The legal profession is an ambitious industry. Many firms will pour copious funding into marketing campaigns just to help them stand out from the competition.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating high-quality content for a company blog. This content should help educate your audience about who you are, what you do, and why you’re an expert in your field.
Hiring a freelance legal writer can help streamline this process. A good freelancer can give you access to niche content creation skills and knowledge, boosting brand awareness and establishing you as an authoritative voice in your field of law.
At least, that can happen — if you hire the right freelance writer. Here are 10 questions to ask as you interview candidates. Use them to make sure you recruit a good contractor who adds genuine value to your team and boosts your firm’s marketing content.
1. What is your writing expertise?
It’s tempting to focus on the legal side, but remember, you’re hiring a writer, not a lawyer.
It’s helpful to start the conversation by asking about their topical strengths. Do they only write about the law? In what other verticals, like tech or health, do they also have experience?
2. What is your legal experience?
Once you understand your writer candidate’s areas of writing experience, now it’s time to narrow in on the law side of the equation.
This question helps reveal what their relationship is with the legal profession. Was this writer a lawyer in the past? Are they in law school now? (More on that further down.) Is law a passing interest that they’ve studied throughout their freelancing career?
3. What areas of law are you familiar with?
Along with getting a feel for your recruit’s relationship with legal topics, ask if they have any particular strengths.
Is your candidate familiar with the law as a general concept? Have they written for specific niches in the past, like personal injury or real estate law? One of the top questions asked when interviewing legal writers is if they have experience with Social Security Disability programs.
These little windows into your freelance writing candidate’s areas of expertise (or lack thereof) can help inform if they’re a good fit for your needs.
4. Do you have ambition to go to law school?
This is an interesting question that can have a lot of insightful answers.
You might find that your candidate is actually in law school right now and earning money writing as a side hustle. Perhaps they want to explore the legal arena potentially to go to school in the future. Maybe they’ve already completed their education or enjoyed a long legal career.
Asking this question opens the door to understanding your candidate’s long-term plans. This can be helpful if you’re looking for a recurring content contributor, such as a blog writer.
5. How long have you been a writer?
Again, it’s good to balance the legal stuff with the writer stuff. You’re not hiring a new partner or intern; you’re looking for someone who can write really well with industry knowledge.
With that in mind, asking how long a candidate has been writing professionally can give you an idea of how serious a writer they are. If they’re just launching a new career, you can expect lower wages with the potential for entry-level writing. The inverse is true as well. (More on compensation later.)
6. Do you have writing samples?
You may have already asked this question on your job application. However, it’s worth bringing it up verbally, as well, to allow your writer to provide any samples they may have missed or ask about specific examples you’ve already seen.
When you ask a writer about their writing samples, you’re asking them to prove their qualifications for the job. Their answer can show you if they’re an experienced veteran or just getting started. Even if they have a solid set of examples, reviewing these can help you gauge if they can adequately communicate complex legal topics in a written manner that readers can understand.
7. How do you handle criticism?
You won’t know how well a writer handles criticism until you, well, criticize them. Still, asking this kind of question upfront can yield some fascinating results.
In essence, like the writing samples question, asking how a writer takes critical comments puts them on the spot to sell themselves to you. Are they a team player? Can they accept correction or, at the least, disagreement and still work with you to create the best content possible? How have they done so in the past?
8. How well do you meet deadlines?
Some of these are ground zero questions for any freelance writer. However, you only want professionals working on your team in the time-driven legal profession.
Creativity is obviously essential, but you also want to know that any writing — from a blog post to a whitepaper to a press release — will be ready when it’s needed.
9. Can you self-edit your work?
This question shouldn’t be aimed at removing the need for editorial work. Even the best writers should have another set of eyes, whether an internal person or a freelance editor, to look over their work before it’s published. The addition of another critical perspective can tremendously improve all levels of writing.
While you still want your editors to spend their time editing, you want to avoid a writer who turns in inspired writing riddled with errors that require so much finessing that it can be a huge time-waster.
10. What is your pay rate?
Try to end on this question if you can. When you hire a freelance writer, you want to get a feel for what they can do before you talk about compensation.
This is because there can be a considerable discrepancy in the quality and experience of a writer. Again, that doesn’t automatically disqualify someone with less skills or industry knowledge. If they fit your needs, that’s great!
However, the amount of experience and professionalism can also dictate what you pay a freelancer. Try to go into each interview with a pay range in mind, ask for their rate, and then either accept it or offer what you think is a reasonable rate in return. Keep in mind that the upper end of the cost for a crack legal freelance writer can be pretty expensive.
Hiring the Best Writer for You
Every business has different needs. Keep these questions nearby as you sort through your law firm’s writing requirements. Use them to inform your job description — which you should post on a legal writer-friendly platform like PowerPublish — and then pull them out during each interview.
Armed with these queries, you can make sure that you find the best candidate for your unique needs.