How to Improve the Effectiveness of Writing Articles

By John Remsen, Jr.

Most law firm marketing experts agree that by-lined articles are an extraordinarily effective way to establish your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law. For best results, your article should appear in a well-respected publication read by people who have the decision-making ability to hire and/or refer you.

This checklist is written to give you some practical ideas to maximize the effectiveness of this particular marketing strategy. If approached in the right way, your writing opportunity can help you:

  • Enhance your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law,
  • Increase your visibility among key target audiences, and
  • Build relationships with key contacts at publications read by your target audience.

As with most effective business development activities, some time and effort will be required on your part to make the most of a great writing opportunity. Therefore, you should be selective about the writing opportunities you pursue and/or accept. Here is a checklist of things to consider to capitalize on your upcoming writing engagement.


The last thing you want is to have spent countless hours on a literary masterpiece that no one will print. Therefore, before you even think about lifting your pen (or sitting down at your keyboard) there are several important things that you need to do.

Be Clear About Your Purpose
Of course, the ultimate objective of your article is to build your reputation in a particular area of law that will generate business for you and your firm. But, give some thought to your primary purpose for this particular article. Is your primary purpose to build relationships with people at a particular organization, enhance your reputation as an expert in an area of law, or increase overall visibility with a key audience? Once you determine your primary purpose, you can then incorporate some of the ideas presented here into your strategy.

Determine Who You Want to Reach and the Publications They Read
Give careful thought regarding who you want to reach with your article. Then, find out the publications they read and respect. This enables you to identify the publications for which you want to write an article.

Of course, the better read and respected the publication is, the more difficult it becomes to get your article in it. For example, it is much more difficult to get your article in The Wall Street Journal than in your local chamber of commerce newsletter. There is a trade-off to consider.

Get to Know the Editors
Once you have figured out the publications you want to go after, schedule a meeting (or telephone call) with the editor to find out more about the publication, its editorial calendar and its guidelines for article submission. Be clear on the parameters (length, style, deadlines, etc.) for your submission. Ask him or her about topics in which he/she has a particular interest. Editors are always looking for timely, well-written articles for their publications and you are likely to be surprised about how receptive they can be to your call. Be sure to ask for a media kit, if available. Now might also be a good time to discuss reprinting policies and copyright issues. More about that later.

Also, by talking to these folks, you are also building important relationships with them. Who knows when they might be looking for a quote from an expert attorney on a particular legal issue?

Get A Commitment BEFORE You Start to Write
Before you commit to spend the time it will take to write your article, get a tentative commitment from at least one worthwhile publication that they are likely to include it in an upcoming issue. Be clear on the topic, the length of the article and submission requirements.


Now that you have determined your audience, selected the publication(s) and discussed potential topics with an editor or two, you can get to work on writing your article.

Stick to the Parameters
Be certain to stick to the publication’s parameters for by-lined articles. An article that is too long or submitted after the deadline stands a good chance of not being published. If you run into problems or have any questions, let your editor know as soon as possible.

Write for Your Audience
Write to your audience’s level of understanding. Avoid using “legalese” or writing in a style not easily understood by your readers. Keep in mind that many magazines are written to the reading comprehension level of a sixth grader. For a good overview on writing articles and getting them published, we recommend The Writer’s Yearbook or a magazine entitled Writer’s Digest.

Focus on a Strong Opening Paragraph
Hit your reader with a strong opening paragraph. Many readers will fail to get beyond your opening paragraph unless it catches their attention and compels them to read more.

Have Others Proofread Your Final Draft
At last you are done with your article. You have read and re-read the final draft and are ready to send it off. BUT WAIT! Always have at least two other people (preferably members of your target audience or, better yet, a client) read it for clarity and relevance.


Now that your manuscript is complete, you are ready to send it off to the editor who has agreed to publish your article. First, you should call that individual to let him/her know the document is on its way. There may some other details about submission to discuss. Also, give thought to the following:

Who Owns the Copyright?
In most instances, the publication wants to own the copyright of the article, so any reprints or subsequent publication will require its approval. Also, if your work will appear on the Internet, there is a myriad of other copyright issues to consider. Ideally, you want to own the copyright so that you control decisions to reprint the article or the ability to shop it to other publications read by your target audience.

Include a Photograph and Two-Sentence Description About Yourself
Many publications will include your photograph if you send them one. Check to see if they will include it and, if so, send along a professional 5” X 7” black and white photograph of yourself. Be sure to label the back of the photo and do not expect to get it back. Also include a two-sentence biographical profile about yourself. In many instances, the publication will include a brief statement about the author. If you don’t write one, the publication just might and it may not include information about you that is most important.

