual pieces. 

Check out this example:

PillarSubjectsSample Titles
Cat HealthCommon cat illnesses, key veterinary care for cats, cat behavioral issuesWhat You Need to Know about Feline LeukemiaIs It True That Male Cats Spray?An Easy Vaccination Calendar for Your New Kitty
Dog HealthCommon dog illnesses, key veterinary care for dogs, dog behavioral issuesPuppy’s First Trip to the Vet: What You Need to KnowAre Bark Collars Cruel?So Your Dog Has Heartworms. What’s Next?
Pet OwnershipAdopting a pet, pets and family, pet loss and grief, the pet-owner & veterinarian relationship Ten Signs You’re Ready for a PetBaby, Meet Pitbull: How to Manage a Smooth IntroductionFrom Lady and the Tramp to Homeward Bound: Ten Pet Movies to Watch with the Whole Family
Animal WelfareSpay and neuter, adoption, local pet food drives, adoption events and charities, volunteer opportunities Local Shelter Announces Annual Adoption EventDonate to These Charities to Help Puppies Find Forever HomesWhat It’s Really Like to Foster Dogs
Seasonal Advice and WarningsThings you should be worried about during different times of the year, proactive veterinary care for seasonal changes, fun things to do with your pet year-roundThe Three Vaccines Every Dog Needs Before SummerHow to Keep Your Pup’s Feet Warm All WinterGoing on Vacation? What Your Catsitter Needs to Know

See how it works? 

From only five pillars, this veterinarian got fifteen subjects, which can generate an infinite amount of potential topics. Even better, each topic is something that’s going to be of interest and relevant to at least one segment of this vet’s ideal audience. 

It’s far too easy to sit down at the computer and say, “I have no idea what to write about this month.” Set yourself up with a little strategy work on the front end, and your monthly content-creation task will be that much easier.

Creating your law firm’s editorial calendar

Now that you know what to write, the next question is what to do with the content you’ve written. We’ll start with timing.

Have you ever visited a site and noticed that the most recent blog is three years old? As a reader, it’s hard to know what this means. Have they gone out of business? Are they disorganized, or do they not follow through on their commitments? 

It’s possible that this firm is so busy that they’ve had to funnel marketing hours towards client services—but you can’t expect your potential clients to know that.

In other words, you’re much better off putting out a consistent amount of content (say, two blogs a month for ten years) than you are if you drop four articles a week for six months and stop. 

But lawyers are busy. It’s easy for you to look back and see that a few months have passed since you last posted to your blog. 

An editorial calendar is a tool that helps you plan your content so that your publication schedule remains consistent. It can also help you visualize your strategy, which makes it easier to make sure that you’re distributing content across your key service areas, rather than focusing on just one pillar.

Our editorial calendar template is available here—and there are plenty of other models out there to choose from too. The key thing is to be sure that you’re being strategic with the content and timing of your topics in a way that doesn’t place too much burden on your internal team, and planning ahead can help.

What’s next: a distribution plan for content that converts

From dialing in voice and tone for your brand to putting together your editorial calendar (not to mention actually creating the content), a lot goes into developing and initiating a content marketing strategy. 

And, for better and worse, creating beautiful, relevant written content is only half of the battle. You also need somewhere to put it, a plan to convert audience members to clients, and a method of tracking engagements so that you can continually refine and adjust your strategy. 

That doesn’t mean you should be intimidated. From strategy to creation to distribution, you have options to seek support from firms like ours—and because lawyers 1) are busy, and 2) can command a significant hourly for billable work, many firms choose to outsource their content marketing efforts entirely. 

If you do choose to go it entirely (or partially) alone, however, we’re still here to help! 

We’ll be back at you shortly with our thoughts on content distribution strategies, marketing funnels, and all things conversion-related. 

Questions? Drop us a line! 

If we haven’t answered your question here already, perhaps we’ll write a blog-form answer, just for you. That’s content marketing at its finest. 😉

Yours in marketing, 

The FocusWorks Team