Be a Rainmaker — Start Writing
by Stephanie Francis Ward
©2004 ABA Journal, Vol. 90, Aug. 2004. Reprinted by Permission.
Some dream of seeing their name in lights, while for others, ink will do. Amy J. Longo’s first byline was an article about Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
Since that first piece, the Newport Beach, Calif., lawyer says she’s written more articles than she can count, helping develop both her knowledge base and her client base.
"When I publish, I generally send out articles to clients and potential clients," she says. "It’s a good way to capitalize on all the hard work you’re doing."
Getting legal articles published in newsletters, journals and legal newspapers is not difficult, say associates who have done it. And if you’re lucky, some readers may become referrals, or even clients.
That is exactly what happened to Jeanne C. Wanlass, a Los Angeles bankruptcy associate who in 2003 co-wrote a piece about litigation settlements in bankruptcy filings. The article, published in the Los Angeles County Bar’s Los Angeles Lawyer, got the attention of a lawyer she had worked with earlier in her career.
"He referred a client to me," she says. "I think the article reminded him of work I’d done before on a case, so when he needed a bankruptcy attorney, that reminded him of me."
Los Angeles senior associate Michael A. Geibelson hasn’t gotten clients directly from his articles, but he sees getting published as a great networking tool. He likes to write about substantive law topics and gets article ideas from issues that come up in summary judgment motions. "I can almost guarantee that if you put out a piece of quality legal work, that comes up with a new idea, you’ll find a place," he says. "There’s such a wealth of places to publish."
KNOWING THE NUTS AND BOLTS
Almost as important as the article itself, however, is making sure you understand your target market, says Brenda McGann, a former editor with a Los Angeles legal trade paper who now does public relations consulting. "I think that the worst thing you can do is write an article a couple of days after the fact and then send it around to a bunch of publications without knowing the guidelines," McGann continues. "The best thing to do is to research the publication, know the editor and talk to that person in advance to find out what particular style would work."
After you’ve found a home for your work and done the writing, the editing process comes next. Accepting the inevitable edits, which can range from word changes to rewrites, can be the hardest part for many authors. McGann says that, in her experience, associates often took it the hardest.
"I found that they tended to be a lot more arrogant about their work than partners," she says. "Working with them took a lot more explanation to get them to understand the process."
If you don’t like an editor’s changes, and prefer your version, McGann says, have a good reason why. Also be aware, she says, that most publications adhere to style guidelines that dictate
In Longo’s experience, editing can be a great teaching tool. She has found that with help from people who have more editing experience than herself, her writing has been improved a lot. Says Longo, who also serves as managing editor of "Litigation News," a publication of the American Bar Association, "You have to have an open mind to people’s ideas, particularly if you’re sharing a co-author credit."
If the editing process is particularly painful, Geibelson suggests remembering that you and the editor have the same goal — wanting the piece to impress readers.
The reward, he says, is the feedback he gets from people who have read his pieces. "It’s a great way to have people see your name," he says. "It’s always amazing how many people read the various journals you publish in."
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