Blogs published by lawyers on relevant topics are becoming increasingly more important in in-house counsel’s research of lawyers and law firms for potential hire.

This per Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey (pdf) conducted by strategic communications firm Greentarget, American Lawyer Media and legal consulting firm The Zeughauser Group.

In-house counsel ranked the following activities “most important” for helping them vet and research outside counsel for potential hire:

  1. Recommendations from sources you trust – 73%
  2. Articles and speeches the lawyer has authored – 38%
  3. Bios on the firm’s Web site – 30%
  4. Blogs published by lawyers – 27%
  5. Rankings and directories -25%
  6. Twitter feeds from lawyers – 22%
  7. Endorsements and connections on LinkedIn – 18%
  8. Quotes by lawyers in relevant media outlets -15%

Whether a lawyer publishes a blog is going to be increasingly more important for the vetting of lawyers by in-house counsel.

  • 37 percent of counsel aged 30-39 already rated “blogs published by lawyers” as the second most important activity for helping them to research outside lawyers for potential hire, following “recommendations from sources they trust.”
  • Half of in-house counsel agree or somewhat agree that in the future, high-profile blogs authored by firm lawyers will play an important role in influencing clients to hire that law firm.
  • 63 percent of counsel aged 30-39 agree or somewhat agree that they envision a future in which a law firm’s prominence through a high-profile blog will play an important role in influencing clients to hire that law firm.

With articles and speaking engagements ranking so high in influencing in-house counsel’s hiring decisions blogs become all the more important. Ask any lawyer who publishes a good topic centric blog and they’ll tell you that their speaking opportunities have increased dramatically with blogging. Blogging lawyers are also likely to tell you of their blog posts being re-published as articles and of increasing requests for them to write articles.

Many lawyers and law firms are still quick to dismiss blogs for business development. “Our corporate clients don’t read them.” It’s going to be awfully hard to hold on to unfounded views of the past with blogs being of such increasing importance to in-house counsel’s vetting of law firms for potential hire.

ALM American Lawyer MediaThat’s the question being asked today by some very well read publications covering journalism and the media.

From Gawker:

Earlier this month, American Lawyer Media laid off 42 staffers across the board. The company is also “scaling back” plans to expand the scope of one magazine, and moving another to an all-digital format, according to an internal memo. One insider says all of the laid off people are gone, but a sense of nervousness still pervades the office.

And from Folio:

Ever since British acquisition firm Incisive Media purchased U.S.-based ALM last July for $630, it seemed that the Apax Partners subsidiary was on the fast track, quickly evolving from an entrepreneurial startup to b-to-b powerhouse.

Now, it seems there is some apprehension from inside-mostly about revenues. Is the legal market not as recession-proof as once thought?

Earlier this month, ALM slashed 47 jobs across the board. The company apparently is scaling back plans to grow Real Estate Media’s Florida publication into a monthly magazine and is shifting Law Firm, Inc. from a print to online only.

Both Gawker and Folio reference CEO Bill Pollak’s internal memo:

Folks,

Several weeks ago, I wrote to you about our business results for the first quarter of 2008 and shared some of the challenges we face as a result of the credit squeeze and other market factors. I also described our intention to tighten our belts and reduce costs. With no change in sight on the economic horizon, the senior management team and I have spent the past few weeks examining our business options. Our goal was to find solutions that would lower expenses without compromising quality, and which would allow us to continue to invest in and meet our long term business goals. In particular, we all strongly agree on the need to continue investing in our Web infrastructure, while expanding ALM’s ability to generate and publish content online.

We looked at each business with these questions in mind: Are we getting the right return on our investment? Do we need to keep doing this work? Can we do this work another way? We believe that while we are primarily doing the right work in the right way, there are changes we need to make immediately to respond to economic conditions.

Some of these changes involve revising the timing or scope of planned initiatives. Others, however, are staff related and go beyond simply delaying the filling of open jobs. In total, we have decided to eliminate forty-two current positions across ALM and Incisive’s US operations. These staff reductions are distributed across businesses, locations and job levels and all the employees involved have already been notified.

The business changes we will be making are also broad in scope. These include scaling back plans to grow Real Estate Media’s Florida publication into a monthly magazine; closing down the Operations Department of Incisive’s Norwalk, CT. office; and shifting Law Firm, Inc. from a print magazine to a digital product.

Another change in business strategy – and the one that will have the greatest impact on staff – is our decision to restructure ALM’s Event Division and reassign management responsibility for many of our existing SRI conferences to Insight in Canada, Incisive’s Events group in London and ALM’s Legal Publishing Division. A number of SRI’s financial events will be eliminated.

Accepting and working through change is never easy, and changes that affect our colleagues and friends can be particularly painful. We did not make these decisions lightly. But we know that our future success depends on our ability to align ourselves with our markets and clients, and to ensure we have the resources we need to develop and grow our brands. The changes announced today will not only help us during the current economic turbulence, but will make us stronger in the future.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note at

[Redacted].

