Demystifying Blogs MARKETING CAsE sTudy: K&L GATEs

MARKETING Case Study: K&L Gates
Demystifying Blogs
K&L Gates’ chief marketing officer Jeff Berardi shares the pioneering firm’s
insights and experiences in creating successful blogs
Blogs can
develop and
strengthen client
Blogs in niche
practice areas
can provide a
true competitive
Successful blogs
require relevant
and targeted
content, frequent
updates and even
Carefully consider
the business case
before developing
new blogs
Blogs are not a panacea – they are a means to an
end. The end goal of an effective law firm blog
should be to develop and strengthen relationships
with existing and potential clients. One of the
great advantages of blogs is the ability to adapt
the content and message depending on the
evolving interests of web visitors.
Furthermore, writers can actively seek out
comments from blog visitors on suggested
improvements. This continuing dialogue enables
law firms and lawyers to respond to clients and
prospects in a much more meaningful way than
can be done through more traditional media
outlets, such as print ads or even electronic
newsletters and client alerts.
However, in order to be most effective,
blogs must contain relevant and targeted content
that is updated on a frequent basis. A thorough
assessment of the various pros and cons of
specific law firm blogs is a highly recommended
step before deciding whether to proceed with
the development of this technology-based
marketing tool.
Growth of law blogs
K&L Gates was a relatively early adopter of
law firm blogs, having launched our electronic
discovery law blog in January 2005. Focused on
legal issues, news and best practice related to
the discovery of electronically stored data, this
blog ( received 3,000
unique visitors in its first month alone. It is now
averaging over 9,000 unique visitors a month
and is well known in certain legal circles for its
frequently updated content.
Our global firm currently maintains five
active blogs and we have plans to develop
several more this year. Additionally, we have
thousands of subscribers who receive email
notifications from our blogs or who follow our
postings via RSS and through search tools like
Google. As opposed to growing our blogs at
an exponential pace, we have chosen instead to
develop firm-sponsored blogs in a steady pattern
of growth, a strategy that we expect to continue
in future.
In contrast to the steady growth model,
it appears that many peer firms are launching
blogs at a rapid pace. A March 2010 posting
from Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog indicates that
96 of the 2009 AmLaw 200 law firms are now
blogging. This represents a 149 per cent increase
from August 2007, when only 39 firms in the
AmLaw 200 maintained even a single blog.
O’Keefe estimates that 20 per cent of this growth
occurred between July 2009 and February 2010,
demonstrating a rising trend towards greater
acceptance and usage of law firm blogs.
Managing Partner, october 2010
So what exactly accounts for the sudden
boom over the past few years? Although the
increase can partly be attributed to the rise
in media exposure of law firm bloggers who
invariably tout the vast benefits of blogs as an
exciting and ‘new’ business development tool,
another compelling explanation is that a greater
number of lawyers are actively seeking new ways
to connect with clients and prospects.
Rather than the traditional and more passive
‘push’ method of sending newsletters or
electronic alerts to contacts, a blog enables clients
and prospects to determine which information
they find most relevant, thereby ‘pulling’ visitors
in an active manner to content or services and
engaging blog subscribers in a deeper and more
meaningful way. In essence, blogs enable visitors
and subscribers to access and follow content on
their own terms.
Setting blog policy
At K&L Gates, we believe that there are certain
situations in which a blog can be an effective
tool for connecting with clients or contacts. A
critical step before proceeding is to carefully
weigh the business case for each proposed blog,
as the benefits of developing such a site may be
outweighed by the costs or risks involved.
For that reason, we conduct a rigorous
and thorough analysis to assess whether the
creation of a firm-sponsored blog is justified,
using a clearly defined blog policy as a guide
in the decision-making process. In addition to
including detailed information relating
to content management and firm approval
protocol, the policy also stresses the high level
of time invested on the part of lawyers or
practice areas that are interested in blogging.
This section helps to ensure that the site is
as effective as possible by setting reasonable
expectations with lawyers on the need to
frequently update content.
As opposed to the policy at some law
firms, K&L Gates requires that all blogs be
established as branded firm sites, rather than
as individual lawyer blogs. This requirement
enables the marketing department to brand
the firm in a consistent way across our
numerous practice areas and geographic regions
throughout the firm.
Although this strategy has been found to
be effective for us, there may be viable reasons
for why another law firm chooses to allow
individual lawyers to develop their personal blogs.
I recommend that all law firms develop a blog
policy and approval protocol that works for their
unique organisation based on financial, cultural or
other key aspects of firm management.
“By creating
and managing
a blog on a
area of legal
practice, a firm
can position or
promote itself
and specific
lawyers as
thought leaders
in their fields.”
Case for blogging
There are numerous benefits to establishing a law
firm blog. A good blog facilitates some form of
active dialogue between its writers and visitors, in
stark contrast to the one-way conversation that
many lawyers embark upon with newsletters and
other traditional law firm communications.
Another benefit is the speed at which
lawyers can post content. Compared to
standard electronic communications such as
client alerts, which need to be written, edited,
and perhaps loaded into a branded firm template
prior to distribution to some designated
electronic mailing list, a blog entry can be
marketing Case Study: K&L Gates
completed easily and quickly without any need
for external distribution.
Blogs are becoming much more readily
accepted as providers of authoritative
commentary on all manner of subjects, and legal
issues are no exception to that general trend. By
creating and managing a blog on a particular area
of legal practice, a firm can position or promote
itself and specific lawyers as thought leaders
in their fields. The development of a blog in a
niche practice area can prove to be a competitive
advantage for lawyers, separating the firm in a
positive way from others that may practice in the
same field.
