It was five years ago last month: I was visiting Minneapolis for the first time and I had just taken the train in from the airport to save money. I headed up to one of the top floors in one of the biggest buildings in the city and walked into my very first meeting with an AmLaw 100 firm. I explained to the Marketing Director the basic philosophy behind blogging and social media, and when I was finished he only had one question for me, “Won’t they leave?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“If you show the lawyers how to build their individual reputation so that they can bring in their own clients, what do they need the law firm for?”
Are lawyers that learn to bring in their own business more likely to leave the firm?
Before I answer that question, lets look at the two options:
Option A: Lawyer learns to blog, and begins to build his own business and may consider leaving the firm.
Option B: Lawyer doesn’t learn to blog, is incapable of bringing in business and stays.
Isn’t the idea to create a law firm full of Option A partners, and then make it worth their while to stay at the firm? If firms live in fear of creating growth opportunities for their lawyers, then they aren’t creating a very positive work environment. Additionally, if lawyers don’t feel like they can learn and grow in your firm, they may just leave anyway.
Now there is a counterpoint — most large law firms want to build the firm’s reputation, not the individual lawyer’s reputation. They want to be known for their “deep bench” not just for a handful of superstars. That makes some sense, but it is a much tougher sell from a branding perspective. Compare your firm to a basketball team: Which pitch will sell more tickets?
Option A: “Come see Lebron James play tonight, the best basketball player since Michael Jordan”
Option B: “Come see the Generals play tonight, all of our starters and all of our bench players are better than the average NBA player.”
It isn’t all about the stars, but icons within law firms can be very persuasive in bringing in new business. Clients don’t want a lawyer with ERISA experience, they want THE expert on ERISA. They don’t want a real estate lawyer that has worked on every type of commercial transaction, they want the lawyer that has specialized in what they are specifically looking for. Having more stars at your firm doesn’t dilute the firm’s brand and message, it amplifies it. When a firm has a number of lawyers that are seen as the very best, it creates a sense that every lawyer at the firm has a similarly impressive background.
Do blogging lawyers leave law firms? Sometimes, but lawyers that never learn to blog may stick around forever without ever reaching their potential. Don’t be afraid of creating stars, instead find a way to put them in the right place at the right time with the tools to be their very best, and your firm will reap the rewards.