Bill

ALM has some talented and passionate reporters, editors, and management folks – one of whom is Pollak. But as with the journalism industry in general placing greater weight on online media, there are going to be changes.

Added to that is Incisive Media’s footprint. Incisive is a fast growing digital information provider doing some innovative things. With innovation will come change.

Expect ALM to be a force in legal publishing at the end of the day. But with digital gaining on print, things will just be much different.

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s LexBlog Q & A with Mario Sundar of LinkedIn (which focused less on the law and more on social networking), we’re shifting gears back to the legal realm. And who better to bring us back in style than Bill Pollak of ALM?

Bill, who has been with the company since it’s formation and currently serves as their CEO, brings a unique understanding of legal publishing to the table. In our e-mail exchange, he offers his perspectives on the current state of legal publishing, the ALM’s use of technology at their website, and how he thinks ALM will fare in a world where traditional publications are continuing to fall by the wayside. See the full text in it’s usual location (after the jump).

Continue Reading Bill Pollak, CEO of ALM [LexBlog Q & A]

American Lawyer Media – ALM – is now indexing all legal blogs so that such law blog content is included in search results at ALM’s Law.com website right along with legal news reported by ALM’s reporters.

Doing a search for Martindale-Hubbell this morning, the first four results displayed are from legal blogs not affiliated with ALM in anyway. It was not until the fourth result did I find an ALM published piece.

ALM Law.com blogs Incisive Media

What’s the significance?

  • ALM, a traditional legal publisher (National Law Journal and 34 other national and regional legal periodicals), is recognizing the importance of legal content published by bloggers.
  • ALM recognizing that legal blogs, other than those selected by ALM’s Law.com Blog Network, are of equal or greater importance than those in this network which the unknowing have labeled the best legal blogs.
  • Legal research of a legal index that did not include legal blogs would be incomplete.
  • Lawyers may self-publish via a blog without submitting articles to legal publications. Their content will be seen along side content published by legal periodicals.
  • ALM, and its owner Incisive Media, recognizing that user generated content may be as important as their own content in the well being of their publications.
  • Law.com could become a legal information center with more content produced by practicing lawyers, law professors, and law students than ALM’s own reporters and editors.

Still some important features missing, such as the ability to subscribe to search results by RSS, but this is a good start for blogs at ALM.

American Lawyer Media (ALM) has begun to develop an Internet presence through participation in the blogosphere discussion. LexisNexis and Thomson FindLaw have ignored participation. It may be that the later two companies believe they can maintain their dualopoly of selling legal research & related services longer without active discussion on the Internet.

American Lawyer Media, through it's own blogs, not the featured law blogs on Law.com, have begun to establish an Internet presence. It's not the blogs alone, but listening to Internet discussion on other blogs and joining the discussion via comments on blog posts, emails to blog publishers, and emails from ALM bloggers to ALM senior management about issues raised on the blogosphere. This is all being done in a transparent fashion that will make people more trusting of ALM, build relationships and serve the company well in the long haul.

Here's specific examples. I blogged about not having widespread WiFi for attendees at ALM's LegalTech Conference a few weeks ago. Monica Bay, an editor with ALM and publisher of The Common Scold blog, commented on my blog that ALM would look into the issue for next year. She also emailed me, copying ALM senior management, that they were working on it and pointing out some places at LegalTech where WiFi could be picked up.

I also recently blogged about another issue of concern to the legal community. This morning there was an email, copying me, from Monica Bay to senior ALM management about the issue.

Marketing these days is a discussion. A company needs to communicate with their customers and their customer's influencers. This communication needs to be done in an open and transparent fashion. The danger of failing to participate is real.

In addition, when a company is the subject of criticism on the net, they better have an effective way to respond. Press releases or, even worse, marketing communications coming weeks or months or later, are way to late to stem the tide of Internet discussion about a company's deficiency.

LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell senior management have posted a comments on my blog a few times and there have been the exchange of emails about my blog posts. Thomson FindLaw has never posted a comment on my blog, that I recall, but I have exchanged emails and had discussions with their communications' person. Rather than jumping into an open Internet discussion and engaging the Internet legal community at large on an issue I posted, the companies were only responding to me.

I urged LexisNexis and Thomson FindLaw to begin corporate blogs almost a year ago. Despite hundreds, if not thousands of corporate blogs having been launched and the legal industry being among the most active blogosphere, the two companies have said no go.

That's disappointing when LexisNexis and Thomson FindLaw are likely earning in excess of a Billion Dollars from law firms. Ought to be equally concerning when I here from law firms that these companies products are often lacking.

ALM still has a ways to go. Take some of that internal email and get it onto your blogs so the legal community as a whole can engage in real time discussion. This discussion is only going to improve your products & services as well as your relations with bloggers, who have the ear of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of your customers.

But at least ALM is entering the discussion. Been waiting 11 months for a LexisNexis or Thomson FindLaw blog. How many more months will it be?