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Marketing stigma with blogging on a law firm branded blog?

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I was meeting with 2 lawyers from a major East Coast law firm recently to discuss strategy on their upcoming blog.

The firm has done a number of blogs, but the lawyers wanted to steer clear of the firm’s brand on their blog. They felt that if the blog was branded in the firm’s name and done in the same design as as the firm’s other blogs, the blog would be viewed as marketing spin — no matter the value of the insight provided.

It was interesting that the firm’s marketing and business development teams not only consented to the approach proposed by the lawyers, but they lauded the approach.

The firm wanted to take their social media and blogging to another level. A level based on doing all it could to empower its lawyers to establish strong word of mouth reputations and grow their relationships via the net. The firm wanted to test this approach with one or two blogs.

I appreciate the desire of most law firms to maintain a consistent brand across their blogs, but the approach of this law firm and its two lawyers is a sound one.

Get a blog out there as a resource that as many people look to as trusted and reliable information, insight, and commnetary. Those people will include lawyers in other jurisdictions and practice areas who will be refer to lawyers they know and trust – such as the authors of what they see as a definitive and trusted resource on a niche.

Think back to the days where we had treatises, journals, and handbooks on our law office walls. They were published by legal publishers, with some exceptions, not law firms. It’s unlikely the firm would have lined its walls with books authored by other law firms.

The authors of portions of those books and treatises were practicing lawyers – lawyers apt to be looked at as authorities and thought leaders by other lawyers. Those lawyers picked up work by referral and were brought in as co-counsel.

The lawyers I met with are not alone. Off the top of my head I can think of a very successful group law blog, DuetsBlog, authored by a number of lawyers at the Minneapolis based law firm of Winthrop and Weinstine. No law firm branding, you’ll even struggle to find the firm’s name.

Another is Dave Donoghue’s Chicago IP Litigation Blog. Dave’s now at Holland and Knight and was previously at DLA Piper. With both firms, no law firm branding. Dave’s generated substantial work through relations he’s built through blogging.

3 years ago a bright digital media and business development guy working with a multinational law firm based in Toronto told me he wanted his lawyers out their blogging on blogs that were not law law firm branded and with non law firm employees.

He believed his lawyers would be perceived as more authoritative and credible if they didn’t wear the law firm’s ‘suit of clothes.’ He also felt that getting those lawyers out blogging and ‘mingling’ with non lawyers in the business and technology communities did more for business development (networking, reputation building, relationships). Having a non branded blog opened up that later opportunity.

I don’t see that there’s a right way and a wrong way here. LexBlog’s LXBN Network has more law firm branded blogs than those without a firm brand. And those law firm branded blogs have proven to very successful business development tools.

What do you guys think? See a trend? Think one type of blog works better than another?

Image courtesy of Flickr by Steve Snodgrass.