My Shingle

Why Would You Blog At Biglaw?

by Carolyn Elefant on January 30, 2006 · 20 comments

in Biglaw Practice and Issues, MyShingle Solo, Websites and Blogs

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Can any biglaw associates answer this question for me:  why would you write posts for a biglaw blog?  Recently, I’ve been checking out some of the biglaw blogs, like Sheppard Mullin’s Antitrust Law Blog, Davis, Wright & Tremaine’s Telecom Law Blog or Preston, Ellis, Gate’s e-Discovery Blog.  Though presumably associates write the bulk of the posts, none of the blogs give any attribution to the individual writer.  In that regard, associates are far better off writing a traditional article, where at least they can show authorship.

None of this is surprising, of course, in light of the phenomenon of the “invisible associate,” discussed here or here. This isn’t anonymous blogging by choice, but by fiat.  And what’s both troubling and sad is that smart, young attorneys would so willingly forego ownership of their writing and analytical work, one of the few things that gives us any currency in this profession, simply because the firm demands it.  Yes, I may be a lowly solo in the eyes of biglaw, but at least I can say that not only is my name on the door of my firm, it’s on my web posts as well, every one of them.

  • http://www.biglawassociate.blogspot.com BigLaw Associate

    Some of them may simply not have a choice; they do what they are told. The more common explanation is probably that they are eager to impress internally and to show their teamspirit and commitment to the firm. This may get them recognition and keep them employed for a little while, but little do they know that if they focus their marketing activities on this sort of ghostwriting they may in fact be sabotaging their chance of making partner. When it comes to assessing them as partner material it is much more important to show that you have made a name for yourself outwardly and that you can either bring in business or that the firm’s clients know you and want you there.
    The question that keeps me awake, though, is why biglaw associates bother with personal anonymous blogs.

  • http://www.biglawassociate.blogspot.com BigLaw Associate

    Some of them may simply not have a choice; they do what they are told. The more common explanation is probably that they are eager to impress internally and to show their teamspirit and commitment to the firm. This may get them recognition and keep them employed for a little while, but little do they know that if they focus their marketing activities on this sort of ghostwriting they may in fact be sabotaging their chance of making partner. When it comes to assessing them as partner material it is much more important to show that you have made a name for yourself outwardly and that you can either bring in business or that the firm’s clients know you and want you there.
    The question that keeps me awake, though, is why biglaw associates bother with personal anonymous blogs.

  • http://www.sctriallaw.com Dave Swanner

    Carolyn,
    The associates might not be writing the blog entries for the same reason you and I write a blog. They might be doing them as writing assignments and as part of their billable assignments.
    Do associates get authorships of memorandum, trial briefs or other legal writing assignments that aren’t posted to the internet?
    It’s possible that their employer is paying them to write the posts. If that’s the case, and they’re not doing it out of a love for the law or a marketing purpose, I don’t see the big deal for not getting their name put on a post.
    Just the .02 of a guy who’s always had his own firm.

  • http://www.sctriallaw.com Dave Swanner

    Carolyn,
    The associates might not be writing the blog entries for the same reason you and I write a blog. They might be doing them as writing assignments and as part of their billable assignments.
    Do associates get authorships of memorandum, trial briefs or other legal writing assignments that aren’t posted to the internet?
    It’s possible that their employer is paying them to write the posts. If that’s the case, and they’re not doing it out of a love for the law or a marketing purpose, I don’t see the big deal for not getting their name put on a post.
    Just the .02 of a guy who’s always had his own firm.

  • http://67.225.230.212/~sh1ngl3 Carolyn Elefant

    Dave, I agree that associates are rarely credited with authorship of law firm memos and briefs, though these days, you’ll at least see the associate listed on the bottom line of the brief. But the lack of authorship on a brief that makes the anonymity of blog posts even worse because associates have nothing to show for themselves. If I’m interviewing a job candidate and he or she has published several articles, I’ll be impressed – and I’ll assume that he or she actually wrote them. But if you can’t put your name on a blog post, how can you show future and employers and clients what you really know? If I were an associate, thinking long term, I’d be really worried about giving that up.

  • http://67.225.230.212/~sh1ngl3 Carolyn Elefant

    Dave, I agree that associates are rarely credited with authorship of law firm memos and briefs, though these days, you’ll at least see the associate listed on the bottom line of the brief. But the lack of authorship on a brief that makes the anonymity of blog posts even worse because associates have nothing to show for themselves. If I’m interviewing a job candidate and he or she has published several articles, I’ll be impressed – and I’ll assume that he or she actually wrote them. But if you can’t put your name on a blog post, how can you show future and employers and clients what you really know? If I were an associate, thinking long term, I’d be really worried about giving that up.

  • http://www.legalunderground.com/2006/01/_biglaw_weblogs.html Evan Schaeffer’s Legal Undergr

    http://www.legalunderground.com/2006/01/_biglaw_weblogs.html

    BIGLAW WEBLOGS HIDE CONTRIBUTIONS OF ASSOCIATES . . . According to Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle, some weblogs by large law firms are being ghostwritten by associates for the partners. Who gets the credit for the writing? Not the associates,

  • http://www.legalunderground.com/2006/01/_biglaw_weblogs.html Evan Schaeffer’s Legal Underground

    http://www.legalunderground.com/2006/01/_biglaw_weblogs.html

    BIGLAW WEBLOGS HIDE CONTRIBUTIONS OF ASSOCIATES . . . According to Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle, some weblogs by large law firms are being ghostwritten by associates for the partners. Who gets the credit for the writing? Not the associates,

