04 Aug 2022

Bigger law firms lagging on content marketing, new study finds

Five of the top 10 largest UK and US law firms fail to make it into the top 30 for thought leadership marketing, according to new research by Passle

Ingvar Bjork

Larger law firms are lagging behind their smaller competitors when it comes to thought leadership marketing, according to new research.

The research, by content marketing software provider Passle, underscored that the explosion in online content during the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating. 

Smaller firms are catching up with their larger rivals, however, with those with more than 1,500 lawyers seemingly struggling to give their experts a voice in the market. 

The research analysed the content produced by the top 200 law firms in both the UK and US during 2021. Those 400 firms produced a total of 157,359 pieces of thought leadership or ‘insights’, defined as blogs or articles, excluding firm news, which demonstrated lawyers’ knowledge.

On average, US firms produced around 50% more thought leadership than their UK counterparts. The research also found that the volume of insights published by a firm correlated ‘relatively strongly’ with the number of times it was Googled. 

Baker McKenzie generated the most insights – 4,653 pieces – perhaps unsurprisingly given that with 6,000 lawyers, it was the second largest law firm on the list. 

Only Dentons was bigger, but despite having almost twice the number of lawyers – 11,516 – it produced just over 1,500 insights. 

Squire Patton Boggs – the 28th largest firm – ranked second with 2,394 insights and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft was third with 2,013. Despite being 157th for size, the latter produced the equivalent of 5.5 pieces of thought leadership pieces per lawyer – far above the average of one. 

Norton Rose Fulbright, Eversheds Sutherland, Latham & Watkins, Kirkland Ellis and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were among the top 10 by size but fell outside the top 30 for thought leadership.

At the other end of the scale, 14 firms had posted no thought leadership pieces and a further 11 had posted less than 10. While some were smaller firms with fewer authors to choose from, this was not true of all, including Knights, which employs almost 900 lawyers but had not shared a single insight online over the 12 months. 

LinkedIn Followers by Volume

FirmRankFollowersPer Lawyer
Baker McKenzie1338,46868.9
Clifford Chance2228,86290.5
DLA Piper3218,62746.6
Allen & Overy4211,85371.1
Hogan Lovells5177,09167.2

Source: Passle

Connor Kinnear, chief marketing officer at Passle, said: “By analysing firms’ thought leadership performance, we can clearly see who is establishing themselves as market leaders, but the benchmark remains very low at a little over one insight per lawyer, per year.” 

Noting that lawyers at larger firms produced on average 57% fewer insights than their counterparts at smaller rivals, Kinnear said a number of factors could be at play including limited marketing resources, web infrastructure, lack of training or time and “perhaps even a little of the old-fashioned view that legal advice comes at a price.” 

“The correlation between this type of activity and enquiry levels, however, shows that for ambitious firms, that can establish themselves as market leaders, the opportunities are huge,” he added. 

The 400 law firms included in the study generated a total of 15.7m Google searches. Dentons was the most Googled law firm name, with an average of 60,500 times each month. The firm scored consistently highly across all categories, which included YouTube views and followers on LinkedIn and Twitter, probably in large part due to its sheer size.

An impressive performance from Morgan & Morgan saw it capture the highest number of YouTube views – more than 7m from a total of 24.1m for all the firms. It was also the only firm in one of the top spots that fell outside the top 20 by size, at 139th. 

Baker McKenzie was the top-ranking firm on LinkedIn with 338,468 followers from a total of 7m, while White & Case took the largest share on Twitter with 63,889 from a total of 1.8m. In terms of tweets, however, Hogan Lovells was the most prolific with 2,281 posts over the course of the year. 

Firms Ranked by Volume of Published Thought Leadership

RankFirmVolumePieces Per Lawyer
1Baker McKenzie4,6530.78
2Squire Patton Boggs2,3941.6
4Reed Smith1,9161.24
6Herbert Smith Freehills1,8220.74
7Jackson Lewis1,7682.11
8Slaughter and May1,7563.09
9Crowell & Moring1,7333.74
10Pinsent Masons1,5980.95

Source: Passle