If you are writing a law blog, you may not have thought of looking at recently published cases for your inspiration. Case studies can be some of your best posts, but they can also be some of the worst. Find out what makes the difference.
This is a 2-part blog series. Today, we’ll look at what makes case summaries the best and worst way to show off your legal expertise online. Next week, we’ll look at some tips for how to push those case summaries toward “best.”
Case Summaries are the Best for Law Blogs!
Newly published (even unpublished!) opinions are an excellent source of inspiration for law blogs. Especially when you focus on a relatively obscure practice area, it can be difficult to come up with a fresh topic every week. Court opinions bring you fresh fact patterns, and new takes on legal issues that you can report on and provide commentary. When they aren’t your clients, you can discuss the publicly accessible facts without ethical concerns. When they are your clients (and you get their consent), it is a great way to get the word out about your firm’s latest success (or explain why you lost).
By expertly analyzing new cases, you show readers and potential clients that you truly understand the issues they face. These posts allow you demonstrate your depth of knowledge in a way that is authentic and doesn’t come off as a sales pitch. Your case summaries can provide guidance to ongoing clients and even establish you as a subject-matter expert among your fellow attorneys. (And who doesn’t like a qualified referral?)
Using case summaries as blog inspiration also has the collateral benefit of keeping you up-to-date on developments in your practice area, giving you a reason to read up on the latest rulings. If you have already committed to weekly blog posts, using case summaries to meet that goal gives you more return on your marketing investment. The time you spend reading court opinions doubles as legal education, or even research for a current or future case.
Case Summaries are the Worst for Law Blogs!
Despite their benefits, case summaries are often some of the worst posts on a law blog, at least as far as readers are concerned. All too often, when lawyers analyze new cases, they revert to all the worst parts of law school. They fill their posts with legalese, and dwell on the complex nuance of the cases.
When reading published opinions, it is tempting to pull large quotes to prove your point. But the judges and justices are writing to lawyers, in our specially coded language: legalese. Unless you take the time to unpack them, those slam-dunk quotes won’t have the impact you are looking for with your non-lawyer readers.
Even when we take the time to translate legalese to lay-person, without careful focus on what our potential clients need, case summaries can still turn off readers. The crux of the recently published court opinion may well be standing or some other legal technicality. But in most cases, that’s not what potential clients need to know.
There are exceptions of course – such as when Covenant eliminated direct medical provider claims based on a technicality related to standing. But in these cases, the exception creates urgency for the readers. It makes that technicality important to them by directly affecting their claims. By spending too much time “in the weeds” case summaries run the risk of alienating readers.
Law blogs can benefit from the skillful use of case summaries. They can build customer confidence and demonstrate your subject-mater expertise. But if they are not artfully written, they can also fall victim to some of the worst tendencies of lawyer-bloggers. Check out next week’s blog to see how to make the most of this rich source of inspiration.