How to write a legal case summary that gets read

How to write a legal case summary that gets read

Most law firms realise that they can win work by producing content that engages potential clients and shows off their expertise. And an effective way to do this is by producing summaries of recent judgments.

The problem is that most legal case summaries are neither good, nor effective. They lack relevance, and rarely get clicked on, opened or read.

So, if your law firm is failing to get its case summaries noticed, here are 8 tips to help:

1. Use a concrete headline

You might be sending out something out something extremely relevant to your reader but that doesn’t meant they will open it. Your reader will be bombarded with a lot of information each day and if the heading of your article – or the subject line of your email – doesn’t pique their interest and give them a reason to read on, you’re dead before you’ve even started.

So ask yourself ‘why should my reader care’?

A concrete headline which explains what the article about is also vital for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  Research also shows that headings with numbers in them (ie a listicle style ‘5 reasons to…’), or ‘how to’ or ‘why’ can work well.

2. Keep the intro brief

Use your introduction to ‘hook’ your readers and explain how the case applies to them. In other words, don’t wait until the end to reveal the surprise or twist. A case summary is not a novel.

Get to the point. Never make your introduction longer than two or three paragraphs.

Oh, and keep case names out of this part of your summary, if you can. They’ll usually just clog your sentences and make your readers’ eyes glaze over.   

3. Use sub-headings

Break your article with sub-headings that reflect your points and let readers see what’s important straight away.

The world’s most famous copywriter, David Ogilvy, once noted that five times as many people read the headlines as what’s underneath them… and that was before we started reading on the internet. Now, ‘skimming’ has become the default way of reading.

4. Address your audience

Where you can, write in the second person.

“You should think about three things when buying a home,” beats “Purchasers should think about three things when buying a home,” every time. It makes it less abstract and tells your readers you’re talking to them.

5. Avoid legal jargon

People usually aren’t interested in case names or legal terminology. They’re interested in how what you’re saying affects them.

And remember, legal jargon isn’t always technical language. Most non-lawyers don’t use words like “aforementioned” or “all aspects of” or “notwithstanding”.

6. Use the active voice

By writing “subject/verb/object” you’ll reduce the number of words you use and generally keep the language active.

Say: “The boy hit the ball”.

Not: “In relation to the ball, it was hit by the boy”.

7. Include a call to action

The way you finish your article is just as important as the way you started. So use a strong ‘call to action’ (CTA) that gives the reader a reason to pick up the phone and ask for your advice.

8. Make it snappy

David Ogilvy famously said nothing ever needed to be longer than two pages. Now that most of our writing ends up being read on the web, you need a very good reason to make a case summary longer than 500-800 words.

Need help getting your case summaries to cut through and engage your audiences?

Antelope Media works with law firms to write engaging case summaries that clients actually read.

Call us on +61 (2) 8006 8416 or email Ralph Grayden at ralph@antelopemedia.com.au to find out more

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Here’s what people are saying about Antelope Media’s case summaries:

I’m going to need you to sit down… here goes … This circular from [a leading mid-tier law firm] is actually very interesting and has some relevant cases!” – a surprised client after reading a law firm newsletter we’d written.

Read more: 5 things lawyers can learn from copywriters

Read more: The eNewsletter mistakes businesses keep making

Read more: 5 tips when writing for the web

Read more: What Hemingway can teach us about digital writing

Related services:  Content marketing for law firms, Legal copywriting, Legal editing and proofreading, Big Impact Writing for Lawyers.

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