...give the people what they want.

JD Supra announced their 2019 Readers Choice Awards earlier this week, a list of 228 authors (out of approximately 50,000 published on the platform) whose thought leadership earned the highest visibility and most reader engagement last year.

As usual, the list – and the written work of the top authors – provides an impressive overview of the current state of content marketing in the legal profession. And it offers valuable lessons for all lawyers who use content to market themselves and their practices. Here are five:

1. Write, Write, and Write Again

The top authors didn't get on the list by accident. They didn't just write a single post that went viral, for example, or a four-part series on a particularly hot topic that thousands of people read and shared. 

Instead, they wrote regularly, and often. They produced multiple posts on important topics. They published on a steady schedule. They made an ongoing commitment to educate and inform their readers, who rewarded them by coming back for more.

Two good examples: Kathryn Rattigan, the number one author in the Airlines and Aviation category, published more than 170 updates on JD Supra in 2018; and Robin Shea, whose writing on Employer Liability matters earned her the top spot in that category, wrote nearly 150 posts. 

The bottom line: don't go for home runs. You must produce a steady stream of valuable insight and useful content to engage an interested community of readers (and other writers) in your field of practice.

2. Consider Regular Features That Readers Can Count On 

Another common approach of most-read authors on JD Supra? They turn their written work into regular features that readers rely on for guidance and perspective.

Whether you organize your content into a weekly digest, like the Food & Beverage Litigation Update written by Mark Anstoetter (#1 in Food & Beverage category), or a daily report, like Michael Rief's Daily Dose of Financial News which helped earn him the top spot in both Finance & Banking and Securities categories, writing a recurring piece – and delivering it on schedule – paves the way to a consistent audience.

3. Give the People What They Want 

Mark Anstoetter may be co-chair of his firm's environmental and toxic tort group, but his clients (and many, many other readers) are so interested in F&B litigation and his Food & Beverage Litigation Update that he became the most-read author in that category without writing anything else on the topic. 

Take a minute to let that sink in. Anstoetter clearly knows more than F&B law. He clearly practices more than F&B law. But he writes about F&B law – and more specifically, about litigation issues in the F&B space – because that's what matters to his readers.

That's powerful confirmation that you should be following the writing advice we got following last year's Readers Choice Awards from Adrian Lurssen, co-founder of JD Supra: 

Address what your readers actually care about; not what you hope they care about.

4. Make Your Work Easy To Digest 

Readers are busy. They have lots to do, and more importantly a lot of things to read. Top authors Dr. Jörg Hladjk (#1 in International Law) and Gerald Maatman, Jr. (#1 in Class Action) make it easy for people to understand and digest their work.

Hladik begins most of his updates with an In Short resume of the content that tells readers up front what's important. He uses bold text and standard headings – "The Situation," "The Result," and "Looking Ahead" – to break out the key ideas, and give readers enough information to determine whether or not they need to read the full article. He concludes with Three Key Takeaways that sum up and advise readers on how the developments affect their business.

The Seyfarth Synopsis that begins most of Maatman's articles provides a brief overview of the court rulings he discusses and explains why they matter. He then breaks his article down into clearly marked sections, and concludes many updates with an "Implication for Employers" to drive home how the developments will affect the way they do business.

 Both authors know that sometimes their readers don't have time to go through the full article to find out what matters and what they should do about it. And it doesn't matter: they write for those people as much as for the ones who have the time to read every word. And you should too.

5. Business News and Market Developments Are As Important To Clients As Legal Analysis. 

It's not a new trend, but the work of this year's class of top authors makes it clear that clients and potential clients are as concerned about developments that affect the way they do business and their ability to meet financial and strategic objectives as they are about legal issues.

A glance at the feeds of Lynn Bergeson (#1 in Life Sciences) and Raymond Lahoude (#1 in Immigration) bears this out: their work is comprised as much of business and market news and regulatory developments as it is of legal analysis. 

That doesn't mean they're providing less legal analysis. But it does mean that they are, as noted above, giving the people what they want. That's a great lesson for all authors. 

Congratulations to everyone recognized in this year's JD Supra Readers' Choice Awards. Your work is an inspiration to us all.

To the rest of you: get writing!


[Lance Godard has spent three decades within the legal profession, in-house and as a consultant, helping lawyers and practice groups grow their book of business. Follow his new work on JD SupraConnect with him on LinkedIn to see how he can help you, your practice group, and your firm upgrade your content strategy.]