The Write Stuff: Q&A with Top Author & Attorney Allison Condra

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[The latest in our series of Q&A discussions on successful writing in the business realm with recipients of JD Supra's 2016 Readers' Choice award:]

Alli Condra of Davis Wright Tremaine thinks of blogging as professional development. “It’s part of the learning process and is a practice that you have to work at.” Blogging has two tracks, she says. A blogger can provide quick updates on new developments in the law for their readers or they can take a little more time to use a blog entry to become a thought-leader on a subject, taking into consideration the impact, implications and context of the news. She does both, but prefers the latter, discussing how we can make our food system a better place on her firm’s blog, Food + Bev Law Blog.

What inspires you to write?

I went to law school specifically to do food and agricultural law so I’m very committed to the field. I’m fascinated by how our food system is changing as people and governments are getting more involved. Truthfully, almost everything in the food law world interests me.

Writing for a blog is also a way I can think about how we use the law to make the food system better...

Food law is changing so fast and a lot of those changes impact our clients. Part of the reason I write is that it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. It’s an important part of my own practice and is beneficial for me to keep on top of the development of the food, agriculture, and beverage industries. Writing for a blog is also a way I can think about how we use the law to make the food system better.

I am also inspired to write to help people better understand the legal issues facing the food system and to take issues that are complicated and communicate them as effectively as I can. I enjoy the challenge of finding different words to describe and explain the legal issues to a broad audience.

What is your writing process?

I really enjoy writing but it is truly a process. It takes time and commitment to get into the rhythm and habit of writing. The more you write, though, the more opportunities you have to improve your writing. I set a goal for myself to spend half an hour every day reading food and agriculture news and jotting down notes to inspire future blogs. I try to schedule my reading and writing time in the morning because it is more difficult to carve out time as the work day goes on. 

Early on in drafting, a writer needs to consider the purpose of their piece. There is certainly value in being the first to share news, but there is also value in pausing for a moment to digest the potential implications of what is going on and how it is going to impact your clients. Spending the time to really consider what you want to write is important, as it will shape the tone and form of your blog entry. 

What does success mean for you as a writer?

To me, the point of writing is to add something of value to the world—to help people understand an issue for the first time or from a new perspective. Success for me as a writer has come from positive feedback from readers and JD Supra.

What specific takeaways can you give readers who are learning blog writing?

  • Catch reader’s attention with the title. There’s so much readers sift through online that if your title is catchy or a play on words it can help draw the readers in. 
  • Make your blog conversational and not full of legalese as you might otherwise be inclined to do based on your training. 
  • Keep your audience in mind. They might know something about the subject or they might know nothing. 
  • The tone of your writing is really important. Are you writing an informal blog piece or a formal advisory? Again, keep your audience in mind.
  • Think about your angle and what your value add is. Why are you writing about this topic? 
  • Find topics that are interesting. Have a diversity of blog posts. Shake it up a bit. 
  • Be patient, read every day, and write down notes. You must read a lot in order to blog effectively.  You’ll have all these ideas in your head and then they will come together and then you write. If you stick to the practice of reading and writing, it makes it easier for inspiration to strike. 
  • Have a notebook. Ideally you set aside an hour (or half an hour) a day to read and write down notes and blog-starts. Even if it doesn’t start out to be a blog you publish, just the exercise of writing it out will be helpful. The blog-starts and notes could become the basis for another blog post where you end up folding in your earlier thoughts and notes. 
  • Writers should find a good editor. A good editor is really key. You need someone who will give you good feedback that will help you improve as a writer. 
  • Be an engaged citizen; it helps you find things to write about. 
  • Be persistent. Sometimes the things you’re interested in are tedious to write about and you just have to keep going. You won’t necessarily write the best piece on your first try. Keep going.

[Allison was recognized as a top writer in the Food & Beverage category of JD Supra's 2016 Readers Choice awards. Follow and read her latest writings here.]

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