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Blog, blog, blog: Take advantage of the fact that 27% of in-house lawyers use blogs as their most important tool in researching and identifying outside lawyers to hire.

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Recently, a  deputy general counsel for the Association of Corporate Counsel, reported at a conference about a corporation that chose to conduct a “beauty contest” for a particular engagement by independently identifying the top five lawyers in the country who had the expertise to handle the matter.  Of the group invited to make presentations, most were New York based.  The client selected a Kentucky firm, since its rates were 25% lower than its East Coast competitors. James  Merklinger of the ACC, who conveyed the anecdote, explained  “In this day and age of technology, it doesn’t really matter where you are, so there’s no reason to pay top dollar if you can find someone who’s considered just as capable.”

Neat story with obvious lessons.

But the astute reader should be thinking about a different question:  How in the hell did the client find a lawyer in Kentucky, of all places, with the precise expertise it needed?  A better question you should be asking is: Instead of your chasing around looking for new clients and business opportunities, attending de rigueur lunches, golf outings, industry specific conferences (where you are competing with a score or more of lawyers looking for the same work) is there some efficient way, other than late night TV ads,  for you to have clients look for you, instead of your looking for them?

The fellow from Kentucky figured out how to do this.

ALM Legal Intelligence Group, in association with the Zeugheiser Group released early this week the result of a survey it recently conducted which will lead you to obvious conclusions:  27% of in-house lawyers used blogs posted by lawyers on relevant topics as the “most important” tool in researching for outside counsel for a particular engagement.  Another interesting statistic: only 96 of the AmLaw 200 firms used blogs.

So I assume that each lawyer takes pride in his or her specialized expertise in a subset of his or her broader generic practice area.  So for example, you are a litigator with relatively unique expertise in nuclear reactor construction disputes involving concrete.  Likely, your firm’s web site will have you listed as part of its litigation group or part of its construction group.  A Google search made by a prospective client for lawyers with that unique expertise (expertise in nuclear reactor construction disputes) will never find you doing a web search.

Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.  Identify a specific area in your practice for which you have specialized and conduct a search a lawyer with that expertise. The heavy odds are you will be shocked not to find your name popping up. So, how are the 27% of in-house lawyers who rely on blogs as their most “important tool” in searching for outside counsel going to find you?

Lesson 1: create and maintain a blog (don’t know how? Skip the call to your IT department and just go to Google or a similar search engine and type in this question: How do I create a blog? Or ask your kids or grandkids).  Lesson 2: put postings of interest  and of substance on your blog, and please, don’t  make them boring or make them look like they were written by a second year law student writing an analysis of a case.  Short, interesting, substantive, informative is part of the solution (Example this is a recent development that you should know about [please, please, no case citations and no procedural history, nobody cares]).  Lesson 3: Post regularly (I suggest once a week). Lesson 4:  use the key terms of your special expertise (such as nuclear reactor construction disputes involving concrete and use those terms in different combinations often.  Lesson 5: circulate a very short, sweet and enticing email among your clients and prospective clients very briefly advising the reader that you’ve just written a piece about the subject and include a link to your posting .  Keep adding to your email list new prospective clients. I previously addressed this issue, if you forgot, click this link.  Lesson 6: Sign up to www.jdsupra.com , a novel, robust, easy to use, and extremely effective web site signing up is free, the modest price of an upgrade is well worth it). JDsupra.com circulates your blog entry to tens of thousands of lawyers.  When posting on jdsupra, be sure to include your firm’s logo and a link to your web site and your firm’s web site.  (there is some chace you may need some small amount of assistance from either your marketing director or IT specialist, if you can’t figure out how to insert the web site or blog links,  but once a template is created, it can be used by you regularly.  Lesson 7:   Register with Lexology (www.lexology.com ), a portal for thousands of lawyers particularly in house corporate lawyers and which is co – sponsored by the ACC .  Lesson 8: Include a link to your posting on Linked In and the relevant groups to which you belong (there are 1,500,000 lawyers on Linked In, thousands of groups dealing with nuclear reactors and construction, which have too many millions of members for me to count), as we previously recommended. Chances are that if you are reading this, you just saw how this all works.

As you go through these exercises, consider the tools available and that are actually being used by clients to stay in touch with new developments and trends in their industries.  The most common and easiest to use is Google Reader.  Google Reader will provide you with real time access to new information posted on the Internet in areas specified by the user.  The user defines the terms of the areas in which he or she has an interest.  Your client and potential are using this tool regularly and you should as well.  Thus, you will not have to wait for any of this information to crawl to your attention through your reliance on traditional media, print or electronic.  You will not only be ahead of the curve, but when the client asks for your views on a cutting edge issue he or she may have read about on the web using these tools and with which you will likely not have acquired any information unless you are using the same tools, you will in fact be able to respond on an informed basis.  More significantly, you may actually place yourself ahead of the curve and be able to take the initiative in commencing a dialogue on such an issue with a client or potential client.  Google offers a simple training video on how to use this tool at http://www.google.com/reader/view/?utm_campaign=en&utm_source=en-ha-ww-ww-bk&utm_medium=ha&utm_term=google+reader#welcome-page

The net critical point:  The more often you use the terms associated with your area of expertise and the more times people link up to your web site, the more often your name and area of expertise will show up when one of those 27% of corporate counsel are looking for somebody who needs the very special skills you have.  Or, when an ACC member or other in house corporate lawyer calls a colleague and asks if he or she knows somebody with expertise in nuclear reactor construction disputes, hopefully he or she will say check out so and so. I’ve read his or her blog and he or she seems to know what they are talking about.

