I’ve enjoyed recent law school grad Jeremy Blachman’s ride as the Anonymous Lawyer. He’s been able to leverage an entertaining anonymous lawyer blog about life in a big New York law firm into broad news coverage and publication of a good book. But Jeremy, don’t talk about those things you know little or nothing about.

An interview by Internet Law & Strategy showcased the Anonymous lawyer’s ignorance on the marketing power of blogs. When asked “Will law firms and lawyers eventually embrace the blog as a form of advertising or a demonstration of proficiency in certain fields?”

I feel like most of the people reading legal blogs are probably other lawyers, not necessarily potential clients. I’m not sure that if I were choosing a law firm, I’d be reading blogs to figure out legal competency, as opposed to checking with past clients, or however else people choose their lawyers. I guess for really technical specialties, I can see where demonstrated understanding of the area, as expressed in a blog, could be helpful. For firms looking to recruit law students, I suppose I could imagine a blog having some value in helping a firm try and stand out from the pack, but broader than that, I’d probably need to be convinced that there’s great value in blogging.

Let’s see what the Anonymous lawyer knows about the marketing power of blogs:

  • He’s never practiced law a day in his life
  • He’s never had to market himself as a lawyer
  • He’s never had to get paying clients to meet the monthly overhead while having enough left over to pay the mortgage and feed the family
  • He’s never worked in a law firm other than as a clerk in a New York law firm
  • He has no marketing training that I know of

What does the anonymous lawyer not know about the marketing potential of blogs?

  • That a significant number of large firms in the country are experiencing marketing success from blogs. – Preston Gates, Sheppard Mullin, Davis Wright Tremaine, McGlinchey Stafford
  • That some smaller firms rely entirely on blogs and the word of mouth generated thereby to generate work. – Grant Griffiths, Phil Mann
  • That a well thought out focused blog may be the most cost effective marketing tool at a law firm’s disposal.
  • That syndicating content via RSS, done automatically by blogs, will soon be the industry standard for law firm’s distributing legal content now distributed by email and hard copy.

I practiced law for 17 years through 1999. In 1996 when I started my own firm in rural Wisconsin, I discovered the marketing potential of the Internet by necessity. I borrowed almost $400,000 to buy my files from my previous firm (associate time plus expenses). I had no money for marketing.

But I found if I published practical legal information on the Internet I got clients. Three reasons. One, people are drawn to lawyers’ on the net who publish practical legal information. That goes for consumers or business exec’s. Two, people could see that I knew something about the area of law in which they needed help. Three, as the content was written by me (indexed questions and answers), people got to know me as a person.

Blogs do all three. For that reason the correct answer to Internet Law & Strategy’s question is “Yes, law firms and lawyers will definitely embrace the blog as a form of advertising and demonstrating proficiency. In fact, they already are.”

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  • Comments like the Annonymous Lawyer usually come from those that have never actually used a blog to promote their practice. And most important, used a blog to provide quality law related information to the public in a way they understand. Perhaps once the AL actually experiences the real world, he will come to understand the importance and advantages of a practice area specific legal blog as mine at http://www.kansasfamilylawblog.com

  • neil coren

    Blachman isn’t alone. The first paragraph of this piece discusses another lawyer who got a book deal, writing some fairly blue material.
    http://workingwithwords.blogspot.com/2006/09/were-all-over-place-today-title-sure.html

  • Kevin,
    Let me get this straight. A law school student who got a book deal and I *think* but may be mistaken, screen play writing jobs off nothing but his blog is questioning the ability of blogs to bring in business?
    Hmmmm…
    It sounds like blogs have enabled his success. He’s not the only one it works for.

  • Nailed that Dave. He may not know a lick about marketing a law firm, but without his blog marketing him, no one would have ever heard of Jeremy.

  • Absolutely right. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and shouldn’t have even tried to answer the question. It’s hard not to feel like if someone asks a question, you have to answer it, and that whole interview was filled with things I felt pretty unqualified to say anything about. I’m not practicing law, I’ve never tried to convey real legal information on my blogs, and I have no idea what real lawyers are doing with blogs, successfully or unsuccessfully. My answer was honest — I don’t know that if I was looking for a lawyer, I’d rely on a blog — but completely uninformed and this post and the comments are exactly right.
    I think it’s really neat if blogs are actually valuable to lawyers and firms. I didn’t know, now I do. I shouldn’t have answered the question.
    Just posted something on my blog that basically says what this comment does —
    http://jeremyblachman.typepad.com/jeremy_blachman/2006/10/mea_culpa.html
    Didn’t mean to be stupid. Sorry.

  • I use my blog and posts in relevant forums to market my small law firm.
    The focus of the blog is not for other lawyers, but aimed at preventing the need for litigation, through proper education. I am also looking for relevant contacts through the blog both in regulatory agencies, private investigators and reporters.
    The blog is far cheaper and more useful than a yellow page ad.

  • Thanks for the feedback from you guys successfully marketing through your blogs.
    And Jeremy thanks for the comment, stand up things to say. Maybe better approach on my part would have been to email you for comments before posting so as not to look like hard ass. Just get very passionate about the lawyers who are sharing legal info as a way to market themselves.

  • I definitely think there is value in blogs as a marketing too… but…
    “That a significant number of large firms in the country are experiencing marketing success from blogs.”
    Can you qualify that statement? What are the metrics being used to determine “success”? Success in relation to other, traditional marketing mediums? Or success in that a new form is producing some results? And at what level are those results truly “successful”?
    I’m not doubting, I’m just curious how you are measuring that success.

  • As to Dave’s question (who’s been second guessing me for quite a while), large firm ROI & success as measured by whether the firm feels that blogs are a very, very cost effective business development and marketing tool.
    Take a few examples. Sheppard Mullin, now up to 7 or 8 blogs. Took content they distributed by hard copy and pdf’s and moved to blogs. Feedback: Content up and out to clients and prospects faster; Big cost savings in labor and out of pocket expense; Readership of content up by large numbers; Content indexed at Google with high search engine rankings that did not have before; Enhancing firm’s image as innovator – good for recruitment and as business development tool.
    Davis Wright Tremaine: 4 blogs; When lawyer writing on Privacy & Security blog was asked at Legal Marketing Association seminar about the return, he called blog ‘Huge return on investment.’ When presenting on work for some of nation’s largest corporations, the blog gave them transparent proof of practice group’s dedication to privacy and security area. Feedback on blog from people they then met with was very positive. They believe gives them significant leg up on competition.
    Preston Gates Ellis – Electronic Discovery Law Blog. Showcases talent they have in this practice group allowing them to get work directly related to blog. Blog is featured at seminars and conferences they do not even speak at as a leading resource on e discovery issues.
    Could go on and on as to other large firms. Same question could be raised as to other things firms do to market themselves – take clients to sporting events, write articles, conduct seminars, put profiles in directories, ask lawyers and business dev people in firm to go meet with prospects – what is direct ROI? How do you measure success?
    You gauge by the response you are getting. Smart and talented marketing and business development people ranging from marketing managers to CMO’s in firms then make call it is wise move to continue based on cost, time and return.
    As lawyer from McGlinchey Stafford said at national law blog conference this spring, “It’s what we do, we market through sharing our intellectual capital, and blogging is excellent way of doing it.” For that reason he did not see firm ever stopping.
    Blogs are a no brainer for large firms. Don’t need to be in business like I am to see that.

  • I just like to keep you on your toes, Kevin. :)
    I just think statements about “success” are more powerful when backed up with concrete examples. Thank you for providing some!