Do Blawgs Burn as Brightly as Surveys Suggest?

by Ron Friedmann, January 2006

This article was published on January 17, 2006 on

ABSTRACT: Surveys suggest that lawyers blog and read blogs in large numbers – is it true?

Do Blawgs Burn as Brightly as Surveys Suggest?

Ron Friedmann
Special to
January 17, 2006

You’ve probably driven by a refinery and seen flames burning atop many a tower. Does that remind you of your law firm?

Hold on — this is not about a stench. Refineries start production with lots of raw materials and create a plethora of finished products. Along the way, some stuff can’t be captured, so it’s burned off.

Now think about your firm as a refinery. If it’s like most, your burning flame would illuminate the night sky. Yes, that’s right, most firms waste a lot of valuable refined products. You have lots of insight, information and analysis at the tips of your fingers that just go to waste. Your clients and prospects could well be clamoring for stuff you have or know. And, instead of giving it to them, you, like a refinery, destroy it as waste.

And that’s where blogging comes in. It’s a way to share with clients your energy and insight. You can take what you already know and, at little extra cost or effort, make it available to the world. If, with just a little effort, you could publish your knowledge and insight, why wouldn’t you? Especially if doing so brings fame and glory and perhaps even new clients to your firm.

You might ask, is blogging here, is it for real? A recent ABA Section of Litigation survey says yes. It found that 57 percent of lawyers read blogs. Remember, if you’re at a large firm, you are likely providing your services to a lot of in-house counsel — and some of them are reading blogs. And 19 percent of lawyers write blogs. Whoa — tip-off time — I have a hard time believing that number. The homepage of Section of Litigation poses a “Question of the Month.” Anyone landing on that page can click on a link and answer a survey.

As a former econometrician and a management consultant who has done a lot of market research, I actually know a thing or two about survey research. Any poll where respondents are self-selecting is likely biased. Furthermore, this survey does not report the number of respondents. Everything else being equal, small samples are less reliable than large ones. So when the number of respondents is not reported, I assume the sample is small and therefore less reliable. My bottom line: I would guess that respondents are lawyers who already spend a fair bit of time online, which would likely bias the sample toward blog readers and writers.

That said, there is other evidence that lawyers play a disproportionate role in the “blogosphere.” Last year, a company called Blogads administered a survey (also Web-based). It was directed at blog readers — Blogads persuaded multiple blogs to post a link to the survey. Over 17,000 people responded. That’s a lot, though of course the Blogads survey, like the ABA Section of Litigation question, is biased by design. The Blogads survey caught the eye of The New York Times, which reported its results in an article entitled, “Opening Arguments, Endlessly” (Oct 7, 2005). The Times noted that though lawyers are only 1 percent of the population, the survey results show 5.1 percent of respondents were lawyers. Moreover, of the approximately one-third of respondents who were also bloggers, 6.1 percent were lawyers.

I doubt there’s any way to know the real numbers for sure. But blogging is still for real. For example, large firm Sheppard Mullin has several blogs, which the firm says attract 10,000 hits per day. From what I’ve heard, that’s far more than most law firm Web sites get. And success is not reserved for the largest firms. Award-winning IP blog “PHOSITA” has, according to lawyer-blogger Douglas Sorocco as quoted recently in Small Firm Business, led to referral work from lawyers around the country.

Stark & Stark, with offices in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, runs two blogs. The firm says both have brought in new business — 18 new clients, in matters ranging from litigation to land use to personal injury — that can be directly attributed to attorney blogging. Example: On Aug. 30, 2005, David Byrne, co-chair of the firm’s community association group, posted information about a summary judgement motion the group had just won on behalf of a condominium association. A board member of a 400-unit condominium association read Byrne’s post and retained Stark & Stark to represent the association in a similar litigation matter.

“Since that initial engagement the association has sent Dave’s group additional work,” said Richard C. DeLuca, Stark & Stark’s director of business development. “This is one example of many of how our attorneys’ publication of their experience and legal insight has resulted in new business relationships.”

Still skeptical about blogs’ place in the legal industry? What did you think about e-mail and law firm Web sites around 1995? Back then, client updates by e-mail and Web sites were considered unseemly. Today, they are de rigueur. Get a jump on your competition and start a blog today.