In Search of Interesting
Legal communications are defined by precise, qualified, long-winded, and (sometimes admittedly) boring language. Most lawyers are best suited to communicating within legal audiences. This presents obvious challenges in marketing law firms where the recipients of the message are, for the most part, not lawyers.
News Flash: when even the eyes of other lawyers glaze over when their colleagues start to expound on much of what lawyers do, how do you think the general public is going to respond? Because law is a vast area, sound-byte attention spans will inevitably gravitate to the most interesting snippets. The law is no different from academia, “interestingness” trumps (or at least obscures) the truth. Oliver Burkeman’s recent column in the Guardian offers a reminder in how interestingness, and our addiction to it, remains dominant in most fields. The rise of the web has made interesting into something of an unofficial religion. The risks of interesting things are a) that they are not necessarily true and b) that they ignore the fact that many of the most important things are mundane.
Interesting as SEO
Google claims to be a company in pursuit of providing relevant search results. In practice, this often means delivering interesting search results. Distinguishing the two is less meta-data and more metaphysics. This problem cannot be solved through engineering alone.
Much of what we do at Skunkworks is try to make lawyers and law firms interesting to the general public (we also try to make them look good while we’re at it). It’s worth reviewing the paper cited by Burkeman in terms of identifying what types of things are interesting (at least according to Burkeman). Some of them include:
- Arguing that something good is bad;
- What seems like different things are actually part of the same thing;
- What seems like a local phenomenon is actually a general thing;
- What seems to be stable is actually changing;
- What seems to be dysfunctional is actually functional;
- What seems to be unrelated is actually correlated; and
- The inverse of any of the above.
In an attempt to make this post interesting, let me note that legal communications are actually part of a much broader group of specialized communications. Within this group, interesting things will triumph over the boring (even if the boring ones are technically accurate). Secondly, the hallmarks of legal communications are not stable, but ever-changing (albeit slowly). Latin was once standard and is now seen as literally archaic.
Most importantly, the fact that so much of what lawyers produce is boring (bad from a marketing perspective) is actually a good thing. It provides an opportunity for some lawyers and firms to differentiate themselves. The bar remains high, but the bar for interestingness is relatively low. In making this case, I want to emphasize that many of the most interesting things are also true.