Send Both a Hard Copy and Diskette
The editor will really appreciate it if you send your article in both hard copy format (typewritten, double-spaced) and on diskette. Here again, do not expect them to be returned.


Notes and Letters
Send a note to the editor thanking him/her for the opportunity to contribute an article to the publication. In your note, let him/her know of your interest in future writing opportunities on other topics. Also, be sure to thank anybody who helped you with your article, including your proofreaders. Why not include a copy of the article as it appeared in the publication?

Distribute Reprints of the Article to Clients and Others
Herein lies the true business development power of by-lined articles. Get the article reprinted on good quality paperstock and use as a handout at speeches and seminars. Include it with the firm brochure. Use it in proposals.

Few things position you as an expert in your area of law more powerfully than a well written article in a well-respected publication. Send the article to clients, prospective clients and referral sources and don’t forget to include a brief hand-written note. (You should consider your state’s Bar rules and regulations this subject.) Distribute it throughout the firm and encourage other attorneys to send it to their clients and friends. Display articles in your firm’s reception area, along with other firm collateral materials.

Future Writing and Speaking Opportunities
Work with the publication to identify topics for future writing opportunities. Offer to be a resource for ideas, topics and commentary for future articles. If you were writing for an association newsletter, ask about speaking opportunities at the organization’s meetings and seminars. And if the group includes decision-makers and represents an industry group important to your firm, join the organization and become an active member.

Play it Again, Sam
Chances are there are other publications that would be interested in the same or similar article. If you control the copyright, send the article to other publications to see if you can get additional mileage from your writing effort. Promote yourself and you might be surprised by the result. Also, consider converting your article into a speech on the topic.

Generate Some Post-Event Publicity
Now that you have been published, consider any publicity opportunities, both within the firm and externally. Maybe it’s something you should add to your resume or biographical profile.

Strive to Improve Your Writing Skills
See if you can’t get some reaction from several individuals who read your article. Ask them what they thought. Ask if they have any recommendations to improve it. And if you really want to get serious about wring articles as an important part of your marketing strategy, consider a course on the subject.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or

Top 100 Tips for Working the Room

By Jeffrey M. Horn

Level I — Beginner Learnings
Before the reception

1. Think about who will be attending. Who do you want to meet? Who can you introduce to whom?
2. Practice a self-introduction. Think about what you will say when asked, “What do you do?”
3. Bring a stack of business cards
4. Have some topics to talk about: read a newspaper, watch the news

At the reception

In General

5. Arrive early
6. Try wearing your name tag on the right
7. Don’t be pond scum
8. Avoid off-color humor
9. Avoid smoking
10. Avoid being loud
11. Avoid complaining
12. Don’t sit
13. Avoid excessive food
14. Avoid excessive drink


15. Meet more people rather than fewer
16. Focus on introductions and relationships, not selling


17. Look at and encourage the speaker
18. Resist interrupting
19. Spend 95 percent of time asking questions about other person
20. Try to spend 5 minutes not using the word “I”

Remembering Names

21. Repeat the name throughout conversation (judiciously)

Business Cards

22. Ask for business cards (rather than offering yours) and spend some time examining the card

Body Language

23. Smile
24. Make and maintain eye contact
25. Speak at a medium pace and clearly
26. Stand up straight

Graceful Exit

27. Keep one hand free to shake hands in next interaction
28. Don’t be afraid to say, “Excuse me—I see someone I need to say hello to”


29. Send thank-you notes

Level II — Intermediate Learnings
Before the reception

1. Create an action plan of how you are going to “work” the event
2. Set one goal for the event and write it down — make the goal attainable and realistic (e.g., meet two individuals and collect two business cards)
3. Get a copy of the attendee list

At the reception

In General

4. Position yourself near the door
5. Think of yourself more as a Host, as opposed to a Guest, and act accordingly
6. Avoid sizing up name tags
7. Avoid the “sympathy vote” by beginning conversations complaining (about weather, health, room temperature, etc.)
8. Carry a half glass of beverage and order only half a glass of beverage to greater facilitate separation
9. Avoid people you know unless they have the opportunity to give you a cross-introduction


