Writing to Be a Better Lawyer: Q&A with Top Thought Leader John Ingrassia

JD Supra Perspectives

[The latest in our ongoing series of discussions on successful thought leadership with recipients of JD Supra's Readers' Choice awards:]

John Ingrassia likes writing – he’s done it his entire career – because it forces him to think harder about the challenges facing his clients.

A senior counsel at Proskauer where he advises businesses on foreign investment, antitrust, and price gouging matters, John also spends time every day reading about the issues to monitor lawsuits, see what his peers are covering and, most importantly, stay ahead of the developments that he’ll need to write about.

[I write] with clients and potential clients in mind – to help them navigate the issues ... but also to demonstrate my understanding

Why did you decide to start writing?

I’ve been writing since the start of my practice. It’s something that I've always done to provide my perspective on the issues facing our clients when I have something to contribute. I’m fortunate that it’s been encouraged at the firms where I’ve been in my career. In the beginning, of course, I’d write in support of others, but now that has changed – there are several people who support the writing we do at the firm.

Throughout my career, I’ve written with clients and potential clients in mind – to help them navigate the issues first and foremost, but also to demonstrate my understanding of those issues, build a body of thought leadership, and create a history of my work. It’s important that the people who hire and might hire you see that you’re an expert in your field.

I write too for secondary audiences: colleagues, other lawyers, etc. I think it’s valuable to share ideas amongst peers in my practice, and at the same time it helps me maintain my credibility outside of the firm.

What were your expectations when you started? How have they changed?

In the beginning, just getting my name on something was really cool! That evolved over time to where I had articles and ideas and thoughts to get out there, a message that I wanted to communicate to the kinds of clients and industries I try to reach. I want my audience to know where I stand on certain issues that affect them.

What inspires you to write?

I write on antitrust issues, foreign direct investment, national security reviews, and price gouging – the topics that are at the heart of my practice. I look for things that are interesting that others don’t seem to have noticed or aren’t paying a lot of attention to. Things where I can provide a unique point of view.

I look for things that are interesting that others don’t seem to have noticed...

I try to highlight important issues for the people we’re trying to reach that others might not be noticing.

What is your writing process?

There’s an entire team of people here at the firm working to identify topics. We look at what’s going on, the status of cases out there, what’s in the news, etc. Then we meet several times a week to brainstorm around what’s important and interesting for our clients, to identify what’s worth writing about that week.

I like this deliberative approach, affirmatively looking for topics then talking and brainstorming about what’s most important that we should write about.

What role do the analytics provided by JD Supra play in your content decisions?

They influence what we do. When we see that certain subjects are getting more attention, we know they are interesting to our audience so we’ll focus more on those kinds of issues.

When we see that certain subjects are getting more attention ... we’ll focus more on those kinds of issues.

In addition, our communications team spends time looking at the subjects gaining traction. That information also influences our processes as we go along. Analytics and data are an important part of the equation for us.

What are the benefits of writing?

For me, the biggest benefit is that writing forces you to think harder about the issues. And it makes you better at what you do when you're taking as much time to look at the issues as we do. We publish at a high pace here, so we’re forced to stay on top of things not only to see what’s going on but also what’s coming down the pike.

...makes us better lawyers because we’re forced to tune into what affects our clients...

That makes us better lawyers because we’re forced to tune into what affects our clients on a more regular basis. And to think about them harder than we might if we weren’t writing about them.

What does success mean for you?

I think success means getting people to see and react to our written work in a positive way. It’s great when they call you – the best case scenario is when somebody reads your article and then they call you and want to hire you. That happens some of the time but not all of the time.

More importantly, it’s having a body of work out there so that when you're talking to clients or pitching for new clients, they have something to go to. It’s a form of your resume, if you will, a good, reliable, credible body of work that people can look to and think ‘this is the person we want to talk to about this issue. They've been on it for a long time and they really know it.’

What advice do you have for other lawyers who want to become thought leaders?

The main thing I would say is to read. I try to do that. There's an enormous amount of content that comes through every day, and you can't read all of it – you can't spend your whole day on it – but you can curate it for the things that are useful or interesting to your clients.

I try to read as much as I can in the mornings, before the day starts, not cover-to-cover on every article, but to stay very tuned into what's out there and what's happening: what are the cases, where are the developments, what are people saying, etc. You can use that as your guide to what's interesting to people and what you should be paying attention to and ultimately writing about.


John Ingrassia is a Senior Counsel at Proskauer. He holds the lead spot among the top ten authors in JD Supra's 2021 Readers' Choice awards antitrust & trade regulation category. Follow John's latest writings here.

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