Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The State Of The Big Firm Blogosphere

Beck thinks only about drug and device law. Herrmann sometimes veers off-topic and thinks about blogging.

This morning's post, a frolic and detour about big firm blogging, is Herrmann's work alone.

We took a peek at Kevin O'Keefe's recent report on the State of the AmLaw 200 Blogosphere to see whether blogging is catching on at big firms. Kevin reports that 41 percent of the AmLaw 200 now have blogs, which is a 110 percent increase in the last two years. Those numbers speak for themselves.

We then thought about three other things.

First, we expected to see that many of the blogs that Kevin identifies had withered on the vine. It's remarkably easy to start blogging, and unspeakably difficult to stick with it. We figured that many of the blogs on the list would not have posted recently.

We were surprised. It looks as though many of the blogs are quite active. In our unscientific survey (we did not look at all 227 blogs), we stumbled across only a few blogs that had plainly died. The "Benefits Biz Blog" hasn't published a post since November 11, 2008; we'd say that one's toast. Similarly, the "Climate Change Law Blog" last posted on February 2, 2009; either those guys are on sabbatical or that one's done. Likewise for the "Daily Dose of IP," which last posted on April 30, 2009; we think the fat lady's singing there, too.

But, for the most part, the big firm bloggers seem to be blogging along.

We also noticed (again, completely unscientifically) that blogs published by lawyers at firms sponsoring multiple blogs seem to be more active than blogs published by lawyers who are writing alone. Our best guess is that the shame factor is at work here: "If those of us in the Labor Practice can post regularly to our blog, then you guys in the Securities Practice should be able to do the same."

We're big believers in shame at the Drug and Device Law Blog: Beck shames Herrmann, and Herrmann shames Beck; if shame were not such a potent force, we'd have abandoned this gig years ago.

We next compared the list of firms with blogs to the AmLaw 200 report on profitability. Of the ten firms with the highest profits per partner (we know, we know! everyone criticizes that metric, but the public is still fascinated by it) in the United States, only one has any connection to a blog. And that "connection" is pretty remote.

Kirkland & Ellis, alone among the top ten PPP firms, has a blogging lawyer. But the efforts of that lawyer -- whose work appears at the Sports Law Blog -- just barely count as a "big firm blog." It's true that the blog's founder is a K&E associate, but the blog is now written by five "contributors" -- most of whom appear to be law professors -- and more than a dozen "guest contributors," who generally have no connection with K&E. And, like our own blog, the Sports Law Blog is not "firm branded." It appears to be the product of the collection of folks who publish it, rather than an institutional effort by the firm.

The other top ten PPP firms -- Wachtell, Quinn Emanuel, Boies Schiller, Sullivan & Cromwell, Paul Weiss, Cravath, Simpson Thacher, Cleary, and Schulte Roth --have no apparent affiliation with any blogs at all.

Make of that what you will.

Finally, our last observation. We're still nuts: So far as we can tell, we're still the only two big firm bloggers who co-host a blog while working at firms that are head-to-head competitors.

We're not sure exactly what that proves. Maybe our approach to this blogging thing doesn't make any sense. Maybe some of our readers think that it's commendable that the two of us can play nicely in the sandbox. Or maybe we just like each other.

Aw, that can't be it.

Anyway, perhaps someone with more spare time than we have can look at the list of big firm blogs and draw more scientific conclusions than we have. The data's there for the mining; someone should take a look.


Lawrence Berezin said...

Fascinating post. I'm all for unscientific, website pounding investigation.

I've questioned whether legal blogging, or websites really attract clients. I'm aware of the conversation about increasing credibility, and your status as an expert; but I can't seem to find any solid, website pounding information to show an increase in clients.

My unscientific feeling is many potential clients may look at your website AFTER receiving a referral from a trusted friend or adviser.

Any unscientific thoughts on the subject? The Big Firms with the most dough certainly demonstrate that website/blogging isn't necessary to corner the money market.

Great post!

Venkat said...

I enjoyed reading this post.

I don't have anything else of consequence to add.

Anonymous said...

But Larry Bodine has created a career on this subject. Is he wrong? Please don't tell me he has created a career based on the weak and insecure attorneys?

Tom Kane said...

Mark, in an email you stated: "It turns out that the most profitable large law firms don't host blogs" and provided a link to this post. In response to your invitation: "We thought you might have a thought or two about why that's true," I do.

Really it is pretty basic as to why, IMHO. "Profitable" large law firms don’t see the need or the benefit of doing blogs. Clearly, if they are already doing well, why go the trouble and work involved in blogging, when too many BigLaw lawyers still believe that the work will always be there. A mistake of course, but a perception nonetheless.