Why Law Firm Content Marketers Should Have a Legal Background

Why Law Firm Content Marketers Should Have a Legal Background

When it comes to choosing a content marketing agency, you have lots of options. That said, if you are a lawyer or a digital marketing agency with legal clients, you should be working with a specialized legal content marketing agency, preferably with attorney leadership. Here are a few of the reasons why.

An Understanding of the Legal Industry

As someone who has studied the law, it’s easy to forget that things that seem obvious to you may not be evident to others. Things as simple as the difference between a civil or criminal case or who the parties are to a lawsuit are essential when creating content. Working with a trained legal writer ensures a basic understanding of the way the law works and provides the added benefit of efficiency. A writer with a background in the law is not going to have to look up what negligence means every time they craft a blog for an injury firm.

The Ability to Create Content that Aligns with E-E-A-T

It’s certainly true that a generalist copywriter can craft fluffy content that does not mention the law or violate any lawyer advertising rules. For example, they can write blog posts about “Car Accident Injuries” or “Types of Collisions” in 100 different ways. That said, this kind of content does not rank well in search engines. Google has been clear about the fact that it rewards content that demonstrates experience, expertise, authority, and trust (E-E-A-T) – especially for content that could affect a person’s well-being (such as law firm content). Crafting content that aligns with the principles of E-E-A-T requires deep subject-matter expertise, so if you are outsourcing your content creation, it’s in your best interest to work with specialist legal writers with a background in law.

The Ability to Conduct Legal Research

It has never been so easy to get information, and the entire catalog of human knowledge is literally at our fingertips. While once, you had to go to a law library to do legal research, for most things, Google works just fine. In addition, searchable databases like Lexis Nexis and Westlaw allow anyone with a subscription to engage in high-level legal research.

While this access to information has clear benefits, it also can lead to a false sense of competence. Access to information does not mean understanding that information, and it certainly does not mean that the person accessing the information has sufficient subject matter expertise to determine if it is reliable. 

As stated by Arthur C. Brooks in The Atlantic last summer:

Google isn’t graduate school . . . If you think you understand something technical and complicated after cursory exposure, you might be able to put the knowledge to good use in your life, but you almost certainly don’t understand it well enough to hold forth on the topic.

In other words, reading an article about the 4th Amendment doesn’t make you qualified to discuss search and seizure law.

Legal Accuracy

Relatedly, a writer with a legal background can use precise language that ensures that the content on your website is legally accurate. For example, a generalist writer may confuse the terms comparative negligence and contributory negligence or strict liability and vicarious liability, leading to inaccurate information on your website.

With Google’s emphasis on trust when it comes to content quality, having misinformation on your site could lead to significant penalties. In addition, inaccurate information could lead to an ethics violation with your state bar or even a malpractice lawsuit if a client relied on the information and had an adverse outcome.

Compliance with the Advertising Rules in Your State

The content on your law firm’s website has to comply with your state bar’s advertising rules. As the old saying goes, “You do not know what you do not know.” A generalist writer may not even think not to use the word “specialize” or “expert” when discussing your focus on your practice area. In addition, there is a big difference between saying, “We will get you compensation,” and “We will get you the compensation you deserve under the law” – of course, the first one promises an outcome while the other leaves the door open for the fact that the reader does not, in fact, deserve any compensation under the law. It is doubtful that a writer without legal training will know about these rules or how to apply them, potentially resulting in content on your website that violates the advertising rules in your jurisdiction.

Call Lexicon Legal Content Today to Connect with an Expert Legal Writer

At Lexicon Legal Content, our team of experienced legal writers – including licensed attorneys and JDs – specializes in creating content for law firms that is clear, accurate, and demonstrates your experience, expertise, authority, and trust (E-E-A-T). As an JD-owned company, we understand the importance of accurate and compliant content for law firms.

