[The first in a series of Q&A discussions on successful writing in the business realm with recipients of JD Supra's 2016 Readers' Choice award:]
Garret Murai is a partner at Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP in Oakland, California, where he specializes in construction, real estate and related business law. He is the editor of the California Construction Law Blog which provides an informative yet wry look at construction law in California. Although he attributes the generation of new business to his writing, it really all began from a desire to help people.
JD Supra: What were your expectations for writing when you first began? How have those expectations changed over time?
Garret: When I first began writing regularly I can’t say that I had any expectations. When I started the California Construction Law Blog it was because I had been asked to take part in my firm’s business development coaching program. My coach would check in with me twice a month to see what progress I had made during the previous two weeks. Inevitably, I would find myself scrambling the day before our meeting to try to get something checked off my business development “to do” list.
My coach had mentioned that he had a blog, so I thought, “why not?” - at least that way I could say I had done something during our bi-monthly meetings. That was five years ago. At the time, my firm had no idea I had started a blog and was a bit surprised, and perhaps a bit concerned, when I revealed it to them. Since then, my firm has embraced blogging and social media, and we now have four blogs and a number of our attorneys using social media.
What is your writing process?
I try to post to our blog at least once a week and those posts are in turn distributed by JD Supra. I generally get my information from three sources: things I’ve read; legal alerts I’ve set up to track new construction cases; and issues that have come up through my practice as a construction lawyer. I also try to throw some humor or pop culture into my posts since there’s probably nothing more boring to read than construction law, except perhaps, tax law.
How do you benefit from your writing?
Since I started writing regularly I’ve found that my writing has improved. While it’s a process of continuous refinement there’s a big difference between my early blog posts and my posts of today. It’s also helped me keep abreast of new developments in my practice area. And, finally, I believe it’s helped my reputation as a lawyer. Lawyering is a crowded field, and writing regularly on a blog or through other mediums, combined with using services like JD Supra, LinkedIn and Twitter, has helped to expand my name recognition and reputation as a lawyer.
The more you write the better you will get at it...
What does success mean for you as a writer?
For me, success is more internally than externally driven. When I’ve finished writing something I’m proud of it gives me the warm fuzzies. What I’m less concerned about, although I know a lot has been written about it, is the return on investment. That is, whether you can show that the time you’ve spent writing has resulted in revenues to the firm. Like a lot of lawyers, I became an attorney because I wanted to help people, so if I write something that someone finds useful, that’s extremely satisfying. Moreover, there’s the personal benefits and growth as a writer and a lawyer that I mentioned above.
What advice do you have for writers just starting out?
Write often. The more you write the better you will get at it, and if you have a blog, post regularly, at least once a month. And while it’s a somewhat tired saying, it’s also true: connect with your audience. You’re a lawyer, which also means you’re an advocate, whether you do transactional law or litigation. Most people will already assume, probably correctly, that you’re smart. So be smart enough to communicate in a way your audience will understand. It’s as important for writing an article, as it is for writing a contract to advocating before a jury.
[Garret was the top author in the construction category of JD Supra's 2016 Readers' Choice awards. Follow his latest writings here.]