A Side Gig that Enhances a Law Practice: Publishing

Moonlighting for Merit and for Money by Writing

Publishing, a side gig that enhances a law practice
Klaus Vedfelt/Digital Vision/Getty Images.

One thing that seems not to be mentioned all that much in higher education is just how long a career might stretch. There is so much emphasis on getting a job either before or immediately after you get out of school that no one seems to remember that, in actuality, say about 7 years in, a 40-year career can begin to seem like one long slog. Going into the same place day after day, doing the same sort of work month after month, following the same routine year after year, may provide a sense of security, but it can also generate just a touch of career boredom.

One way to add a little zest to what might seem like a routine legal practice is to take on a side gig that can strengthen skills and also provide a bit of extra income, even if it is only enough to keep you in mani/pedis or good hair highlights. All the better if a moonlighting activity can enhance your law practice.

Publishing, of course, can boost a lawyer’s credibility, increase visibility, and improve research and communication skills. Writing often for a variety of publications with varied audiences can’t help but strengthen a writer’s voice. Also, with more practice comes greater efficiency. Compelled by a deadline to churn out a product, there won’t be the lingering, delaying, hemming, and hawing that some lawyers engage in when they sit down at their computers to begin composing a legal document. Do the research quickly, do it well, write it up, and submit it — this will become a frequently published lawyer’s new routine.

But where to start? Consider the audience that you want to reach and why you want to reach it. If you are seeking to bolster your credibility in the legal world, you might prefer to write for legal publications. If your ultimate goal is to garner more clients, choosing a business publication or even a local newspaper may yield better results for you.

If more income is your goal, write for publications that will pay you more than with copies and ‘exposure.’

Get an assignment by pitching an editor with a pertinent idea and by explaining why you are the ideal candidate to write such a piece. If you haven’t published anything before and you aren’t especially well-known in the specific specialty about which you plan to write, you might consider writing a piece “on spec” — meaning that you write the article before having an agreement with an outlet willing to publish it. This tends to be the standard approach with articles published in law reviews. Personally, I’ve never favored this approach simply because I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time researching and writing a piece that might never be published. I’d rather query editors instead.

If one editor turns you down, pitch another. If you can get a sense of why the first editor didn’t like your idea, all the better. Is the idea timely or outdated? Has it been covered everywhere already? Are you bringing something fresh to the publication? Was the problem your qualifications or your writing style? Bottom line: Is your idea interesting and are you capable of writing a well-crafted piece on the subject?

You might also pitch the same editor a few times. Don’t cyberstalk her, but wait a bit before querying with a new and better idea again. If an editor had expressed some interest (“I like your line of thinking, but we have a piece in the works on this topic”), don’t hesitate to pitch again immediately.

Finding the appropriate editor can, of course, sometimes be a challenge. Check out mastheads, use LinkedIn creatively, or just place a phone call. If all else fails, aim for the person at the top (typically the editor-in-chief).