Just noticed a couple of blog posts reacting to something I said in an interview about blogs and law firms. I was asked, "Will law firms and lawyers eventually embrace the blog as a form of advertising or a demonstration of proficiency in certain fields?" and without really knowing what I'm talking about, I gave a pretty non-committal answer about how I'm not sure I think there's really any value there:
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.
It's not that I don't stand by what I said -- if I were choosing a law firm, I don't think I'd be reading blogs to figure out legal competency -- but I actually don't know what I'm talking about, and it's totally cool that two bloggers are calling me on it. My bad.
What I pictured in my head when answering the question was a big firm, and a big enterprise. Like, if someone's picking Skadden to do some work for them, I'm not sure the existence of a blog, or the knowledge shown by the lawyers writing it, are going to be all that useful in the decision. And in terms of blog readership, I was just going on the fact that the majority of the response I get from readers comes from lawyers and law students who happen to stumble across it, and not from people who'd be potential clients. But it's almost surely the case that my blog readership doesn't have anything to do with the readership that blogs that actually talk about legal issues, and that people who are in fact potential clients would be looking for. But the big problems with my answer are that even for the big firms like the ones I was thinking about, which are just a small part of the legal world anyway, I don't know what I'm talking about, and certainly for any other situation, I still don't know what I'm talking about.
There were a bunch of questions in that interview I wasn't terribly qualified to answer, like about at-will employment and David Lat. It's very uncomfortable to answer an e-mail interview when you don't really know enough to be smart about it. Here's an edited version of my answers in that interview, just for fun:
"I'm not an expert... I'm not sure... I think... Maybe not... I guess... I think... I think... I think... not necessarily... I don't know all the details here... Someone else would surely be better qualified to analyze the merits... I feel like... I'm not sure... I guess... I suppose...." (The rest of the interview is here.)
All of that is just to say that this post by Kevin O'Keefe is totally right. I don't know enough about the marketing potential of blogs for actual practicing lawyers (as opposed to fictional lawyers) that I should have even tried to answer the question, and there's absolutely no reason for anyone to care what I think about blogs for actual practicing lawyers regardless. I have no expertise, or experience, and really haven't even spent any time thinking about it so that I could talk intelligently about it, and my answer was just trying to answer the question without sounding too dumb.
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.
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."
I think that's all very neat. I'm glad blogs are useful for getting clients. O'Keefe's commenters are exactly right that without blogs, I wouldn't have gotten a book deal. Obviously. That's absolutely true. And if the question had been about blogs being useful to find writers writing somewhere out there in the world, at least I'd have some reason to be able to answer that question and say yes, blogs are useful. In the law firm context, Kevin O'Keefe knows a lot more than I do. Of course.
This Home Office Lawyer blog also posts about this stuff, and, again, that's very neat that his blog is getting him clients.
My bad. I didn't mean to say something wrong and stupid about blogs in the legal marketing context. Sorry. Interviews are no fun, although at least e-mail interviews give you time to try not to be an idiot, and it's very easy to get scared when someone asks you a question and feel like you have to give an answer, even if it's a bad one.