When I compiled the list of top global law firms, I had to guestimate which firms would make the list. With a number of firm closings this past year, I knew a few of the AMLAW 200 firms would need to rise to the occasion.
Some of my guestimates turned out to be incorrect. So is life.
For the first 25 firms (alphabetical), two firms that I bet on lost: Bracewell & Giuliani (Texas oil!) and Cahill Gordon. I should have bet on Boies Schiller (litigation) and Blank Rome (full service, Philadelphia! firm), as they both made the AMLAW 100 list.
Therefore, the list of the first 25 BigLaw Tech Scores (in alphabetical order) includes Bracewell and Cahill and skips over Boies Schiller and Blank Rome.¹
I’ll include Boies Schiller and Blank Rome next time in my effort to be complete. Therefore, the next list will be comprised of 27 firms.
It is obvious that law firms are reticent when it comes to embracing new technology. Thus far, however, the BigLaw Tech Scores serve as a vote of confidence for the law firms – who no doubt assessed the risks and benefits – and, ultimately, decided to take the leap to develop their presence on the web.
The firms with the highest BigLaw Tech Scores – Alston & Bird (19 points), Crowell & Moring (18 points), Cooley Godward (15 points), and Bryan Cave (15 points) – all jumped up in rank in 2009 and realized an increase in revenue.
The firms with the lowest BigLaw Tech Scores – Baker Hostetler (6 points), Bingham McCutchen (6 points), Cadwalader (6 points), and Cravath (6 points) – all jumped down in rank in 2009 but the firms split as to how their revenues changed. The two B firms realized an increase in revenue whereas the two C firms saw a decrease in revenue.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors that can change the AMLAW rankings, even assuming some of the players from last year were still around.
For example, each firm’s practice areas and specialties may explain the differences in rank, change in rank, or change in revenue. Maybe each of the firms that rose in rank on the AMLAW chart – those that simultaneously scored the highest on the BigLaw Tech Scores – focused on bankruptcy or securities litigation or practice areas that remained busy throughout the financial crisis. On the other hand, perhaps, each of the firms that decreased in rank on the AMLAW list – those that simultaneously scored the lowest on the BigLaw Tech Scores – specialized in capital markets or mergers and acquisitions or real estate. In other words, the practice areas that got hit the hardest.
Therefore, I decided that it would be prudent if I also considered the specialty areas at each of the top ranking BigLaw Tech Scores as well as at each of the bottom ranking BigLaw Tech Scores.
Here are the profiles from each of the firms U.S.A. Chambers & Partners rankings:
Alston (BigLaw Tech Score = 19)
Baker & Hostetler (BigLaw Tech Score = 6)
Bingham McCutchen (BigLaw Tech Score = 6)
Bryan Cave (BigLaw Tech Score = 15)
Cadwalader (BigLaw Tech Score = 6)
Cooley Godward (BigLaw Tech Score = 15)
Cravath (BigLaw Tech Score = 6)
Crowell (BigLaw Tech Score = 18)
Interestingly, out of the lowest ranking tech scores, Cravath seems to be the only one heavily weighted towards the financial services industry.
While there are discrepancies, there are also a lot of similarities. The high BigLaw Tech Scores do not stand out as “experts” in highly lucrative fields compared to the low BigLaw Tech Scores. The firms seem pretty even.
(Of course, with the caveat, that the types of clients these firms represent may vary.)
To reiterate, the BigLaw Tech Scores compared to the AMLAW rankings may be coincidental, especially because this was a very small sample. Once I go through all 100 firms, the evidence to support this claim may or may not be stronger. Again, I realize, there are a lot of factors that may change a firm’s profit and/or their rank on the AMLAW list.
Nevertheless, law firms need to revitalize their business structure and embracing technology – though scary (!) (for everyone!!) – is a cost-efficient method to improving client services and internal morale.
So, without further ado…
My wish list for BigLaw Tech Scores 2010:
- Attorney cell phone numbers listed on firm profiles
Think this is outlandish? Many attorneys include their cell phone numbers on their “in case of emergency” out-of-office replies. That is, of course, if their firm even allows out-of-office replies.
