A lot of firms have a story about attracting clients to their firm through their commitment to blogging. But Mintz Levin has found it’s able to attract talent too.
When Matt Howsare was leaving his job as chief of staff and chief counsel to the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission he had a couple things on his list of what he wanted out of a firm. Blogging was high up there, but it was important that the firm also had a lot of support and encouragement for the practice too.
“What I was looking for and what I think is absolutely essential is having buy-in from the leaders of your firm,” said Howsare, who edits the firm’s Consumer Product Matters blog. “Something I think Mintz Levin has done which has allowed 16 blogs to really be successful is not only having that buy-in [from superiors] but also by putting resources behind that buy-in, and having a really good and effective team within the firm that can assist all those different blogs. It’s the key ingredient to our success; without buy-in at the top you’re not going to get anywhere.”
Luckily for Howsare Mintz Levin was more than supportive of blogging. They were building it into their expectations of lawyers.
“The success of the blog depends so heavily on how engaged the attorneys are,” said Kristina Eastham, digital communications manager at Mintz Levin. Luckily she says the firm is so invested in blogging that many of the blogs she manages only have to hear from her when she’s sharing something. “I’ve been to [Legal Marketers’ Association] meetings where I hear from other business development and marketing people ‘how do you get the attorneys to write?’ That’s not really been our problem.”
Some say that’s thanks to the incentive model thought up by Michael Arnold, when he took over as editor of Employment Law Matters three years ago. The blog, which hadn’t been maintained so much as irregularly updated, needed some direction. So Arnold sat down and thought about what the goal of the blog should be, drawing up a business plan of how to accomplish that strategy. But he knew there was something that crucial for the blog to succeed.
“One thing I asked for very early on was attorney buy-in,” said Arnold, who found a way to incentivize associates to set time aside to contribute. “We asked them to blog once a month, keeping it a minimal commitment. That’s roughly 12 entries a year per person, and with the overall number of associates that’s a lot of content. But soon they were showed the benefits of blogging, and they realized the blog allowed them to become thought-leaders.”
And so Mintz Levin’s Employment Law Matters took off—and inspired more blogging fervor within the firm. Mintz Levin now boasts a blog network of 16 blogs, with an army of invigorated bloggers backing them up. Eastham credits the bloggers for all the success, but the bloggers say they couldn’t do it if the firm weren’t backing them up with a commitment to putting their best foot forward.
“The firm has supported it by putting resources behind it; giving staffing to assist it, recognizing and promoting the value they have. They’re showcasing them on the websites, creating links to them through our bios…finding ways to get the name out and make it easily accessible for clients and the public,” said Theresa Carnegie, editor of the firm’s Health Law & Policy Matters blog.
For some that meant adding tools to the sidebar to become a true one-stop-portal for clients interested in the subject area. For all it means having a dedicated business development manager helping oversee the blogs. Perhaps most importantly they help remedy the perennial blogging challenge: Making time.
“With partner making people find the time in their day they can do it,” said Carnegie. “When associates blog they’re getting credit for that, not losing out on their billable hours.”
It took some time for all partners to get on board. But Eastham has succeeded in helping many see that they are already creating content that can be leveraged to an even bigger audience. She’s proud of the fact that no Mintz Levin blog is driven only by associates.
“Blogs can be very successful, but they are a lot of work. It’s important to have [partners and senior attorneys] be just as invested in the success, not just looking at it as something the business development and marketing team could do for them,” said Eastham.
And that creates a positive feedback loop for the firm: Higher-ups incentivize blogging as a practice for junior attorneys, who then give blogging more of a chance than they might otherwise have. The blogging finds success, more people get interested, and there’s more incentive to blog both in the group and across the firm. Eastham has even started bringing all the blog editors together so they can share insight and triumphs.
“It’s designed to be a very collaborative process; to feel invested in it, to get credit for it,” said Arnold. “It’s important to send a message towards junior attorneys, that this is a great way not only for professional development to enhance your knowledge base, but a great business development tool. It’s hard enough for a junior attorney to bring in a client, but this is one thing you can do to help your pipeline.”
And there has definitely been returns on the investment for Mintz Levin. “Obviously my favorite is when a new client calls and says “I read your blog post, and I knew you would be the right person to hire,” said Howsare. “They may not hire you because of your blog, but it is somewhere a client can go and easily inventory your expertise on certain issues…Pointing them towards a blog where there’s an inventory of thought leadership and areas you know about and have written about is extremely valuable and can’t be replicated.”
But Mintz Levin attorneys have plenty of stories about speaking engagements press inquires, with sites like National Law Review and JD Supra pushing out the blog posts. Carnegie remembers when Bloomberg BNA asking if a post could be fleshed out a little more so they could run it on in their medicare report. Howsare has gone to meetings on the hill and seen a blog post from Consumer Product Matters being passed around as background on the issue. And a post from Employment Matters actually resulted in a change in ITS guidance related to ACA reporting.
That success has been a guiding light for other blogs as they establish themselves. Carnegie remembers the early days of the Health Law & Policy Matters blog as a slow build. But now the firm has helped her build an invaluable resource for clients and lawyers alike.
“I think it requires good leadership and excitement by the leadership for everyone to recognize the value,” said Carnegie. “I’ve been practicing for 17 years and when I was an associate if you wanted to write something about a topic that interested you I don’t even know where you would’ve begun. Back then it was much more formal: You submit a proposal, find a publication, do a sketch and an abstract, and they have to accept it. With blogs anyone at any level if they have a topic they’re interested in and are willing to put time and energy into it…Through the blog I recognize how small the world can be when you’re on the Internet.”