Are You Investing Your Firm's Billable Hours Wisely? 10 Questions to Make Your Writing Efforts Matter

JD Supra Perspectives

I joined JD Supra last summer and have had the privilege of speaking with numerous firms across the country. Virtually every firm today is producing some form of content to use for business development, be it blogs, alerts, advisories, or newsletters. Most are producing a fair amount. But surprisingly few – a handful at most – are actually tracking the time that attorneys invest in writing. I find this shockingly out of character considering the usual obsession with tracking time.

It’s as though firms are engaged in random acts of content marketing...

Take a firm that is producing a modest amount of content – say 300 articles/posts/alerts per year. Let’s say it takes 3 hours of attorney time to write, edit and approve each one.  That’s 900 hours of time. Billed at a modest $300/hour, that’s $270,000.  And that’s just for 300 articles. Think of a large firm producing over 1500 articles a year – you’re looking at over $1,000,000 in time. 

Most firms spending $1,000,000 would have metrics around that large of expense. They’d be asking: what’s our return on that time? How could we spend it better? Are we achieving maximum value for the content produced? But at most firms, those questions aren’t asked. It’s as though firms are engaged in random acts of content marketing.

By not asking these questions, firms are in essence considering the job done once the article is approved and published. But is the goal to just get it published? Isn’t the goal to get it read by the right people to the benefit of the attorney who wrote it?

 Isn’t the goal to get it read by the right people to the benefit of the attorney who wrote it?

Infinite Spada recently published a survey Attorneys vs Accountants: Who’s Winning the Content Battle? They discuss content churn, and mentioned remarks by a CMO at a large law firm that wanted to “put a moratorium on non-billable writing because his firm spent thousands of hours, in aggregate, on this activity. However, there was no clear picture on who was reading this content or how successful it was in terms of the firm’s overall marketing mix.”

I get the frustration. But stop writing? Not practical...

Substantive content is clearly indispensible in how attorneys both differentiate their skills and credential themselves with clients and prospects. 

Better to develop a plan and acquire tools to manage that spend.  If you’re like most and find yourself facing down random acts of content production, here are 10 questions to start an internal conversation towards a more strategic plan for your content marketing efforts:

  1. Do we have a process to gauge whether or not our content is being read by the people we are trying to reach?
  2. Is our content effective in building thought leadership for our attorneys on the topics of most importance to our firm or are other firms doing a better job?
  3. Is our content being shared within the firm and facilitate cross selling among attorneys?
  4. How is our content being shared across social channels, and is it being shared consistently? Can we track it?
  5. What results can we track from our content production? Which practice areas are doing the best job of seeing results?
  6. What audiences are we reaching? Is it the same audience regardless of practice/topic or are we successful in getting our content read by those who care about its topic in every instance?
  7. Are we successful in writing about the topics of interest to our most important sectors/industries? Are any other firms doing a better job?
  8. Is our content production aligned with our practice priorities or do we have disproportionate content production from smaller practices?
  9. What’s the size of the audience we reach in total, and for each post? How does that compare with firms of our size?
  10. What industries/sectors are reading our content the most? Does that align with our goals?

And, of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't say: get in touch if you'd like to know more about how we help you with these questions (and their answers). It's how we partner with the very best.


[Karen Cariello is JD Supra's VP of Business Development.]



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