Update (July 31, 2013): In my original post, below, I questioned whether law firm blogs are the future of law firm marketing or whether firm blogs are a bubble, a fad, or experiments that will, over time, be abandoned.
I am convinced that, for most law firms and most law blogs, they are a passing fad. They are experiments that will, over time, be abandoned for the reasons described in the original post. Put simply, for the vast majority of law firms, large and small, the cost/benefit equation won’t net positive.
Recently, I received a call from a disappointed Minnesota Litigator reader who did not agree with my description of a particular case discussed in a post. This is not the first time I have fielded such a call and I doubt it will be the last. This is the kind of public relations incident that no law firm wants.
Having said that, Minnesota Litigator is different. I welcome feedback. I honestly treasure disagreement. If the expression of an idea draws vigorous disagreement, I would like to think that this is an open forum in which reasonable minds can differ. After all, litigators spend their professional lives hammering out disputes via adversarial exchanges. If Minnesota Litigator crosses a line, misinterprets a case or gives short shrift to one side or a particular point of view, call me out on it.
I conclude the post by thanking Minnesota Litigators for all comments and feedback, including criticism, supplementing posts, or correcting posts. As a solo business litigator, I am relatively free from the constraints of larger institutions I can take controversial stands. I apologize in advance (and in retrospect) for ruffled feathers but am always open to all constructive feedback.
Original Post (January 18, 2013): A few years ago, there were not many Minnesota law blogs and now there are literally hundreds of them. Why? Famous legal writer Bryan Garner has said that lawyers, as a group, are our country’s highest paid writers. There is truth to that. What better marketing than self-publishing, where lawyers, at very low cost in terms of dollars spent, can demonstrate their grasp of current cutting edge legal issues and show off their writing skills at the same time?
While there is a place for “law blogs,” and there will be for the foreseeable future, they have many serious limitations and I believe we are experiencing a law blog bubble. I predict the past few years’ proliferation of lawyer and law firm blogs will reverse and the number of law blogs will contract in the next five years.
Note that large Minnesota law firms have been fairly late to the blog game. (Winthrop & Weinstine’s Duets Blog is a noteworthy exception. A vibrant, well-written, longstanding, well-maintained player in the Minnesota “blawgosphere.” If you are interested in trademark law in Minnesota, read this blog regularly.) But all big Minnesota law firms are in the mix now, but some tentatively, it seems, and with varying levels of commitment and approaches.
Of the top five Minnesota law firms, only Dorsey & Whitney, LLP and Fredrikson make it relatively easy to find their lawyers’ blogs on the law firm website home pages. (See Faegre, Dorsey, Fredrikson, Robins, Leonard Street, the five biggest)) Faegre, Robins, and Leonard Street seem to avoid highlighting any “blogs” on their websites, preferring to highlight “publications” or “articles.” (Notably, Leonard Street has been nationally recognized for its Arbitration Nation blog but finding the blog from the firm website seems nearly impossible.)
What’s with that?
- Big firm bureaucracy gums up the process. Blogging, like the 24-hour news cycle, places a premium on speed-to-market and there is, therefore, a difficult tension to that larger businesses have to contend with;
- Larger law firms have a kind of schizophrenia by which I mean that they wish to promote the brand – The Law Firm – and not so aggressively the firm’s individual lawyers who can take their “book” elsewhere when they please. (“Book” is commercial jargon for “book of business” or an individual’s clients that are loyal to the an individual rather than to the firm where the individual works.)
- Blogging is quite a bit of work for which lawyers and law firms are unpaid. If you are a big firm (or with a big firm) with a strong client list, why waste the investment of time and why share your intellectual work product to the world for free when people and businesses are (one hopes and expects) in line to pay for it?
- And it is not as if there are no risks with blogging.
- Lawyers and law firms probably have an occupational bias and predisposition against risk (perhaps even contingent fee legal practices which are inherently tied to litigation risk, of course). Law firms (and lawyers) are not equipped to measure the risks or benefits of blogging generally or the risks and benefits of any particular post. So maybe it is best to avoid the risk?
- What’s less impressive than NOT having any blog? Having a blog on one’s website that has not been updated for a long time. We’ve all seen that. It’s the internet version of urban blight. (And “a long time” in “internet time” is not a very long time. One month? Three? Six?)
- Lawyers and law firms are all about being discrete. From time to time, lawyers are the custodians of their clients deepest confidences. As such, some clients are extremely sensitive to any public face of their lawyer or law firm. Lawyers and law firms are better situated if their brand is associated with regal (even ominous) silence rather than “loose lips” or irreverent (or thoughtless) jokery.
In discussing the future of Minnesota law blogs, I would be remiss if I did not include mention of “professional law blogs” such as MinnLawyer Blog and Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal Law Blog – that is, blogs focused on the law written by staffs of trained journalists. As outcrops of established news media businesses, there is no doubt that these folks provide a valuable service for which some people (but not all that many) are happy to pay. I hope and think these players will be around for a long while to come.
And finally, there are a couple of hard-to-classify Minnesota law blogs, like Minnesota-based Lawyerist and JD’s Rising, another blog sponsored by Minnesota Lawyer (Dolan Media, that is). These resources seem unconcerned by Minnesota law, in particular. In fact, they seem to seek to dissociate themselves from any whiff of any regional focus. As such, they are in their own class. Additionally, they target lawyers, they seek to advertise goods and services to lawyers. So they do not provide a public service to Minnesota lawyers (like the “professional law blogs”) nor are they directly promoting legal services to anyone (like the rest of us).