You spent a week of long nights preparing for trial. You had everything ready — witnesses prepped, exhibits labelled, issues briefed. But at the end of the day, the verdict came in for the other side. Now what happens to that great idea you had about writing a blog post announcing your victory? Should you write about losing?
Somewhere along the line, lawyers convinced ourselves, as an industry, that we should only every talk about success. If traditional legal marketing is to be believed, every lawyer has a perfect trial record and never runs into problems with bad facts, unpredictable juries, or a judge that didn’t see things their way.
But that’s simply false.
We have all had a client forget their preparation when they came to court, or had a motion not go our way. The question is, should we do anything about that in our marketing. I’m going to be controversial here and say yes. How you write about losing makes the difference between making the most of a bad situation, and just making you look like a loser.
We’ll Write About that IF We Win, Says Every Lawyer Ever
I just prepared a blog for a client about a recent Michigan Supreme Court opinion. The client’s response was (paraphrased):
“I have a case on that issue right now. We should do a follow up post if we win.”
Absolutely, he’s right, we should. Whenever an attorney has a big win — especially at the court of appeals or supreme court level — a followup blog featuring the firm and the client (with permission) makes you and your firm look professional and competent. Other potential clients will see your success and trust that you can do the same for them. (Don’t forget, depending on your state ethical rules you may need a disclaimer warning that past success does not automatically predict future results.)
But what if he loses?
Writing About Losing Makes Pearls Out of Sand
I get it. No one wants to think about losing. As lawyers, we don’t want our clients to believe we’re going to lose their case. But that doesn’t mean we need to ignore a perfectly good blog topic just because we lost the case. Instead, we can use a bad court outcome to provide inspiration for future web content. Here are three ways to write about losing:
Share What You Have Learned
No one becomes an expert in an industry over night. It takes time and experience to develop your chops in the legal world. And sometimes that means losing. When you receive an opinion that is based on good law, use it. Write a blog post about the issue, explaining the law as you now understand it. You don’t even have to say that you lost a case on this issue. Just use it as the basis for an informational blog post and move forward knowing you are a better lawyer for it.
Teach Future Clients How Not to Make the Same Mistakes
If you lost because a witness didn’t pan out or a client folded under the pressure of testimony, let that be inspiration as well. Don’t out your client or blame them for your loss online. But use what happened to them to inspire a blog post about how to be a better witness or tell the best version of a story. Acknowledge that testifying is hard and provide advise and support to the people who may one day be answering your questions on the stand.
Explain the Limitations of the Court Process
A loss in court is also a great opportunity to write a blog explaining how the court process works.
- If a jury decided against you, you could write about how a jury trial always carries with it a certain amount of risk.
- If key evidence was excluded, you can write about how hearsay or other evidence rules work.
- If your case was dismissed on summary, you can write about the procedure of a motion to dismiss and how it can work for or against a client.
Again, you don’t necessarily have to say that you lost. However, you may want to use examples of how these issues have worked for and against you or your firm in the past.
Don’t Complain About Losing
Sometimes you lose when you expected to win. A judge doesn’t follow your legal theory, or a jury doesn’t believe your star witness. Sometimes they just get it wrong. This is not the time to turn to your blog for catharsis. If you receive a bad trial court decision, appeal it, don’t complain about it. Save your legal arguments for your appellate brief and keep your complaints in the office. Otherwise, you will regret writing about losing.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web pages for lawyers and small businesses. If you need help creating web content for your firm’s website, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.