10. Initiate handshakes, but respect people’s personal space — don’t crowd them
11. Repeat the name of the person when you meet them
12. Be sure you have a brief, effective introduction of yourself — it should be less than 15 seconds and identify your name, areas of interest, and what you do
13. Look for individuals in the room with “white knuckles.” Although they may be “wall flowers,” they might be valuable people to spend time with


14. Repeat what you hear during the course of a conversation — it reflects that you’re listening, and it clarifies points
15. Refer back to conversation later in the dialogue — “As you said earlier, …”
16. Discuss any subject other than doing business
17. When you enter a group; listen for 3 minutes and avoid “striking up the conversation”
18. Focus on be interested vs. interesting
19. Try to find two things in common with the other person

Remembering Names

20. Introduce yourself in a way that teaches people your name: “My name is Jim Hanley — it rhymes with manly…”

Business Cards

21. Make notes on the back of a person’s business card — “Let me write that down on the back of your card…”
22. Keep your business cards in an easy-to-reach pocket — pulling them out of your wallet can be clumsy

Body Language

23. Be relaxed
24. Watch when you nod
25. Pause and listen
26. Don’t look over the shoulder
27. Be sensitive to body language

Graceful Exit

28. You should anticipate that you will spend no more than four to seven minutes with any one individual. After that, you should be prepared to “move on.”
29. You feel more uncomfortable about leaving the interaction than the other person. It’s acceptable to say that you have to make a phone call, get a drink, go to the restroom or say hello to someone you have seen.


30. Follow-up as soon as possible (within 1 week)
31. In follow-up letters, see if you can remember something to ask them to send you. This puts a little bit of the ball in their court.

Level III — Advanced Learnings
Before the reception

1. Pick one name from the registration list to call. “I noticed you were also attending this conference and I was wondering if you were going to the reception as well. I was hoping to steal a few minutes and meet you to find out more about you and the ABC Company…”
2. Think of several questions in advance: “How would I know if I ran into your ideal client or prospect?”
3. If attending with co-workers, share thoughts, strategy, and mental checklist of action items before attending

At the reception

In General

4. Study clothing, shoes, etc. — you can tell many books by their cover.
5. Never sit at an empty table or next to an empty chair
6. Work one-on-one or with small groups
7. Never be critical of anyone at the reception to their face or behind their back
8. Be extra courteous to the staff — they can be a friend or an enemy


9. Volunteer your name
10. Split up with colleagues and circulate
11. When introducing someone to someone else, tell a bit about each person, something that might connect them
12. If you have met two people, introduce them to one another
13. Introductions are perfect times to “market” new colleague
14. Look for Meet


15. Ask for interpretations: “What do you mean by ‘often’?”
16. Control your body language — be aware of messages you are sending and those you should be receiving
17. Be hypersensitive
18. Ask questions requiring more than a one-word answer
19. Explore comments another makes—more questions are a way of demonstrating interest

Remembering Names

20. Ask the other person their name and then spend time on it, asking the person about self, unusual-sounding name, or other aspect of her introduction
21. Give a memorable description of self, and self-deprecating is okay: “I’m the only one here who can’t break 150 on the golf course.”

Business Cards

22. Use notes on business cards to forward articles of interest

Body Language

23. Keep a level head
24. Don’t fidget
25. Use entire physical being to express yourself
26. Don’t respond to distractions
27. Show people what you mean
28. Maintain an approachable expression

Graceful Exit

29. “Well, I don’t want to take up all your time. I’m sure you have other people you want to talk to and so do I. I’d like to continue our conversation, so why don’t we plan to get together? I’ll call you next week.”


30. Stay in touch: mailing list, invitation to participate

Top Ten Marketing Tips for First and Second Year Associates

By John Remsen, Jr.

There are two kinds of lawyers in private practice. There are lawyers with clients, and there are lawyers who work for lawyers with clients. My question to you is this: Which would you rather be in ten years?

I submit that lawyers with clients are working with clients they enjoy and on matters they like. They are in control of their careers, and chances are they are having a lot more fun and making a lot more money than lawyers without clients. They are emerging as leaders in their firms and are sought after by other firms.

No doubt, one can make a fine living as a journeyman lawyer grinding away at the billable hour….day after day, month after month, year after year. But let’s face it, when it comes to being a lawyer in private practice, rainmaking is where it’s at!

As a first or second year associate, now is the time to begin developing good marketing habits that will pay off over the long haul. These habits should play to your likes and interests, and be consistently applied and performed in a thoughtful, proactive and strategic manner. No one expects you to go out and “slay the dragon” as a young lawyer. The key at this stage of the game is to focus on habits.

