In case it wasn’t already clear, the team behind Dashboard Insights has bigger visions than just the legal side of the automotive industry.
“If we’re all in self-driving cars, that impacts the supply chain,” said Jeffrey Soble, co-editor of the blog. “One of the more interesting questions I want to write about is what will become known as the “home” of autonomous vehicle driving? California, Michigan, Pennsylvania?…For my father’s generation the industry was anchored in Detroit.”
It’s those kinds of questions—that is to say, questions that may fall within automotive but outside purely legal—that the Foley & Lardner team behind Dashboard Insights has been looking at for years. It’s not just about “the latest case out of the Sixth Circuit,” it’s about the industry itself.
What started as an idea for a way for the automotive group within the firm to increase their visibility outside Detroit has turned into a tool that Soble finds invaluable when it comes to collecting thoughts and building expertise.
“I think among other things every lawyer will tell you that it’s not just about knowing your clients, it’s about knowing their industry. I do think blogging helps everybody—it certainly helps the team blogging but also people on the automotive team who are just subscribers—make sure we’re diving into the industry and staying current on what’s going on,” said Soble, who’s also a partner at the firm. “I always know whether the industry is healthy or not, what technology is being used, because I stay looking for content. That helps me talk about the industry better to clients, especially when they’re not lawyers. I can understand their world a bit better.”
These days Soble and his co-editor Omar Lucia have about five dedicated writers on the blog, and welcome some guest contributions (including some from other blogs at the firm) when they can. The comprehensive automotive team at the firm hails from different geographies, different departments, and different specialties. But they all understand the value of the blog when it comes to the firm.
“It’s meant to be just one cog in the machine, just one way of giving lawyers a chance to get their name out there. The mantra out there is to give us a chance to promote you; I feel like if we promote individual people, we promote the blog, we promote the team, which is promoting Foley & Lardner,” said Soble.
That doesn’t mean they dabble in blatant self-promotion, however. Soble always advises writers to not sound like lawyers—especially since a lot of their client contacts are not necessarily in-house counsel or even lawyers at all. From Soble’s perspective, if they write good content without sounding like they’re writing to courts or just lawyers, the audience will come.
Which has helped their blog find success.
“The best feedback is when I visit client and—unsolicited—they really enjoy the blog, that they read it and they like the stories,” said Soble, who says the audience growth has been steady. “Sometimes if there’s one story that I think will be of partcular interst to a client I’ll forward it to them, and it’s always gratifying when the response is ‘Yeah, I’ve already seen that.’”
Soble credits his team and their commitment for the blog’s triumph. They stay dedicated to posting twice a week, about things that go beyond just the latest legal decision, by ensuring that everyone has a voice for the blog. He and Lucia are the official co-editors, but everyone gets a say if there’s a dispute over whether it steps on the toes of their automotive clients. Soble even remembers more junior people on their team that have convinced him to run stories, or how to approach them.
“Interesting developments to the industry whether they’re legal or not. We’ve done a lot of telematics, we’ve done a lot of self-driving, and a lot on what the industry is going to look like. I have a 15-year-old song and an almost 13-year-old son—what kind of car is my 13-year-old going to drive? What are his kids going to drive? When I first became a lawyer Google didn’t even exist. Then it existed as a technology company for a long time, and now, I’d say, it’s part of the automotive industry.