Most large law firms publish law blogs by traditional practice groups. There are over 130 employment law blogs being published by AmLaw 200 firms, alone.
The “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” from Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, widely labeled as the “Georgetown Report,” signals that publishing blogs focused on general practice areas is misguided.
Niche focused publications demonstrating subject matter expertise is key.
Why? The erosion of the traditional law firm franchise over the last ten years. Clients are disaggregating work and allocating work to different law firms based on subject matter expertise established, in part, through niche blog publishing.
From the Georgetown Report:
One significant result of this disaggregated approach is that the client’s relationship with its outside counsel may – and often does – shift from a traditional client/trusted advisor relationship to more of an ad hoc, transactional relationship. In the latter model, the outside lawyer becomes less of a counselor with respect to the overall matter and more of a provider of specialized services that the client is unable to provide internally or acquire more effectively elsewhere.
Fox Rothschild, which publishes thirty-seven law blogs, is one law firm that recognizes the disaggregation concept in its approach to blogging.
Mark L. Silow, Firmwide Managing Partner for Fox Rothschild, in telling Bloomberg Law he’s amazed both by the amount of traffic that the firm’s blogs attract and by the amount of business that they generate, says a niche focus is key.
The thing that we encourage, and actually insist on in our bloggers is that they be very focused, that they be very specific. We would never approve of someone who says I am going to write a litigation blog. It has to be much narrower, much more focused.
Why does Silow insist on niche blog publications?
Clients are hiring experts. They are not hiring law firms, they are not hiring generic lawyers, they are hiring experts.
If you can blog today on a decision that came out this morning involving a really specific technical aspect of the law, you have now portrayed yourself as a current expert.
Silow’s thinking closing parallels the findings of the Georgetown Report.
The buzz word is disaggregation, where clients, especially the larger and more sophisticated clients, are no longer saying “Fox Rothschild is my law firm, whatever legal issues I have pick up the phone and call Fox Rothschild.” They have now have litigation counsel for this, they have litigation counsel for that kind of issue. They have tax counsel, real estate counsel, securities counsel, and all kinds of counsel.”
Those who can project and have the real specific expertise are getting more and more work.
There’s little doubt Fox Rothschild is outperforming the majority of large law firms on the blog front. The reason is a proactive and strategic focus. Rather than the tired and old marketing and business development by practice groups with a large number of lawyer bloggers, Fox Rothschild looks to opportunities for growth.
Fox Rothschild’s blogs can have as many as six or eight bloggers, but a good number have two to three bloggers, with some as few as one. The firm is tapping into the interests and passion of its lawyers in order to establish firm niche expertise.
Fox Rothschild’s business success is in line with the findings of the Georgetown Report.
There are, of course, many reasons that some law firms outperform others – including historic location, practices, and client base – but there are two characteristics that seem to have emerged over the past several years as particularly important in marking firms as likely winners: strategic focus and proactive response to the needs and expectations of clients.
Though there are exceptions, general practice oriented blogs struggle, especially to start. The blogs do not become must have publications for clients, including in-house counsel. The blogs do not get shared on social media. The blogs do not get cited by reporters, bloggers and the even the courts.
As a result, the lawyers’ interest in blogging wanes and the blog shows it. The firm has wasted an opportunity and often hundreds of thousands of dollars in collective lawyer time.
Legal blogs present an opportunity for lawyers and law firms to make a name for themselves as subject matter experts. But follow the wisdom of the Georgetown Report and Fox Rothschild. Go niche law blogs.