California Bar Issues Guidance for Lawyers Using AI

Generative AI, such as Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini (previously called “Bard”), are capable of performing tasks that were once thought solely to be in the province of human ability. It can analyze and categorize data and even create human-sounding content in the form of text. As such, generative AI has clear applications in the practice of law and legal marketing. Some of the more obvious uses include document review, contract analysis, and even handling basic client communications.

As lawyers and other professionals have started looking for ways to leverage Generative AI to do their jobs more efficiently, many observers have sounded alarm bells about ethical and professional issues about how it is used.

In fact, some of the early adopters of Generative AI in the legal profession have been subject to sanctions, as the technology is known to “hallucinate” facts. In the case of two New York lawyers, ChatGPT made up case law out of thin air and then doubled down on its existence when asked to verify the cases it cited. Ultimately, the attorneys were each fined $5,000 and ordered to reach out to the judges about the fake cases mentioned. Perhaps worse, their names were splashed all over the national media – from Forbes to CNN – for using ChatGPT and not fact-checking its output.

A year and a few months into generative AI entering the mainstream, state bars are starting to develop guidance and rules regarding how lawyers use it. Given the concerns and uncertainties regarding the use of AI in the legal profession, this guidance is particularly valuable in helping attorneys leverage the efficiency of AI while upholding ethical duties. Recently, California issued guidance that lawyers across the United States can benefit from. I discuss some of the highlights in the material below.

The California Bar Guidance

As part of its guidance, the California Bar takes the position that AI is like any other technology that attorneys may leverage in their day-to-day professional activities. From the guidance:

Like any technology, generative AI must be used in a manner that conforms to a lawyer’s professional responsibility obligations, including those set forth in the Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar Act.

The guidance they provide demonstrates ways that lawyers can use AI consistently with their professional responsibility obligations. Some of the obligations they address are discussed in the material below.

Duty of Confidentiality

The California Bar cautions that the use of AI can have implications related to the disclosure of confidential information. The guidance points out that many generative AI models use inputs to train the AI further and the information that users upload may be shared with third parties. In addition, the models may lack adequate security for attorneys to input confidential information.

For this reason, the Bar advises that lawyers should not input any confidential information without first confirming the model they are using has sufficient confidentiality and security protections. Furthermore, the Bar advises lawyers to consult with IT professionals 

to confirm that an AI model adheres to security protocols and also carefully review the Terms of Use or other provisions.

Duties of Competence and Diligence

The use of generative AI also can raise issues related to the duties of competence and diligence. In light of the fact that these models can produce false or misleading information, the California Bar advises that lawyers must:

  • Ensure competent use of the technology and apply diligence and prudence with respect to facts and law
  • Understand to a reasonable degree how the technology works and its limitations
  • Carefully scrutinize outputs for accuracy and bias

In addition, the Bar cautions that overreliance on AI is inconsistent with the active practice of law and application of trained judgment by an attorney. Furthermore, the guidance advises that an attorney’s professional judgment cannot be delegated to AI.

Duty to Supervise Lawyers and Non-lawyers, Responsibilities of Subordinate Lawyers

The Bar advises that supervisory and managerial attorneys should establish clear policies regarding the use of generative AI. In addition, they should make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm adopts measures that provide reasonable assurance that its lawyers’ and non-lawyers’ conduct complies with professional obligations when using generative AI. This includes training on how to use AI and the ethical implications of using AI.

Using AI Can Also Have Implications for Law Firm Marketing

At Lexicon Legal Content, our sole focus is on generating keyword-rich content that helps law firms connect with their clients. While the California Bar’s guidance does not mention it directly, using generative AI to create marketing materials like social media or blog posts may also have implications related to the rules of professional conduct.

Under California Rule 7.1, a lawyer may not make a false statement about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services, and a statement is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law. Importantly, this is analogous to ABA Model Rule 7.1, which many states have adopted. In addition, under Model Rule 7.2, a lawyer should not call themselves a specialist or expert in any area of law unless they have been certified by an appropriate authority of the state or the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association.

