A couple of my recent posts generated some controversy about the status of legal blogging. Now, two legal bloggers share some data and comments. 

In Why Are Blogs Undervalued? at Drug and Device Law blog, lawyer-bloggers Jim Beck of Dechert and Mark Herrmann of Jones Day assess BigLaw views of blogs. Note that their very substantive blog is not firm-branded.

The entire post is worth reading (plus the comments) for anyone interested in blawging. They write:

“The two of us, toiling alone, with no financial help or other assistance from our firms, have (to our complete surprise) almost accidentally created the most widely read product liability blog on the internet, now receiving more than 25,000 page views per month. In that situation, wouldn’t you expect at least a few of your colleagues to wander down the hall and ask two questions: (1) How did you do it? and (2) How can we replicate it?”

The elephant in the room of BigLaw that no one likes to discuss explicitly is that much non-billable activity is about “lead generation.” Call me crass, call me a destroyer of lawyer professionalism, but even decades ago, one reason lawyers wrote monographs and articles was to establish their reputation and, in so doing, generate new clients (aka leads). The array of law firm marketing activity today – seminars, webinars, e-mail updates, branding, parties, etc. – are all fundamentally designed to generate leads even if they are discussed in terms of creating awareness and establishing credibility.

So for a blog to generate 25k page views/month seems pretty good to me, maybe even stellar. As a marketing guy myself, I would want to know the number of clients generated and the cost of doing so by this medium (blogging) versus the alternative methods. And then there is the intangible value of Hermann being quoted in the New York Times in Medical Device Ruling Redraws Lines on Lawsuits (22 Feb 08):

“Mr. Herrmann, who writes a blog about these issues (druganddevicelaw.blogspot.com), said Thursday that the decision put the onus on medical device companies and the F.D.A. to prove they can protect patients without the threat of product-injury lawsuits.”

Beck and Herrmann and the comments discuss several reasons Big Law may not support blogging. Left undiscussed is the potential tension between individual and institutional interests. Given the ease of lateral movement among law firms, lawyer-bloggers may well prefer an individually branded blog over an institutionally branded one. That way, in the event of lateraling, there is no question of who owns the content. If I were in Big Law firm manager, I would want to find a way to institutionalize and brand the effort of my lawyers.