Legal copywriting has untapped potential for legal design, so there are plenty of reasons to include these skills in your next project
There are always rumblings of anticipation when a legal design project is in its early stages. The issues are scrutinised. Research planned. And importantly, skillsets are considered. As the project leader, you know success depends on engaging the right skills from various disciplines.
There’s usually an obvious need for some skills such as legal, design and tech. But other professionals can give a project a significant boost, yet they’re more likely to be overlooked. One compelling example is a legal copywriter. So why should you consider including a copywriter in your legal design team?
What does a copywriter do?
First, let’s look at the basics.
Legal copywriters produce online legal content in all forms, for example:
- website articles
- website pages
- course materials
- case studies
- media releases
These tasks involve three critical copywriter skills: versatility, SEO (search engine optimisation) and effective communication.
If a law firm or corporate team needs content, there’s a good chance a legal copywriter can help. It’s also why legal copywriters are often former lawyers like me. We understand the rigidity of legislative and regulatory frameworks. And our experience and empathy help us know what readers need when navigating legal territory that often feels mysterious, difficult and overwhelming.
In essence, a legal copywriting project tasks me to quickly learn, upskill, work out angles and build authority on behalf of my law firm or corporate client. That’s an example of copywriter versatility.
But versatility alone isn’t enough for website content. Legal copywriters must also understand SEO.
SEO helps to boost search engine rankings because the whole point of online content is that it can be found online. SEO is a specialised craft. It requires a deft hand to balance SEO elements with readability: the elements must be included in a way that doesn’t alert the reader to their presence. In other words, human-centred SEO.
Communicating complex legal concepts in plain language is vital to legal copywriting. No jargon. No filler. Straight down the line, effective communication. The nectar of the gods, and one reason why readers will choose one lawyer over another.
Plain language is critical to readability and a positive user experience (UX). It’s also an effective way to motivate a website visitor to take the next step and get in touch.
With the building blocks of versatility, SEO and effective communication, there’s clear potential for legal copywriting to become a go-to tool in the legal design kit. Even better, legal design is opening up opportunities for legal copywriters, including:
- Possibilities for the type of work.
- Being engaged to work on a project in the early stages.
- How our value is recognised.
How and where does a legal copywriter fit into the legal design process?
To best understand these questions, think of copywriting as multifaceted. It’s not just about writing. Legal copywriters are also marketers, so we’re experienced in getting projects up and running from their infancy. And with website experience, we also have a swag of digital skills.
Here’s a modest snapshot of what we can do.
- Research client issues and behaviour.
- Create user personas.
- Consider the style guide (or get to work creating one).
- Undertake competitor analysis.
- Understand the product or service, market needs and perceptions.
- Conduct briefing sessions to define the issues and how to approach them.
- Analyse findings and data.
- Consider the website’s information architecture and accessibility
- Use the findings to brainstorm content ideas.
- Liaise with other disciplines to refine the ideas.
- Map a content and SEO strategy.
- Write and optimise the content, engaging UX writing principles.
- Wireframe (mock-up) website pages as a visual aid.
- Create generative AI prompts and chatbot flows.
- Seek the client’s feedback.
- Discuss and refine the content.
- Check the copy once uploaded to ensure it’s working correctly.
- Assess whether the copy meets the project’s key performance indicators (KPIs).
So, if you think this snapshot looks a little familiar, you’re right. It’s remarkably similar to a legal design process. Here’s a refresher of the six stages according to The Legal Design Book:
- assembling the team
- researching and understanding the challenges
- defining the issues
- developing ideas and brainstorming solutions
- prototyping and testing the solutions
- implementing and re-testing.
Ta-da! A perfect match, right?
What else can a copywriter contribute to a legal design team?
Bear in mind that your content strategy can span the life of a legal design project. As we’ve seen above, it may start with briefing questionnaires, tone of voice and branding documents. Then it may move on to analysing the research and documenting the ideation process. But after that, you may need to consider promoting the result with a range of copywriting projects, such as:
- case studies
- website articles
- website pages
- sales pages
- email sequences
- white papers
- social media posts
- advertising scripts
- training courses
- media releases
- plain language editing.
The content strategy is different for every project. However, when a legal copywriter is part of the team, there are two elements that many projects have in common:
- We’re likely to be one of the few people familiar with multiple stages and parts of the project, because our skills span several disciplines; and
- We often have an excellent overall understanding of what’s happening and what needs doing.
It means a legal copywriter can potentially play an important role in steering the project and tying up loose ends.
Our skills may also include:
- Storytelling to create compelling narratives from dry content.
- Cultural and ethical considerations and advice.
- Diversity and inclusion considerations.
- Carefully and compassionately navigating issues concerning transparency, conflict of interest and compliance.
Even then, copywriters can do more. Some unforeseen issues and mini-projects arise during brainstorming or problem-solving. Square pegs that don’t fit neatly into round holes. They must be managed, yet they don’t easily match specific disciplines.
But here’s the good news.
These are the things that we copywriters absolutely love. Where we thrive because there’s such potential for creative thinking. And where we contribute value that’s beyond your expectations or predictions.
That’s a whole lot of copywriter goodness.
What’s not to love?
Including a copywriter in your legal design team may not be an obvious decision, but the benefits are clear. And the earlier we’re involved, the greater the potential benefit to the project. Remember that we don’t just write. We’re also marketers, business operators, sounding boards and pragmatic creatives. So, our experience is broad and our skills are sharp. Even better, your project benefits from an extra layer of specialised skills and experience. I reckon it’s the smartest path to legal design success.
What do you think?
Do you use copywriters in your legal design projects? Or do you regularly use professionals with other skills that aren’t usually front-of-mind? I’d love to know more. Please leave a comment below.