These professional duties related to advertising make it critical to review any AI output a law firm intends to use in its marketing efforts. At Lexicon Legal Content, we are staffed by experienced legal professionals, including law school graduates and licensed attorneys, who understand these rules and ensure that all of the content we create – whether AI-assisted or not – is in compliance with advertising regulations in our clients’ states.

Can You Use ChatGPT to Write Legal Blogs?

ChatGPT – the conversational AI model released by OpenAI in November 2022 – has captured the attention of people in every industry throughout the world. According to some, ChatGPT and other generative AIs are about to fundamentally change the world, take our jobs, and usher in a dystopian future. On the other hand, some observers think that ChatGPT is a waste of time that people are going to mostly use as a toy.

As is usually the case, the reality of generative AI’s impact is probably somewhere in the middle of these two positions. That said, one thing is crystal clear – ChatGPT is capable of generating human-like content on a wide range of topics in a matter of seconds. This generative capability clearly has wide-ranging implications in academia as well as the workplace – and these implications are particularly salient for people in white-collar positions in which their work product is typically written material. 

Since ChatGPT doesn’t have a law license (despite doing really well on the UBE), the lawyers are safe for now. That said, law firms and marketing teams are looking into whether it can do other non-practice-oriented tasks, such as creating marketing materials.

So, can you use ChatGPT for law firm marketing? Let’s take a look and find out.

What is ChatGPT?

While you’ve undoubtedly heard of it- what exactly is ChatGPT? One way to find out is by asking ChatGPT itself:

A screenshot of ChatGPT responding to a prompt to explain what ChatGPT is

Okay; here’s the plain English version – ChatGPT is an AI built on a large language model that can provide human-like responses to human inputs. For example, you could ask it to provide information, create a meal plan, plan a vacation – or – answer legal questions.

Spending a few minutes playing with ChatGPT is an eye-opening experience. At first blush, it’s easy to see how generative AI could change everything. For many people, using ChatGPT for the first time results in a series of existential questions – What happens to the college essay? What is the point of learning anything? Will this take my job? Do humans have to do anything anymore?

Undoubtedly, the tech has the potential to be extremely disruptive, but some of the apocalyptic prognosticating seems to already be dying down. For example, rather than banning it, some teachers have started to integrate ChatGPT into their lesson plans. People have realized that students can still demonstrate their knowledge by in-class testing or essay writing. Furthermore, many people now view AI as a way for professionals to improve their efficiency rather than a replacement for human expertise.

So, back to the question – can lawyers use ChatGPT or other generative AI models for legal marketing? The short answer is yes –  provided there is significant human oversight.

In fact, lawyers may have an ethical duty to stay on top of generative AI technology like ChatGPT. Most states have adopted Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires a lawyer to “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education with all continuing legal education requirement to which the lawyer is subject” [emphasis added]. ethical duty

ChatGPT and other generative AI models can help lawyers and their marketing teams accomplish certain tasks more quickly. That said, you should be aware of the limitations of the technology and the ways in which using it may cause problems.

It Can Provide Incorrect Information

ChatGPT can provide incorrect information – a problem that its creators like to call “hallucination.” They are well aware of this problem and even have a small disclaimer at the bottom of the page alerting users of this fact.

A screenshot of a disclaimer explaining that ChatGPT can provide incorrect information

If you are posting content on a law firm’s website, it has to be accurate. Incorrect information could result in significant consequences, including disciplinary action from the bar or even a malpractice lawsuit from a client who relied on it.

The Content May Be Plagiarized

ChatGPT runs on a Large Language Model (LLM), which is a type of AI that uses huge data sets to understand inputs and predict new content. In other words, ChatGPT uses existing content to figure out what word should come next. As a result, there is a substantial possibility that ChatGPT’s output can be extremely similar to existing content on the internet.

