When attorneys come to Jacqueline Madarang, marketing technology manager at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, and say they want to start a blog, she’s upfront with them: This is not something to undertake if you’re not committed. Luckily, lawyers at the firm excel at blogging—and show no signs of slowing down.
It’s important to Madarang that the request to develop a blog not come from the marketing department; it’s up to the practice group leaders to come forward with an idea they’re really excited about. So two years ago, the labor and employment group at Bradley came forward, they were the first blog to test the waters.
“And they turned out to be really passionate about blogging,” said Madarang, who saw the team behind Labor and Employment Law Insights flourish. “In the beginning I was asking people to write posts for the blog, and now we’re getting a lot of attorneys writing blog posts even when it’s not their turn.”
That enthusiasm quickly spread: A year later, Bradley launched the Financial Services Perspectives blog. Part of that is something all the bloggers can agree on: How easy the firm makes it.
“My first response [to whether we should start a blog] was absolutely no,” said Anne Yuengert, partner at Bradley and one of the editors of their employment blog. “But the people in our marketing group made it as easy as possible for us to do that; we didn’t have to figure any of it out. Technically, we didn’t have to do anything aside from put our thoughts down on paper. If there had been any obstacles we wouldn’t have done it—we’re lawyers, we have a thousand other things to do, but the firm made it so easy for us to do.”
In fact, the firm made it so easy they exceeded expectations for the blog.
“When we first started Jacqueline thought we’d blog once a month. Now it’s once a week,” said Yuengert.
Over at Financial Services Perspectives, they went even further.
“Right now, we’re blogging about three times per week,” said David Roth, partner at the firm and an editor of the financial services blog.
Behind the scenes, Bradley has helped them build a community; their blogs have similar editorial structures, went through the same “boot camp” to rid them of legalese, and provides them insights into who they’re reaching with their blogs.
“We look at the demographics for the folks who read our blogs, and it’s always been a surprise to us at the diversity of the audience. From research librarians, to clients we deal with, to regulators,” said Roth, who says such an outreach made the blog a logical move. “We’re constantly trying to find ways to more effectively communicate with our clients and with the marketplace. What we’ve found in our industry is that the landscape really changes on a day-to-day basis, and one of the challenges we had with an old style print newsletter was by the time you write it, type it, print it, stuff it, and mail it, it’s old news. The blog has provided us a way to give those clients that are hungry for more current news information about as close to real time as we can manage.”
Unsurprisingly, they have. Madarang says that like many firms in the world of legal blogging they wanted to put their lawyers out there as the forefront experts in their practice area. And many are picking up what they’re putting down.
“We’ve had general counsel email our attorneys directly, giving them shout outs for mentioning them, which is great for us. We have identified which companies are reading our blog posts. Clients ask us to write about legal topics, so we know which clients are following our blogs. And a lot of reporters reach out to us…and follow specific cases, like the pending litigation around the HOA super-priority liens in Nevada,” said Madarang.
For David Pugh, partner in the firm’s construction practice group and an editor of Build Smart, there was a lot of awareness to be tapped into.
“We’re not phasing out the hard copy newsletter,” said Pugh. “But the odds of that falling into the plans of new business is infinitesimally high. With blogging, you’re putting that out for anyone to view.”
Greg Peterson, partner and co-editor of Patent 213, feels similarly.
“It’s evolving a little bit, with the way the law firms communicate. Because I know I’ve increased my use of blogs over the past couple of years,” said Peterson. “I have three or four I check all the time, on a daily basis, to help keep track of different things. Newsletters don’t do that; we put ours out once every six to eight weeks. [With the blog] we can keep in front of people in a way by talking about these cases within a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.”
Like with any other practice group, Madarang was upfront with the lawyers behind both Build Smart and Patent 213 that this wouldn’t be an undertaking that they could just shirk off. In her mind, the blog was a channel where the lawyers could reveal a bit of themselves and their personalities. They could take care of a lot of the behind the scenes work, but the actual writing would always come back to the lawyers.
But Joe Bird, another partner and co-editor of Patent 213 made it clear that this was an issue they were passionate about—and one that would be of great interest to readers.
“These issues are really among the forefront of substantive patent law issues out there right now,” said Bird, who found the idea of a blog to be the perfect global outlet. “They’re important worldwide, in every major country with a large patent office…not just a U.S. phenomenon, as humanity grapples with where the borders are for patent law.”
And so Bradley’s blog network grew to four. Madarang doesn’t know how many more will launch in the near future, but all the champions the firm has had for blogging so far will likely continue to inspire non-bloggers in the firm. She does know that when it comes to handing out this year’s trophy for the person who blogs the most, there’s going to be a lot more competition.