Even the American Bar Association suggests in its “Model Diet for Associate Attorneys” that you devote 400 non-billable hours to things like service to your firm and profession, pro bono, professional and client development and the like.

So here we go, offering TheRemsenGroup’s Top Ten Marketing Tips for First and Second Year Associates.

You’ll notice that our list does not include: “Meet your billable hours requirement.” That’s a given. It’s the investments of your non-billable time, your thought capital and even in your wardrobe that will set you apart.

1. Excel at the Basics
Take every opportunity to learn and hone your lawyering skills. Arrive on time and stay until the job’s done. Ask thoughtful questions. Pay close attention to detail. Meet your deadlines. Seek feedback about your performance. As a first or second year associate, your clients are the partners of the firm. Partners notice when associates are in the office late or when they’re slipping out early on Friday afternoons. Make sure you earn their notice in a positive way by just becoming the best lawyer you can be.

2. Find a Really Good Mentor
Don’t wait on your firm to establish a formal mentor program. Identify and spend time with that lawyer who embodies what you want to be and emulate his or her good behaviors. Since you’re asking your mentor to be generous with his or her time and talents, reciprocate by delivering yours. Find opportunities to do good work for your mentor.

3. Stay on Top of Current Events
Absorb as much as you can in the law firm environment by staying abreast of the most recent laws and codes, but don’t forget to pay attention to the rest of the world. Make it your daily practice to read the local newspaper or business journal. Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal or BusinessWeek. Find out what your partners and their clients are reading and follow their lead.

4. Declare Your Major
Clients hire specialists, not generalists. Study after study says so. They want experienced lawyers who have logged time with one particular kind of law. For you, that means that you should figure out where your passion lies and develop a niche practice around it. Be the go-to associate for partners who are involved in your area of interest. If you’re still unsure of what type of law sets you on fire, research legal trends. The earlier you discover what you enjoy and start building your credentials around it, the sooner you will be earning premium fees for doing what you love.

5. Develop a Game Plan
Your time is valuable, so don’t waste it on random acts of lunch and golf. Spend a half day or more to develop a thoughtful personal marketing plan for the year. Your plan should be realistic and achievable. It should be specific and focused. Do stuff you enjoy — golf, hunt, eat, drink, have fun. We recommend 100 hours and a budget of about $1,500. Best of all, most law firms will pay for your marketing activities. You’d be a fool not to take advantage. Go for it.

6. Dress Like a Lawyer
Like it or not, how you package yourself at work goes a long way toward establishing credibility. We recommend that young lawyers look like polished professionals. In fact, we wrote an article on this very topic in a previous Marketing Tip: Lawyers Should Look Like Lawyers.

7. Hang Out at the Bar
Start building your credentials by spending time at your local or state bar association. If you’ve identified a niche or particular practice, join that section of the bar. Don’t just pay the dues. Regularly attend meetings and work toward a leadership position. If you’re practicing in a state that offers board certification, study and earn that certification.

8. Develop Your A-List
Create and cultivate a list of contacts, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for people with whom you want to develop business relationships. Early in your career, the list will include mostly college and law school classmates, friends and family members. Focus on developing meaningful relationships with your peers. They may not be decision makers today, but many of them will be in ten to fifteen years.

9. Keep in Touch
Now that you have your A-list contacts, find ways to stay on their minds. Send birthday or holiday cards. As you come across relevant articles or best practices, share them with your contacts, always prefacing the article with a short personal note. For the tech savvy, connect with your contacts on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Invite contacts to lunch or have them join you at alumni meetings or social events. Most firms I know reimburse their associates for the cost of these activities.

10. Be a Hero
Find out what your firm is doing in terms of marketing and business development, and get involved. If you’re a strong writer, volunteer to research and write articles for your practice group newsletter. Your practice group doesn’t have a newsletter? Maybe you should start one. Help plan and organize firm seminars or client appreciation events. One associate who volunteered to take over a languishing firm brochure earned enormous positive recognition (plus a big year-end bonus) when she brought the project to fruition.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are two kinds of lawyers in private practice. Lawyers with clients, and lawyers who work for lawyers with clients. Which would you rather be? If you want to be a lawyer with clients, developing lifelong, sustainable marketing and business development habits as a young associate will put you in a great position ten to fifteen years from now. The time to start developing those habits is now.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, an Atlanta-based marketing and management consulting firm that works exclusively with lawyers and law firms. His articles have appeared in numerous ABA, ALA and LMA journals and publications. For more information, visit