Lawyers are more familiar with using ghostwriters than they realize.
Sometimes, a lawyer will tell me, “Gee, I would never outsource or delegate my writing of a blog post or a bylined article.”
When I hear a lawyer say that, I politely remind them that chances are good that they’ve used ghostwriters before—they just call them “colleagues.”
The way most legal documents are drafted
That’s because most lawyers, when they are drafting a court filing like a motion or brief, or a stern letter to opposing counsel, almost always ask a colleague to prepare the first draft of that document. This is the case even when the colleague’s name will *not* appear in the signature block of the court filing or as the sender of the letter.
To start the process, the lawyer delegating this writing task will first speak with their colleague and walk them through what points the lawyer wants to hammer home in the document. They’ll discuss the theme and the narrative they want to weave throughout the document. They’ll discuss what points should be highlighted and which ones should be glossed over.
The lawyer on the receiving end of the task then goes off and starts writing, taking into account the general shape the delegating lawyer wants the draft to take. The lawyer writing this draft, however, isn’t simply typing up their notes from their conversation with the delegating lawyer and calling it a day. Rather, the lawyer is doing the hard work of connecting the macro dots at a micro level. They know where they’re heading and what sites they want to pass on the way, but they need to construct the road that will take them there.
When they’ve done so, they’ll bring the draft back to the delegating lawyer for them to review it, give big-picture comments, and/or edit the document or have the colleague do so.
Eventually, the delegating lawyer will sign off on the draft, send it out the door, and move on to the next pressing task.
By handing off this initial drafting to their colleagues, the delegating lawyer can take advantage of the leverage that exists at their firm and spend the time they would have otherwise spent drafting the document on tasks only they can do, such as appearing in court, meeting with prospective clients and referral sources, or simply living their lives outside the office.
A process that sounds awfully familiar
The process I just described is exactly how lawyers work with outside ghostwriters assisting them with the crafting of blog posts, bylined articles, client alerts, and similar marketing and business development content.
The lawyer speaks with the ghostwriter at the outset of the project to discuss the topic to be addressed and the points the content should address.
The ghostwriter then goes off and writes the commissioned piece.
They then send the draft to the assigning lawyer to review, provide (hopefully minimal) edits, and then give their approval for the draft to be published.
The only real difference is that when a lawyer delegates the drafting of a court filing to a colleague, that colleague’s name may appear on the final, filed version. Sure, they might be the third or fourth name listed in the signature block, but their name will often be somewhere in that block.
In contrast, obviously, a ghostwriter who’s helping craft marketing or business development content is not going to have their name on the article or on the blog post. (That’s the whole point of ghostwriting!)
But the point I want to make is that it’s not a stretch for most lawyers, especially those at medium or large firms with a fair number of associates,
to delegate the writing of a document that carries their name to somebody else.
In both instances, the delegating lawyers benefit immensely from handing off this drafting because it frees them up to spend time working on billable matters, non-billable work-related tasks, or professional or personal commitments outside the office.
Most lawyers don’t realize that they are actually using a ghostwriter when they ask colleagues to take the first crack at drafts of documents that those delegating lawyers will have their names on.
That’s why, when it comes to working with outside ghostwriters, it’s not as big of a jump as as most lawyers think. It’s actually keeping in line with the kinds of things that lawyers do on a day-to-day basis to stay efficient, to stay as
billable as possible, and to make sure they tackle as many tasks as they possibly can given the 24 hours they have each day to do so.
Bottom line: Lawyers are more familiar with using ghostwriters than they realize.
Contemplating engaging a ghostwriter to ethically collaborate with your firm’s lawyers to write and publish blog posts, bylined articles, client alerts, and the like? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your law firm.