20130922-221712.jpg I have always believed the author of a blog post should be an individual lawyer, or a couple lawyers at most, as opposed to a law firm.

I am not referring to a group blog where there may be any number of lawyers. That’s fine. I am referring to an individual blog post.

The CMO of a major law firm and good client of LexBlog’s asked me why. I shot them a list of reasons that I thought worth sharing with you. As with anything, I am open to being proven wrong. So share your thoughts.

Historically, law firms authored white papers, alerts, and newsletters in the name of the law firm. The law firm was often listed as the publisher, editor, author, and what have you on such a piece of content.

But that all changed with blogs. Blogs were an opportunity for lawyers to enhance their reputation and build relationships. Blogs were part of social media from the get go. Social, by definition requires listening, engagement, and interaction. If not interaction on the face of the blog, interaction between blogs or between blogs and mainstream media reporters.

Here’s seven reasons why you should go with one (vast majority of time) or two lawyers, as opposed to the law firm, as a blog author.

  • Personal influence is becoming increasingly more important whether on Google or any social network. In the case of professionals, such as lawyers, personal influence is based upon the individual, not the firm.
  • Google+ is based on individual influence, more than a firm, especially when it comes to experts such as lawyers. The Google+ ID for each lawyer is now the gold standard, not to feed Google+ with your blog posts, but to have your posts appear higher in search results and for the posts to have the lawyer’s picture appear next to the post in search results. A picture accompanying a result on Google means it’s more much more likely to get clicked on.
  • Blog posts, more and more, are appearing and being read in apps such as Flipboard and Zite. Individual influence will effect whether blog posts appear in those apps. In addition, it looks poor to have a firm name appear as an author in these apps where every other post or article, including those coming from the vast majority of law firms, are listing an individual author.
  • Getting in Google News, though not easy, may be the goal of your law blog. With Google News placing heavy emphasis on an individual’s expertise, it’s going to be very tough, maybe impossible, to get your blog in Google News when individual authors are not used. Google News also shuns material that appears to be marketing oriented. Omitting an author, in favor of a corporate name, may be considered marketing focused. There are a number of advantages to Google News for a blog which I highlight here.
  • If a blog is 4 paragraphs long and lists 3 or 4 lawyers as authors, people will wonder how could it take so many lawyers.
  • Posts in a firm’s name, I believe, will get shared by others less on social media. Whose post am I sharing? Who am I building a relationship with? I can dance with an individual, but it’s hard to dance with a firm and its brand. It’s that dancing and ensuing relationships that social media is all about.
  • Take a look at the New York Times, Washington Post, Mashable, Huffington Post, or Harvard Business Review. One reporter or columnist. Law firms, like it or not, are in the media now, not marketing per se, when it comes to blogs.

I may be missing other points. And like I said, I am open to hearing arguments to the contrary.

I understand the concept of practice groups’ authoring blogs, wanting to give everyone credit, and not wanting to give life to an individual lawyer’s brand at the expense of the law firm’s brand.

But with blogs and the days of social media upon us, you may not be able to make up your own rules. Doing so by listing your law firm as the author in blog posts diminishes the impact of your blog, and, worse yet, could leave you looking foolish in many people’s eyes.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Commonwealth Club.

  • Guy Alvarez

    I have one more for you Kevin. People don’t hire law firms, they hire lawyers. As the business of law becomes more and more a commodity, the personal connections and reputation of a lawyer becomes increasingly important

    • Thanks for the comment, Guy, I think you are right. Though many corporations are going to look to the heft a law firm can provide, relationships between people are critical. In this day and age of social (getting bigger), that relationship and reputation that stems from a lawyer is becoming more and more important.

  • Very good points – ‘the Magnificent Seven’ if you like and I’m sure there are more . . for instance, ‘firm blindness’ is probably akin to ‘ad blindness’ where people don’t actually care or recognize the firm – Skaddens? Cravaths? – who wrote that post? – but if they identify with and like a particular author/lawyer’s style and points they’ll respond, interact and share.

  • Goldberg Weisman Cairo

    I could be wrong, but the common reader probably doesn’t think too much about who wrote the blog. It’s the actual content they’re interested in. I do see these points as valid when branding your name, but if you’re working for a firm, it would still benefit you if the firm is the author. It’s the same idea as a firm’s name being on a commercial. The client’s bond is built from the actual interaction, not so much an ad or blog. This is all just my opinion, of course.

    • If you look at blogs as solely getting content on the Internet, then it doesn’t matter whether the firm or the lawyer is listed as author. If you are looking to build trust, relationships, and reputation, then it matters tremendously.

      Who am I following? Whom am I listening to? Who will be on the other side of a comment, a tweet, an email, a phone call, or a meeting in the office. That’s a person.

      At the end of the day, most people hire lawyers, not law firms. These people include consumers, small business people, and in-house counsel. Who does that person trust? Who has the lawyer, not the firm, built an intimate relationship of trust with through blogging.

      Sure, a lawyer should say with branding, the about section, and the contact section that they are with a firm. Being with a firm adds to the individual’s credibility.

      If a doctor who is blogging says they are with Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins I am all the more apt to trust them. But it’s that doc I am calling for treatment of my child’s condition, not the 1-800 number of the clinic who is listed as author of the content about the condition. Same for lawyers.

      • GWC

        While of course you are correct, that the individual lawyer is hired, its often the firm that gets them hired. Alot of times, clients don’t know who their lawyer will end up being until they call. They start the converstaion with “I’m not sure who I should talk to, but this is what happened…” Once that is settled, it is my opinion that the client bond is built on the interaction: how that lawyer speaks to them, handles thier business, ect.

        I suppose some people might stop and take note of the writer, and there are also those that just don’t.

        • There will be clients who hire a firm like that. But if you are a lawyer or law firm looking to achieve as much as you can from blogging (and who would not) an individual lawyers name is key. That’s who I cite as a blogger, it’s who I call as a reporter, and it’s whose content I share on Twitter. I cannot recall the last thing I shared on Twitter which did not have an individual as the author or reporter.