Additionally, it can produce very similar-sounding content to similar prompts. So, if you and another law firm (or hundreds of other law firms, as the case may be) ask it to spit out a 500-word legal blog post on “Common Types of Medical Malpractice,” the content it produces will likely be very similar to what other users are getting.

You Do Not Own the Content ChatGPT Produces

According to guidance issued by the United States Copyright Office in March of 2023, content produced by generative AI like ChatGPT is not eligible for copyright protection based on the “human authorship requirement.” In addition, there are multiple lawsuits going on from content creators alleging that generative AI using their works to create content is infringing. As Jonathan Grabb, Ethics Counsel for the Florida Bar, puts it – “utilizing an A.I. program to draft documents may not be risk free” when it comes to copyright and plagiarism issues.

ChatGPT Content Will Probably Not Demonstrate E-E-A-T without Significant Editing

When evaluating the quality of a page, it looks at the extent to which the content demonstrates experience, expertise, authority, and trust – E-E-A-T, in industry parlance. This is particularly true for sites that deal with issues related to the health, happiness, financial stability, and safety of users and society at large, which Google calls Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites.

Google makes it clear that the most important element of E-E-A-T is trust, and there is a substantial possibility that posting AI-generated content without any oversight will result in untrustworthy pages. Some of the ways you can ensure that your content demonstrates E-E-A-T include:

  • Ensuring that any facts contained in the output are accurate
  • Linking to authoritative sources
  • Ensuring that the content provides useful information and is not just regurgitating existing content
  • Highlighting your expertise or credentials

Despite the significant issues raised above, ChatGPT and generative AI does have a place in law firm marketing. Some of the best use cases for the technology include the following:

Coming Up with Content  Ideas

When it comes to regular content creation, the hardest part can be coming up with topics to write about. This is true whether you are regularly adding practice area pages, posting blogs, or updating your social media accounts. ChatGPT is great at helping come up with content topics – you just need to know how to prompt it correctly. Fortunately, the team at Lexicon Legal Content has done the work for you. We’ve developed a free, AI-powered Legal Blog Topic Generator that is designed for use by lawyers and law firm marketing companies. 

Outlining Content

A screenshot of ChatGPT providing an outline for a blog about what to do after a bicycle accident

Another part of the content creation process where AI can really help is in outlining a piece of content. It can provide headings and subheadings and can even help to identify ancillary topics that your piece of content could address to make it more comprehensive. Here’s an example of its outline for a blog on what people should do after a bicycle accident:

Of course, not all of these points may be relevant or appropriate to post on a law firm blog, but it’s a good start. Once you have a good outline in place, it can make the process of content creation much faster.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is real. Everyone on the Lexicon team has struggled with staring at a blank page and asking, “what the hell should I talk about?” at one point or another. Asking ChatGPT to create an outline or even write an introduction can help get past writer’s block and into the content creation process.

Summarizing Material & Generating Short-Form Content

Finally, another great use case of ChatGPT is summarizing longer content and generating short-form content that you can use for social media posts, meta descriptions, or other areas where you may need one or two sentences., ChatGPT’s generic and terse content is actually a benefit for short-form content blurbs,  as you are often dealing with word count restrictions and need to be efficient as possible.

For more than 10 years, Lexicon Legal Content has been helping law firms connect with legal consumers through the power of content marketing. We’ve developed millions of words of content for law firms and digital marketing agencies throughout the United States and Canada, and we’re committed to staying cutting edge of content marketing trends and tech. To learn more about our services, call our office today or send us an email through our online contact form.

Marketing Ethics for Attorneys: 2021 and Beyond

A graphic of a person using a phone infront of various legal icons

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way that people seek and evaluate professional services, including legal services. Increasing brand awareness, acquiring new customers, and achieving financial goals rely heavily on a law firm’s advertising and marketing efforts. Competition among law firms in in all practice areas increases daily. An understanding of the basics of a competitive marketplace is critical for firms that desire to grow.

Continue reading “Marketing Ethics for Attorneys: 2021 and Beyond”