Perhaps most importantly, a blog can improve
search engine optimisation for the firm or for
specific lawyers – essentially the process of raising
the visibility of a website or blog via online
search engines. For example, if you type in the
search term ‘e-discovery law’ in Google, you will
invariably see the K&L Gates e-discovery blog as
the first item listed. That coveted online search
placement is truly a testament to the power that a
blog can have to showcase a law firm’s knowledge
within a narrow subject area.
Tread carefully
One must consider some potential drawbacks
associated with law firm blogs. Legal marketers
often work with lawyers who undertake their
marketing and business development activities
in fits and starts. For example, a lawyer who
is suffering from a decrease in his pipeline of
billable work may turn his focus to marketing
activities; however, as soon as the billable work
returns, those marketing efforts cease.
A blog is not a wise undertaking for lawyers
who conduct their business or client development
in waves. Blogs need to be frequently updated
and managed; otherwise, there will be no clear
incentive for readers to visit the site on an
ongoing basis.
In addition to the time needed to develop
and maintain content, the writers, editors and
marketing team will likely need to invest a
significant amount of time to increase awareness
of the site as well as to drive traffic to the blog –
establishing a web presence and readership.
There should also be a consideration of
the costs involved to build, host and update
firm-sponsored blogs. Although these expenses
are usually quite reasonable compared to other
media opportunities, they should nevertheless be
factored into the overall decision-making process
of whether or not to pursue a blog.
The cost aspect is yet one more reason why
it makes sense for firms to carefully vet each
blog proposal to determine which initiatives will
Developing new blogs
There are certain fundamentals about effective blogs that are consistent
across industries. For example, the target audience needs to be able to
find, or be directed to, the blog, and the content needs to be relevant and
interesting to the intended visitor. If those two key tenets are not met, it will
be difficult for blogs to either a) generate enough traffic, or b) keep visitors
coming back.
In addition, there are unique aspects that contribute to the effectiveness
of law firm blogs. The writers need to find a way to balance between
posting content that is interesting and content that is non-controversial –
no easy feat. The blogs should be branded as firm blogs but the content
should ideally be focused on a narrow enough topic of interest that allows
for some differentiation from the scores of other firms and lawyers that may
already be expounding on related topics.
One blog which we developed that we believe is particularly
effective in delivering a pertinent subject to a defined audience is
Global Financial Market Watch (
Focusing on legal, policy and regulatory analysis related to global financial
markets, the blog posts links to firm-sponsored webinars, alerts and other
relevant information.
Originally devised as a weekly newsletter, the global financial market
(GFM) concept was developed during the global economic downturn
in response to the flurry of government actions in the financial services
industry. Our financial services lawyers wanted to share updated
information regarding timely issues affecting clients. The marketing
department compiled weekly articles written by lawyers and began to
circulate the electronic newsletter to a large list of email recipients – those
who had already opted-in to receive client alerts and other information from
the firm.
Over time, we realised that the GFM newsletter was a perfect
candidate for a sponsored firm blog. By switching from a weekly newsletter
to a blog, we were able to achieve numerous efficiencies.
First, we didn’t have to compile articles on a weekly basis, which was
a time-intensive, resource-consuming activity on both the part of lawyers
and marketers.
Second, the transition to the GFM blog enabled us to post content on
a regular basis – not just once a week but every day and sometimes even
more frequently – in response to critical and time-sensitive issues.
Third, because we had already built up a list of interested email
recipients of the GFM newsletter, we had a willing audience that was eager
to subscribe to the blog.
Managing Partner, october 2010
K&L Gates was one of the first successful adopters of law firm blogs.
provide the best return on investment. If a firm
sets aside the budget to develop five new blogs
for a particular year, it is simply good business
sense to focus on those five blogs that the firm
expects to be the most valuable.
Finally, a firm should offer clear guidance to
lawyers on the type of content that is acceptable
on the blog. The most heavily trafficked blogs,
legal or otherwise, are typically those that offer an
opinion or commentary on controversial (read:
interesting) topics. This statement flies in the face
of the standard operations of most conservative
law firms, which take enormous strides to stay
away from any public discourse that might be
perceived as divisive.
Law firms are wary about posting
controversial content for a number of reasons,
not least of which is legal risk – lawyers need to
be extremely cautious about unwittingly providing
legal advice to web visitors, and there is a large
measure of risk involved in maintaining an
individual or law firm blog.
At the same time, firms need to strike a
proper balance between posting interesting and
relevant content, steering clear of posts that
clients or prospects might find offensive for any
particular reason. Therefore, the content for
any particular blog should be discussed in depth
prior to developing the site, and proper approval
mechanisms should be carefully created in
advance to enable ongoing review of appropriate
content. This process will help limit potential
“The most
blogs, legal
or otherwise,
are typically
those that offer
an opinion or
commentary on
risks for both the firm and those lawyers who are
posting content on a regular basis.
Measuring results
We strive to make each and every firm-sponsored
blog as effective as possible, keeping in mind
that the overall goals and objectives for each
blog might be vastly different from one another.
In addition to measuring web traffic to our blog
sites, we also track the number of active blog
subscribers during a specific period of time. This
allows us to follow the fluctuations of visitors,
which may be based on posting of content,
weekly/monthly factors or other considerations.
We can determine the type of visitors to our
blog sites and track which portals our visitors
use to find the blogs. Not surprisingly, the search
engine Google is by far the biggest source of
referrals for our blogs, but it is interesting to track
and note some of our smaller portals of entry.
In addition, we prominently note our blogs on
our firm’s website (, providing
another source of web visitors to our blogs.
At the end of the day, we measure results
by looking at macro factors such as whether
we think our blog subscribers are getting value
from the sites we have created. We also monitor
whether the amount of work that our lawyers
put into posting and updating relevant content
is justified by the number of blog visitors who
appreciate the information offered.