Better Law Firm Copy, Part 1: You Need a Voice
Recently I talked about bad web copy on law firm websites. Bad copy causes two problems: it loses potential clients and it hurts SEO. The better written your website is, the more engaging it is to future clients, and the more valuable it becomes in the eyes of Google.
So what does good copy look like, and how do you write it? Today is the beginning of a three part series dedicated to answering that question. And the first, most important step is developing your firm’s voice—and making sure you project that voice in everything you write.
The “voice” of your law firm is the tone and personality that comes through your copy. Every piece of good writing has a voice, whether you know it or not. (It’s the reason a Hemingway story sounds different than a Bukowski story.) Sales pages and websites can have voices, too, and it’s one of the biggest things that keeps people reading. Why? Because people want to talk to people, not firms. A firm sounds big and intimidating, but a person can be an advocate and guide them through a painful time. Your voice makes your law firm more personal.
Having a voice doesn’t mean you have to be Lowell the Hammer Stanley. Your voice can be professional, calm, strong and reserved, if that’s what suits your practice. But no matter what voice you choose, having a strong one makes your firm stand out.
You can see the difference yourself. Here’s some copy without a voice:
The Boston personal injury lawyers of Reynolds & Zachmeier, LLP, are dedicated to vigorously defending the rights and interests of those who have been hurt due to the recklessness or negligence of another party, and the firm consistently achieves the top results for accident victims.
And here’s copy with a voice:
At Reynolds & Zachmeier, we believe in defending the little guy. Our lawyers dedicate themselves to understanding your injury and working with you to build the strongest case possible. The result? We routinely achieve some of the biggest verdicts in the Boston area.
Both blurbs give essentially the same information. But if the first blurb has any voice, it’s a dry one. It’s also one long sentence with commas, and’s and or’s, which isn’t how real people talk (even lawyers). The second blurb, on the other hand, speaks directly to the client, as if the firm and the client are having a conversation. It uses short sentences, plain language and most of all it focuses on how the firm and the client are going to work together. In other words, it has a personality.
How to Find Your Voice
Writing with a voice is easier than it sounds. To find the voice of your law firm, you have to know your top value.
Generally, a business’s top value reflects what it promises to do for the customer—and not every law firm promises the same thing. There are firms that promise they’ll listen to the client, and those that promise they’ll be tough as nails. Some promise experience and specialized knowledge that other firms lack. These are different values, and that’s where your voice comes from. Every firm is out to win cases, but every firm promises something else beyond that. That “something else” is where your voice arises.
Most of us want to say we do it all. You might want to be the firm that listens to clients and is tough as nails and has the most knowledge and experience. And those are all good talking points—you should definitely showcase all three of those traits wherever you can. But only one can be your top value. That is the essence of who your law firm is. It’s what your firm founder knew they could do better than other firms when they set out to create their practice.
The firm that chooses one value to prioritize has a unifying theme that runs through everything they write. Suddenly they look different from other firms, and they seem more real to potential clients. Meanwhile, the firm that tries to claim they do it all is going to end up sounding bland and lack personality. It’s good to have a set of five key values somewhere on your “About the Firm” page. But it’s impossible to weave all five into everything you say about every topic. So choose one.
At EverSpark Interactive, I’ve seen several of our clients do this extraordinarily well. One DUI defense firm decided they were going to showcase their smarts. Their founder trains other lawyers on DUI defense. He’s a board certified expert and he can take apart and rebuild a breathalyzer. This guy doesn’t need to talk about how he always returns client calls the same day, because he’s one of the best DUI defense lawyers in the country. So his voice comes from his expertise. A lot of his copy focuses on explaining the DUI defense process to clients.
Another firm asked us to write their website with one thing in mind: client service. The attorney is charismatic and easy to talk to, and he wants you to know that he won’t brush you off. He’ll talk to you like an equal, even if you don’t have half the education that he does. A construction worker can sit down for lunch with him and feel at home. So that’s where his voice comes from, from really listening to people and respecting them. As a result, he often gets new clients who are fed up with their old lawyer and switch to him halfway through a case.
By now you’re starting to get the picture. Every lawyer should be experienced, smart and capable, but each attorney or firm offers something a little unique as well. If you can dive into that unique quality—that thing you do better than other firms—you have the basis of your voice. All you have to do is come back to that value over and over in your writing and you’re going to stand out.
Keeping it Consistent
It won’t always be easy to make every page reflect your voice. But once you have that core value, there are several writing strategies you can use to help bring it through:
- Write more pages in first/second person. “Our firm will help you ___” is more personal than “The XYZ firm helps clients ___.” This conversational tone may not be appropriate on every page, but the more you can use it, the closer your draw your reader.
- Once you have one or two pages written in your firm’s voice, return to them often. Read through them before you write a new page or blog post, and the same voice will naturally shine through your writing.
- Write at an 8th grade reading level. This is much simpler language than most legal writing. It’s also the way most people speak most of the time, meaning it’s not just easier to follow, it’s more natural.
- Put all blog posts under one author name, and write them in the first person. Posts that come from an individual (such as the founding partner) are more engaging than those written in business neutral.
- Make sure anyone writing content for your site knows that you have a particular voice you’re aiming for. You don’t need to create a style guide, but point your writer to several of your best pages that really exemplify the voice, and ask them to keep the tone similar. If they can’t do it, get a different writer.
Just like litigation, writing is a difficult skill that’s mastered through experience and practice. It’s entirely possible for an attorney to write strong copy that speaks to people—but it’s a different skill set than writing a good brief. For more tips on how to make your law firm copy stronger, stay tuned for Part 2 next time. Or, to have our professional copywriters make your website sing, call EverSpark Interactive for a free consultation today.