Law Blog Post Formats: Legal Checklists
The fourth in a series about useful law blog post formats.
A legal checklist can form the basis of a great law blog post, describing at a glance the steps the reader should follow to resolve a known legal risk or problem.
Checklists are the listicle’s cousins, but different in that they emphasize practical information and necessary steps for successful completion of a given task.
Legal checklists might address:
- documents to be brought to an office visit or court appearance;
- considerations for closing a real estate transaction;
- high-level guides for complying with regulatory schemes;
- processes for meeting routine business formation requirements;
- year-end tax compliance issues;
- best practices for onboarding, disciplining and discharging employees;
- what to do following an automobile accident.
Legal checklists typically are “top of the sales funnel” content, aimed for Internet users who are seeking to educate themselves about the dimensions of a known legal problem. Checklists make a good jumping-off point for discussions with the client regarding their particular legal situation.
Legal checklists should carry a publication date. Most individuals — certainly all attorneys — understand that the law is dynamic and that stale information should be viewed with suspicion.
Law firms should be able to quickly generate blog posts based on checklists they are already using in their practices.
Legal Checklists in the Wild
This “checklist” from Harris Bricken blogger Dan Harris is more a list of questions to be asked than a delineation of action items. Nearly all of the checklist questions raise potential legal risks that can be mitigated by retaining the firm.
Source: A Legal Checklist for Doing Business in China (China Law Blog, April 22, 2013)
In this post from Walker Corporate Law Group, the blogger uses a checklist to demonstrate expertise in assisting entrepreneurs with startup legal issues. Most checklist items lead to deeper treatments of associated legal issues.
Source: Legal Checklist for Startups (Walker Corporate Law Group, Nov. 2, 2011)
Below is a sampling of law-related checklists:
- Due Diligence Checklist (SPARK @annarbor)
- 20 Key Due Diligence Activities In A Merger And Acquisition Transaction (Forbes, Dec. 19, 2014)
- Contracting with an Owner: A Practical Checklist (Lang & Klain)
- Social Media Policy Checklist (Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Sept. 16, 2016)
- Unlawful Detainer: 7 Action Steps to Prepare for Trial (American Apartment Owners Association)
- Checklist for Preparing Your Witness for Trial (CEBblog, Nov. 25, 2013)
- Checklist for buying a non-performing loan (Joseph E. Seagle, P.A., July 27, 2016)
- Cyber incident/data breach response: Your emergency checklist (DLA Piper, April 8, 2015)
In summary, a good checklist post supplies helpful legal information to prospective clients at the right moment, and it opens the door to further discussions on all of the legal issues raised by the checklist.
Assessing the Legal Checklist
Pros: A legal checklist demonstrates legal problem-solving skill with a minimum of overhead such as research, writing and organizing the blog post. Checklists that follow fast on the heels of a major regulatory action are a great way to raise the law firm’s profile.
Cons: Law bloggers working with checklists should mind the line separating legal information from legal advice.