Your Blog Is a Personality Snapshot

If you work in a service-based industry like law, one of the things that sets you apart from your competition is you – your personality and demeanor. Make sure that personality shines through in your blog so potential clients get a glimpse of what to expect.

One of the best uses of an initial consultation in the legal world is for lawyer and client to get to know each other’s personality. Is the attorney a bulldog or a conciliator? Is the client practical or emotional? Do they get along?

As a blogging lawyer, you can help facilitate this investigation and weed out clients that are looking for a different personality just by letting your style shine through in your articles. A good blog is conversational in tone, but for many lawyers there is an urge to sound professional or aggressive, even when you are writing to an Internet audience.

But if your bark is worse than your bite, it could bring in the wrong kind of clients. Your aggressive blog will attract people looking for a fight. If in person, you prefer an easygoing approach you could find yourself wasting your time on potential clients that are looking for something you would rather not provide.

You will be far better off resisting the urge to put on a mask in your writing. Instead, write from what you know to convey your natural personality in your work. If you are a tough litigator, let your blog focus on your successes in court and your strong argument skills. If you are a laid back negotiator, focus on tactics to minimize stress in the litigation process and your ability to get the other side to compromise.

By allowing your blog to showcase your real personality you will attract clients of like minds. You will spend less time with potential clients who are mismatched to your style and spend more time building rapport with people who are more likely to sign your retainer agreement. If you need help creating a blog to feature your personality, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt with Legal Linguist.

Michigan Supreme Court Releases New Citation Rules

This month the Michigan Supreme Court issued a new set of citation rules called the Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual. These standards apply to judges opinions and to lawyers’ briefs alike. While there aren’t too many changes from the previous standard of legal citation, the manual does have some useful suggestions:

Short-Form Citations

You only have to provide the full citation to a case once (such as Hays v Lutheran Social Servs of Mich, 300 Mich App 54, 56-59; 832 NW2d 433 (2013)). After that you can use a short-form citation (Hays, 300 Mich App at 59). If you haven’t referred to any cases in between, or if the sentence makes clear which case you are referring to, you can also use Id. (Id. at 60), but only for cases, not statutes.

String Citations

If you are tempted to string together multiple sources to prove your point, the Court says don’t. String citations “disrupt the flow of the text and burden readers.” Cooney, Stringing Readers Along, 85 Mich B J 44 (Dec 2006).

Long Case Names

If you are citing a case which has a name that goes on for days you can abbreviate it as long as what you end up with still allows the reader to identify the case. For example:

Original: Trout Unlimited Muskegon – White River Chapter v City of White
Cloud, 195 Mich App 343; 489 NW2d 188 (1992).
Shortened: Trout Unlimited v White Cloud, 195 Mich App 343; 489 NW2d 188 (1992).

Unavailable Citations

The Court provided a format to use if you are quoting a case so new it hasn’t been published yet: Bev Smith, Inc v Atwell, ___ Mich App ___, ___; ___ NW2d ___ (2013) (Docket No. 308761); slip op at 3.

Statutory Ranges

If you are citing a range of statutes, repeat the “MCL” before the end of the range: MCL 769.1 through MCL 769.36.

Capitalizing Statutes

If the act contains a short title, capitalize the first letter of each substantive word, and do not include the year of enactment. Sponsors should be eliminated (i.e. the Civil Rights Act rather than the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act). The word “Michigan” should be used when part of the short title or when distinguishing a Michigan law from another jurisdiction’s statute with the same title. If an act does not have an official title, the short title should not be capitalized (i.e. the no fault act).

Legal Teatises

If a legal treatise has more than 3 authors, keep the first name and then add “et al.” Once you cite the treatise in full once, you can refer to it by the author’s name in a short-form citation.

Internet Materials

Because the Reporter’s Office creates an archive of Internet materials cited in published opinions, judges will avoid quoting any website that requires a subscription or with video. The inability to view these materials later can undermine their precedential value, so use alternative sources when you can.

Legal citation may seem very boring to the average practitioner. But being up to date on the latest formatting and citation rules will help your briefs look professional and persuasive to clients and judges alike.

Lisa Schmidt is a ghostwriter for Legal Linguist in Southfield, Michigan. She can provide thoroughly researched motion and brief writing services using up to date citation methods. For help meeting your filing deadlines, contact Legal Linguist today.

 

The Advantage to Writing What You Know

For the last 3 years in November I have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). But what this year’s experience is teaching me is how much easier it is to write what you know.

In the first 2 years, of NaNoWriMo, I slogged my way through science fiction or fantasy novels – genre fiction where I had to create everything from characters to cultures. It wasn’t easy going, and I didn’t meet my 50,000 word goal either time.

But this year I’m writing about students’ rights in schools, a topic I have covered repeatedly on the blog for Schmidt Law Services, PLLC. Even though now I have facts and figures to contend with, the writing itself is far easier. Why? Because I am writing from what I know.

Everyone is an expert in something, whether it be the bankruptcy code or craft beers. By tapping in to and building up that expertise, you can create something more robust and interesting to your readers than you ever could on a foreign issue.

I see this in my ghost-blogging too. When I first bring on a new client, the articles take far longer to research and the topics can be somewhat safe. But as I become more familiar with the client’s perspective, opinions, and subject matter, I become braver and the writing becomes easier.

If you are just delving into the world of professional writing, either through a blog or a book, write from what you know. Develop your writing skills in familiar waters before diving in to the heavy duty research involved in a new intellectual area. The writing will be faster, easier, and better than if you start from scratch.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist, specializing in providing custom content for legal websites. If you want Lisa to help you write a blog or a book, contact Legal Linguist for an appointment today.

NaNoWriMo Tells Bloggers to Write Bigger

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This month writers across the country and internationally will be scrambling to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Most bloggers are afraid of anything long-form. But NaNoWriMo and it’s non-fiction counterpart, National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo) can inspire bloggers to do more with their archived articles, even publish a book.

If you are like many bloggers, you are convinced you don’t have time to write anything longer than your weekly 500 word blog post. Maybe you have trouble even finding that much time to write. So when your readers tell you “you should write a book” you cringe in fear.

Bloggers and short-story writers have the same take on this: there’s no way they have it in them to write something that long. Sure, 500 words a week may be easy enough, but who could possibly create whole chapters of original content?

The thing is, you may have already done just that. The average non-fiction book runs 50,000 to 75,000 words. But an eBook could be as little as 3,000. That’s 6 blog posts. If you look back at your blogging archive it’s a safe bet you have 6 or 10 or maybe even 20 posts all on the same topic. With a little editing, there is your book.

Books and eBooks can also be a great way to repurpose your hard-wrote blogs and even make a little money. By re-editing your blog series on weathering a bankruptcy, you could create a self-help book that earns you money while you sleep.

Being a published author can also boost your reputation and distinguish you from your competition. Imagine being able to offer potential clients a free copy of a book with your name on the cover and your picture on the fly-leaf. Pretty impressive. Why would they go with any other lawyer when you literally wrote the book on their issue?

You may not think you have the time to write a book, but the organizations that run NaNoWriMo and NaNonFiWriMo beg to differ. And when you already have the content written in your blog, what do you have to lose? Join the thousands of writers dedicated to creating a book this November. You may thank yourself later.

 

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Southfield, Michigan. She can offer you and your firm writing services from ghost-blogging to brief writing, to ghostwriting a book based on your blog content. If you don’t have time to write it yourself, contact Legal Linguist to reach a ghost writer today.

 

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month