I am a casual blogger, and perhaps that’s why my law firm ropes me into updating the blog. But that doesn’t seem fair given there are plenty of freelance writers here who can tackle legal developments and write about them without a law degree.
As I wrap up what I hope will be my final contribution to my firm’s law blog, I hope you get the contract. Because the firm used $50,000 of my billable time getting me to write a dozen or so articles and I think you could do a better job.
Get your foot in the door
Law firms are just lawyers. And lawyers are people that often hate their jobs, hate their clients, and would rather do anything other than billable work.
But if a lawyer met a non-lawyer, they would never admit this. Because their rates depend on the mystique of authority. And lawyers never know who to trust. You might be a scout for the competition, so why let you inside?
So cold calling and pitching some blog articles — that might work — but it’s not a good use of your time. But what you could do is meet them for coffee, or in the virtual meeting era, send them a spec article based on their area of practice.
You’re going to have to meet them at a happy hour
Lawyers still drink a lot, an unhealthy amount, because they’re constantly stressed, paranoid, and secretly hate their jobs. They like hanging out with people who either completely understand what they do and can accept it, or people who have no idea and are just fun to be around. You won’t understand everything about the law, but you do know it sucks to have to find work and you know everyone needs to let off steam.
As I said before, you’ll have to send them a sample of your work. And you’ll have to explain how a steady stream of your work can help with organic search rankings, help with getting media interviews, and other sources of leads.
But this works best when lawyers are done with work. Maybe you’ll set an appointment with them and ship them the drinks. Or meet them in their driveway. Whatever it is you do, find a safe space and a social ritual to incorporate your business.
Networking vs. Closing
Lawyers know you’re going to sell them, but your happy hour with them isn’t the time to close. It’s where you establish your credibility and the lawyer decides to look up your other work. So now is the time to have a good website, and your own articles explaining how lawyer marketing works. You will be establishing your own authority through your written prose. And it’s very important that your own website and copy is free from errors because lawyers are nitpicky and hate to be embarrassed in writing.
Lawyers aren’t brand new to marketing and they’ll want to test you out. You could bill by the hour or offer a package. Regardless of your offer, think of how lawyers justify their rates and speak in terms they understand. Lawyers frequently pitch $300/hr rates to broke school teachers to help handle divorces. Not because they can afford it, but because they can’t afford not to pay it.
Your $150/hr fee is not just for writing their articles, but to solve their online marketing woes. Unlike other people that just write articles, you need to know a little bit of everything. How SEO works and what your strategy is for their firm. Similarly, where they should be spending their ads on social media. And a plan for creating video content spinning off some of your written work. You may not have all the skills to be a full service marketing or ad agency, but like lawyers, you’re in the problem solving business.
You don’t need to write technical articles
One reason freelancers avoid professions is the concern they are giving advice that subjects them to state regulations. Don’t let technical knowledge be an excuse.You’ll be surprised that many people just want to know the law as it stands, without specifics to their situation, and you can answer that without a law degree.
Reporters write about legal developments all the time. Besides, your firm wants those complicated questions to enter their funnel. Lawyers that write in depth treatises on their blogs about a specific area of the law are not doing that for marketing — or rather — it’s a waste of their time because no one reads those articles. They write articles for the bar journal and law reviews, but that’s not something they usually outsource to a freelancer, except to edit their writing in some instances.
You don’t have to guarantee anything
Lawyers don’t guarantee results and neither should you. But lawyers are pretty good at figuring out the core issues, offering options to solve the problems with possible outcomes and costs, and fighting like hell once a course is set. If a family law attorney’s client ends up in jail — they’re not going to abandon that client, but they may refer and help the client retain criminal counsel.
Likewise, you need to have your own network of people in place to provide full service to firms. You need a vision, a plan, and resources in place.
Building a base of clients
You’re not going to start off charging $150 an hour, just like new lawyers don’t get paid big money unless they have coveted credentials (ex. Harvard Law Degree). But you can charge a reduced rate to build your portfolio. What you really want to do is target those lawyers that have a connection to the lawyers you really want to write for. So if you want to land an account at a well respected mid-size firm, find people who worked there before. That could be through a Linkedin, a bar association profile, or even lawyer profiles. Facebook groups for law school alumni are also a great resource.