As originally posted in the National Law Journal on May 9th, 2012
Two years ago, when I first surveyed the blogs of the AmLaw 100, I made an interesting discovery. The top 10 law firms, with more 29,000 lawyers among them, were writing only two law blogs—an average of one per 14,500 lawyers.
During the past two years we have seen a slight shift—now these same 10 firms produce 32 blogs. That’s progress, but still only an average of one blog for every 906 lawyers. (Click here to see the 2011 blogs of the AmLaw 100.)
To see which firms are really catching the vision, you need to look just outside the AmLaw 100.
Fox Rothschild leads the pack with 32 law blogs from just more than 500 lawyers—a ratio of one blog for every 15 lawyers, the highest ratio for any large firm in the country. Since the U.S. firms are leaders in blogging, that would also make Fox Rothschild the world’s blogging leader among large law firms.
Does it matter? Does having a large number of blogs help firms make more money? Or is it a useless distinction, like having the most Twitter followers in the city of Buffalo (a distinction that was mine briefly during 2009)?
What relationship if any does number of blogs have to growth or profitability? There seems to be no direct correlation—six of the 10 firms have moved up in the AmLaw rankings during the past two years, while four have moved down the chart. However, acceptance of blogging seems to indicate something deeper within a firm’s culture. Blogging firms appear to be more entrepreneurial. The more scrappy, middle-market firms were willing to take a chance on blogging early, as one component of a larger strategy.
This observation rings true for Mark Silow, managing partner of Fox Rothschild. “Every year we have over 13,000 clients that pay us fees. We do have extremely large clients, but our average client is middle market, and to succeed there, you need to be very entrepreneurial,” he said. “This group of clients has been very resilient, so we have continued to grow. This is also a group of clients you need to replenish on a regular basis, so our lawyers are out there hustling.”
Hustling, scrappy, entrepreneurial—these aren’t the words commonly used to describe the very largest firms. What separates large firms from very large ones? Institutional clients, perhaps; the mid-market firms can’t rely on a handful of very large clients.
(Which raises the question: Are blogs helpful for institutional clients? The latest surveys from Greentarget, Inside Counsel and the Zeughauser Group suggest that most in-house counsel are reading blogs, so while blogging may not affect institutional clients’ spend, it certainly could add value for big clients of big firms.)
It is easy to declare: “We are entrepreneurial.” Yet it is rare to see this attitude in action. Entrepreneurship entails risk, but also reward. Fox Rothschild began blogging at some risk of wasting time and resources, but now the blogging is self-sustaining. The firm took the risk, and it has been worth it.
“Once we had a few lawyers blogging, we publicized their early successes and it really caught on,” Silow said. “The other lawyers saw this and started asking, ‘If the other partners are blogging and having success, why can’t we?’ And since then it has been largely self-sustaining.” The problem now isn’t pestering people to start new blogs, but making sure lawyers know what they are getting themselves into when committing to a blog.
“Just today I approved a new blog,” Silow told me. “After the blogs launch, we monitor content but we also monitor frequency. If you fall below, you get a warning. If you fail to get back up, we will take the blog down.”
Asked about the return on investment from the blogs, Silow had this to say: “We have picked up a number of clients through the blogs, but the greatest value is that they serves as a validator of our expertise and our knowledge. We’ve received good external publicity as well—trade journals pick up blogs and point to them as great resources.”
Of all the Am Law 100 firms, 74 have now launched blogs—54 new blogs during the past year alone. Still, the top 10 firms continue to lag behind. These firms may be dipping their toes into the water, trying to figure out what most of the legal industry has already realized. Blogging works.
Adrian Dayton is an attorney, speaker, social media trainer and coach to law firms. You can grab a free chapter of his latest book, LinkedIn & Blogs for Lawyers (West 2012, co-authored by Amy Knapp) using the form on the homepage here: https://adriandayton.wpengine.com, or follow him on Twitter @adriandayton. If your firm has launched a new blog, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to have it added to the list.