I am guessing you’ve heard this before from your members, “We want more fun content in the magazine.” A sprinkling of interesting articles prevents your publication from becoming a glossy law review. It also makes for better coffee-break chatter.
Fun content does not just fall out of the air. While many of your members write very well, it’s hard for many lawyers to step out of law review mode. For our magazine, we have incorporated “featurettes” in order to throw some light-hearted content into the mix. Here is what I’ve learned in trying to get volunteer authors to write content that’s different from the normal lawyer-speak stuff.
Think like a lawyer, not a writer: I love the creative process. It usually involves me grabbing a cup (or three) of coffee, spitballing ideas with my coworkers, and writing and rewriting sentences. Lawyers usually don’t have the luxury of time. Give them a specific task or process that can fit into their day easily. We started a food article that involved writers answering three different questions related to restaurants. For example: What’s your favorite place to take a client for lunch? What’s your favorite place to go after winning a case? What’s your favorite place for a quick morning bite to eat? This has been successful because it provides some structure, but also allows for some creativity. (Also, food is big.)
Don’t give them a homework assignment: We had one featurette that involved one lawyer interviewing another about their day. While I thought it would be interesting, we had a hard time getting people to volunteer to do it. It involved scheduling, interviewing, transcribing, and writing up the whole thing. That sounds a lot more like work than anything else.
It’s all about me: While my Midwestern sensibilities prevent me from talking about myself too much, that’s not always the case with lawyers. I saw a lawyer’s post on Facebook that he called “10 things I love about my job.” I asked the lawyer if we could repackage that for our magazine. He agreed. It was quick, fun, and easy content. Let lawyers advertise themselves a little bit.
Have a clear purpose: The “24-Hour Lawyer” idea came from an article in Fast Company where successful business people shared what they do during the day. It’s interesting on the page, but if you don’t have an author who has the right ear to pick out the correct nuggets, it can fall flat.
Standardize the process as much as possible: One of our featurettes, “Ask-A-Lawyer,” involves a very simple premise: ask six different lawyers one question related to their job. One member has taken responsibility for this content. She emails six different random members the question. People are usually more than happy to participate, and it will be easy to transfer this task to another author.