  • Tom Kerner

    I’m not an associate, but have been a biglaw Law Clerk for six years. At our firm that equals out to “research attorney.” I rarely get any credit to the outside world, only in-house.
    The associates likewise get a lot of the uncredited *stuff* that runs downhill, so to speak. There’s a lot of it, because of the nature of the cases. You get 1,000 boxes of docs, or 35 years worth of bank transactions, and somebody has to go through it. Carefully, and, hopefully, without error.
    Then there is all the “business development” stuff, like the blogs. Somebody has to build the brand, and you don’t want the folks billing $700 an hour spending too many of those hours on nonbillables. So again, somebody has to do it.
    While there is no writing sample to get from an unattributed blog, there is the undying gratitude of whoever assigned the work, as long as you are smart about cultivating that relationship instead of just writing your blog and crawling back under your shell. At a biglaw firm with hundreds or thousands of lawyers, you have to network just as though you were a solo working in a city of a thousand other solos. Even I, the lowly Law Clerk, have learned to cast about for the plum assignments, and where I can pawn off the garbage I don’t want.
    Also, there are plenty of other things the typical biglaw associate will have going for them at the next job interview. I daresay most of them are recruited anyway; they aren’t out pounding the pavement, hat in hand. What they’ll have is their biglaw references, their Order of the Coif, their Ivy league sheepskin, their Federal court or SCOTUS clerkship, the five languages they speak and the orphanage they ran in Nepal to point to when they interview. :) I used to think I was hot stuff till I started hanging out with these people!

  • Tom Kerner

    I’m not an associate, but have been a biglaw Law Clerk for six years. At our firm that equals out to “research attorney.” I rarely get any credit to the outside world, only in-house.
    The associates likewise get a lot of the uncredited *stuff* that runs downhill, so to speak. There’s a lot of it, because of the nature of the cases. You get 1,000 boxes of docs, or 35 years worth of bank transactions, and somebody has to go through it. Carefully, and, hopefully, without error.
    Then there is all the “business development” stuff, like the blogs. Somebody has to build the brand, and you don’t want the folks billing $700 an hour spending too many of those hours on nonbillables. So again, somebody has to do it.
    While there is no writing sample to get from an unattributed blog, there is the undying gratitude of whoever assigned the work, as long as you are smart about cultivating that relationship instead of just writing your blog and crawling back under your shell. At a biglaw firm with hundreds or thousands of lawyers, you have to network just as though you were a solo working in a city of a thousand other solos. Even I, the lowly Law Clerk, have learned to cast about for the plum assignments, and where I can pawn off the garbage I don’t want.
    Also, there are plenty of other things the typical biglaw associate will have going for them at the next job interview. I daresay most of them are recruited anyway; they aren’t out pounding the pavement, hat in hand. What they’ll have is their biglaw references, their Order of the Coif, their Ivy league sheepskin, their Federal court or SCOTUS clerkship, the five languages they speak and the orphanage they ran in Nepal to point to when they interview. :) I used to think I was hot stuff till I started hanging out with these people!

  • http://quantumquahog.com Josh

    I agree with Dave Swanner’s comments above. I don’t really see the problem. Many companies have employees prepare materials for which the company takes all the credit. Associates in large law firms are no different in this respect. Regardless of how we want to glamorize or characterize an attorney as something different from the rest of the working world, associate attorneys are employees of the firm.

  • http://quantumquahog.com Josh

    I agree with Dave Swanner’s comments above. I don’t really see the problem. Many companies have employees prepare materials for which the company takes all the credit. Associates in large law firms are no different in this respect. Regardless of how we want to glamorize or characterize an attorney as something different from the rest of the working world, associate attorneys are employees of the firm.

  • Invisible Associate

    YOU SAID:
    Yes, I may be a lowly solo in the eyes of biglaw, but at least I can say that not only is my name on the door of my firm, it’s on my web posts as well, every one of them.
    ——————–
    You sound bitter…I have “ownership” of my paycheck.
    YOU SAID, FURTHER:
    But if you can’t put your name on a blog post, how can you show future and employers and clients what you really know?
    ——————–
    Obvious BigLaw ass says: how about the traditional way of forwarding a resume on fancy paper that indicates my experience (and further, prominently displays the BigLaw firm I’ve worked for)???
    You made your choice because it worked for you and that’s fine. Don’t judge others for their choices. As lawyers, we must all make tough decisions based on our divergent interests and circumstances.

  • Invisible Associate

    YOU SAID:
    Yes, I may be a lowly solo in the eyes of biglaw, but at least I can say that not only is my name on the door of my firm, it’s on my web posts as well, every one of them.
    ——————–
    You sound bitter…I have “ownership” of my paycheck.
    YOU SAID, FURTHER:
    But if you can’t put your name on a blog post, how can you show future and employers and clients what you really know?
    ——————–
    Obvious BigLaw ass says: how about the traditional way of forwarding a resume on fancy paper that indicates my experience (and further, prominently displays the BigLaw firm I’ve worked for)???
    You made your choice because it worked for you and that’s fine. Don’t judge others for their choices. As lawyers, we must all make tough decisions based on our divergent interests and circumstances.

  • NY Biglaw Associate

    I agree with some of the other comments. It is not at all uncommon for associates to do the grunt work for the partners. The partners own and run the business; the associates work there. That’s why biglaw associates are called fungible billing units. A co-worker showed me http://www.borntobill.com the other day which is a website that sells t-shirts to biglaw associates. Some of the sayings are pretty telling if you ask me.

  • NY Biglaw Associate

    I agree with some of the other comments. It is not at all uncommon for associates to do the grunt work for the partners. The partners own and run the business; the associates work there. That’s why biglaw associates are called fungible billing units. A co-worker showed me http://www.borntobill.com the other day which is a website that sells t-shirts to biglaw associates. Some of the sayings are pretty telling if you ask me.

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