Words to Write By: Practice Group Descriptions

No one ever hired a law firm solely because of the practice group description, but a poor description can drive a prospective client away. That was the focus of a recent writing webinar hosted by the Legal Marketing Association’s PR SIG and led by John Byrne, an experienced law firm marketing professional at Glencoe Media Group, Inc.

John emphasized that excellent practice group descriptions are not lead generators but another key point of contact between a law firm and a prospective client who may already knows about the firm. Accordingly, before sitting down to write, it is important to think about: Who is the audience for these words going to be? Will it be a group of in-house lawyers, or possibly a set of non-lawyers? And then write accordingly.

John encouraged professionals to interview attorneys before starting the writing process. Ask them why they think clients hire them. All this is part of the information-gathering process that you should undertake before you write a word.

Other writing advice:

  • Put yourself in the shoes of the client and write what you think the client wants to read.
  • Stay away from clichĂ©s about how your firm is the most experienced in its field, has the best lawyers, or has the deepest bench. But do try to explain how your firm differs from its peers. Is it in the way in which the firm begins its research and its work on the case?
  • You don’t need to write for SEO (search engine optimization) in as blatant a way as some think. Simply use your key words frequently but naturally. If you write solely for SEO, you may end up with a “word salad” that reads poorly and satisfies no objective of the firm. Instead, John said, be informative, engaging and original. We don’t fully know what qualities Google places first in determining the order of search results, but these qualities are surely among them.
  • There are several ways to begin a practice group description that are all intended to do the same thing – emphasize a firm’s strengths and successes.
  • John prefers the “narrative/anecdotal” opening, since he is a strong believer in storytelling as a technique of writing. The “narrative/anecdotal” opening uses the format, “When bad things happen to good clients, they call us.”

Finally, John encouraged professionals to write like a marketer, not like a lawyer, and to leave the scholarly prose to the law reviews.

Check the LMA PR SIG page to listen to John’s full webinar or to learn more about future writing programs.