Many sales trainers advise sales people to give out their cell phone numbers (and recruiting trainers). Meanwhile, clients tend to respect personal lives as much as they appreciate convenience.
- Skype IDs
Free. Video. Conferencing. Look tech-savvy and service oriented at the same time. (For firms who do this already, consider entering this competition – deadline June 15, 2009).
Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’d be surprised if law firm web designers have ever heard of those concepts.
- Shortcuts to LinkedIn profiles (law firms or individual attorneys)
Wouldn’t it be that much easier for colleagues, clients, or potential clients to connect with a firm or an attorney if the LinkedIn profile was listed on the firm’s website?
- Firm and/or individual Twitter accounts
Rule of thumb: if the first 5 hits on Google highlight recent layoffs, attorney suicides, or pending lawsuits – it’s time to get involved in the conversation.
- A consistent look-and-feel across blogs including their URLs²
This is about branding and presentation. A global law firm should look like a cohesive, organized entity. This takes planning, a little bit of foresight, and a helpful IT department to clear up any confusion.
(See also : user experience design and human factors.)
I’ve never been in the A/V club. I was a cheerleader and I rowed.
PC users can create podcasts with Audacity (open source) and Mac users can use GarageBand . After the file is created, a firm can host it on its servers. Once there is a permanent URL or RSS feed, the podcast can be submitted to iTunes.
Law firms have plenty of content too. They simply need to find the person with the best radio voice to read all of those client alerts or firm newsletters.
- Self-hosted WordPress accounts on the firm’s servers
Domain? Check. Host/server? Check. Design and layout? Check. Check.
(See : firm’s home page; see also : uniform web pages).
(What can I say? After using Blogger, WordPress, and Joomla, I’m a WordPress junkie.)
And, a report placed on every attorney’s desk so he or she knows who visits the website, how they found the website (i.e. what search words did they use), whether they are a new visitor or a loyal visitor, how many minutes they spent on the site….
(Note: Attorneys should be able to decipher the analytics report to assess their current marketing strategy.)
- Sitemeter or other third-party tracking
Google and other analytics solutions encourage users to optimize solutions with supplementary data.
- Feedburner for RSS feeds
Once a user decides to subscribe to a site’s feed, they continue to receive the content but they no longer need to visit a website. Without clicking on the site, their visits and behaviors will not be picked up by services like Google analytics.
Nevertheless, these subscribers – arguably the site’s most loyal readers – are important in terms of analyzing trends and marketing goals. This is why services like Feedburner are beneficial.
- Personalized domains for WordPress.com, blogger, or typepad
Again, this is a branding issue that some may find nit-picky or silly. Using a blogging platform is one solution to maintaining a blog. These solutions make blogging accessible to people who do not know computer languages such as HTML or CSS . Nevertheless, a blogging platform – used as a hosting site – and a website domain are two separate entities.
If a lawyer is blogging professionally, whether independently or on behalf of his or her firm, it seems like a sensible purchase to splurge on a professional URL at $22.50 per year, $9.99 per year, or $9.99 per year. True, those are affiliate links to sites that offer domains (read! like! support!). However, the advice still stands (and, feel free to research domain services on your own!). Think of it as the modern day equivalent of printing your résumé on good quality paper.
Ok, Ok. These are long term goals. I know not all of them will work and not all of them will be implemented by next year. But, these are simply suggestions to keep law firms moving forward.
I have to say thank you to the first 25 firms that I research. In this type of scrutiny, the first group always has it the hardest (especially if the group – the first large law firms in alphabetical order – has no idea they are being scrutinized).
I’m excited to see how the next firms compare!
¹ My incorrect assumption about Bracewell & Giuliani pains me because the firm came out on top with a BigLaw Tech Score of 22 points. (On the other hand, their high tech score and failure to jump up to the AMLAW 100 list sort of ruins my analysis below.)
For similar but opposite reasons, I hate to leave out Cahill because it was one of the lowest scoring firms with a BigLaw Tech Score of 6 points and, well, it didn’t rise to the occasion.
² It also pains me to criticize firms for their inconsistent URLs when they are way ahead of the curve in terms of embracing technology.