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Legal Blogging for Lay Readers, and Onions

If there’s one important thing that lawyers need to remember about legal blogging, it’s this: Legal blogs are, first and foremost, a marketing tool. They are designed to make readers pick up the phone and call your office, whether by boosting your Google rankings through search engine optimization (SEO) or by enhancing your reputation as someone who knows.

As a marketing tool, legal blogs have a targeted audience. Like any time there’s a targeted audience, though, there are good and there are bad ways to pursue it. Here, we discuss a metaphor that can help you reach out to a targeted audience of laypeople.

Your Target Audience: Direct or Referral Clients

Understanding where your firm’s clients are coming from and where you want to improve is the first step of any legal blogging campaign: Writing blogs for a direct or a referral audience requires two massively different approaches. If you’re writing for other attorneys in order to get them to refer more people your way, you won’t be worried about talking over your readers with references to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or passing remarks about reasonably prudent people.

However, if you’re writing your legal blog to entice laypeople to call your firm, then you can’t write like this without alienating your audience. No one likes being talked over. If you assume that your readers know and understand the differences between nuanced legal principles and write accordingly, they’ll leave and will carry a negative impression of your firm with them as they go, just like anyone who’s ever tried reading Finnegan’s Wake.

Legal Blogging for Non-Lawyer Clients: The Onion Metaphor

Effectively communicating with non-lawyers about legal topics is not something that all attorneys are gifted at doing. The law is a world that you have lived in for years, now, and helping others navigate the often murky waters can be difficult.

As professional legal bloggers, though, this is exactly what we at Myers Freelance do on a daily basis: We distill, synthesize and write about complex legal topics in ways that non-lawyers can understand. One way we do this is by keeping the onion metaphor in mind.

Legal Blogging Onion Metaphor
Photo credit: Ano Lobb / Fickr

Everyone knows what an onion looks like, on the outside. However, far fewer people are going to be able to identify an onion, if the only thing they can see is the onion’s core. It’s much smaller, thinner, and often a lighter color than the onion’s outermost layer.

In the metaphor, the onion’s core is legal knowledge. If you can recognize the core of an onion for what it is, then you have that knowledge, and are likely a practicing lawyer. Laypeople, though, are unable to identify it.

However, those same people who don’t know what the core of an onion looks like can still recognize an onion from its outside. Therefore, an effective legal blogger will start there, grounding the legal topic in a place that is familiar to the reader, so they know where to set their feet. The blog then moves forward, one step at a time, slowly peeling back layers of the onion. As each layer is removed, the blog takes the reader one step closer to the onion’s core – to the legal knowledge that is the goal of the blog post – while still keeping the reader secure in their footing. Even if it takes several blog posts to fully divulge the issue and peel back all of the layers, that’s fine – many legal issues are nuanced and have entire books written about them, so stepping away from the expectation that you can polish one off in a single article helps everyone.

Professional Legal Blogging at Myers Freelance

The onion metaphor is one of the ways that the legal blog writers at Myers Freelance help our clients reach lay readers and turn them into paying clients. Applying the lessons of the metaphor again and again has honed our ability to relate some of the most complex legal issues to non-lawyers, influencing their decision to pick up the phone and call your firm.

Contact us online to get started on your legal blog.