A useful guide in getting started can also be found at http://associatesmind.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/new-legal-blogger-guide.pdf

Succesful marketers are also familiar with a basic maxim, namely, most often to successfully get new business, you need to ask a client to retain you.  Thus, frequently conclude your blog with some version of  “”I (or our firm) am (or is) happy to discuss our availability and our experience in this area of the law.  Feel free to review our web site at ____  and contact me at _________.  I would also be happy to provide you with a representative list of transactions (or cases we have handled in this area.”

And then keep a pile of new matter intake forms piled on your desk as the phone rings off the hook.

In accordance with my own advice above, feel free to contact me at jkowalski@kowalkiassociates or at 212 832 9070, Extension 310, to discuss the assistance I may be able to provide you and your firm in connection with marketing your services.

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15 Responses

  1. Jerome:

    As a former GC, I think that your comments are exactly on point in terms of how to reach prospective clients. The study that you note about 27% of in-house counsel using information in blogs as the “most important” tool in researching outside firms is especially noteworthy.

    In implementing the advice you describe above, I would suggest three related tips.

    First, use Google New Alerts to find industry-specific news. Google News Alerts are free, and can be set up around any topic (“nuclear reactor construction”, for instance). This will provide a continuous stream of noteworthy items on which blog postings can be made.

    Once created, Google will send news alerts to your e-mail (on a daily basis, if you choose this delivery option). See http://www.google.com/alerts for info. on creation.

    Second – once the news alert is created, use the subject matter included in the reports as a basis for blog postings. If there is an important news item, as mentioned above, briefly describe the item and the potential ramifications for clients or others affected by the item, and link to the original source.

    Third – send an e-mail to clients (and potential clients, if permissible), summarize the news item, provide a link to your posting in the e-mail, and if applicable, invite clients and others to call you to discuss the item.

    Not only is this an excellent strategy of generating new work, but (as mentioned above), positions you as being both the expert and on top of all the latest trends and information in a particular industry area.

    When I was a GC I frequently received these types of e-mails from a particular external attorney who did work for our company, and even if the subject was not one which required our company to take any actions, the information was almost always important to know. More importantly, however, I knew that the lawyer sending the e-mails was pro-actively thinking about our company, and on top of industry news.

  2. […] be taking the initiative and staking out and establishing your credible expertise in these areas by posting informative blogs on these important emerging issues.  The New York Times opined on June 26 that the new regulatory […]

  3. Just to build on Jeff’s suggestions, here’s another tip for finding blog topics.

    Use Twitter search (search.twitter.com) and type in a relevant term. Click on the RSS icon in the nav bar to create an RSS feed that goes to your feed reader or email inbox.

    Since Twitter is real time, you will see topics before they show up in Google alerts.

  4. […] and public relations staffs, as well as the wildly effective and largely free blogosphere, as we previously pointed out […]

  5. […] I previously wrote about the remarkable effectiveness of blogging as an incredibly effective and efficient marketing tool and strongly endorsed – in fact, encouraged our clients to make blogging an important part of their marketing efforts. […]

  6. […] in house lawyers are using to identify competent outside counsel, in the same way that they use blogs. In fact, if you or your marketing personnel have created your blog with all of the appropriate […]

  7. […] Law Firm Branding  There has been and likely always will be an elite group of top tier law firms which always rate the highest in profit per partner profitability and whose client base is not rate sensitive. The divide between these firms and those below this elite status will likely increase in the future. Nonetheless, law firm branding at every level is vital. Similarly, individual personal reputations and individual reputations of particular expertise also continue to be main drivers for attracting clients. We previously reported on the effectiveness of blogging in establishing the bona fides for enhancing…   […]

  8. […] Blogging is quickly becoming the most potent force in driving new business in the door.  Since we started advising our clients about the effectiveness of blogging a year or so ago (and […]

  9. […] Consider establishing a secure web site, accessible only to clients which will contain a searchable reservoir of research memoranda and FAQ’s to which a client can turn to in the first instance without tripping the meter.  These secure web sites naturally function best on industry specific or practice specific areas. The secure searchable web site should also be linked in to the firm’s practice blogs. […]

  10. Is having a blog useful in 2011? Why?…

    For lawyers, having a blog is essential.  More than a quarter of in-house counsel use blog postings by lawyers as the “most important” tool in identfying and researching lawyers for new engagements.  Use that legal marketing tool and watch the new cl…

  11. What is the most effective way for a law firm to advertise?…

    Six months ago, a survey reported that more than one quarter of in-house counsel use blog postings by lawyers as the “most important” tool in identfying and researching lawyers for new engagements. A more recent survey showed that nearly one-half of …

  12. […] I am a fan and a believer of the commercial vitality of social media. But  then again, I suppose I also […]

  13. […] rise in clients using social media, particularly blogging, to identify competent counsel, with a concomitant rise in law firms regularly posting substantive […]

  14. […] reputations of particular expertise also continue to be main drivers for attracting clients. We previously reported on the effectiveness of blogging in establishing the bona fides for enhancing and publicizing […]

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