Lawdragon: Celebrating Ten Years Of Captivating Legal Journalism

For ten years, legal media company Lawdragon has been telling great stories about the law and lawyering.  Lawdragon embraced the power of the internet early on, creating content open to all who were interested in stories about the law.  Lawdragon has shown their commitment to high-quality legal journalism by crafting feature stories, a popular Question and Answer series, and an annual Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America devoted to attorneys, what they do, and what is possible with a law degree.

Lawdragon was founded by Katrina Dewey as a platform to tell stories about lawyers and lawyering.  Dewey began her career as a lawyer, but in her words, “I quickly discovered that I wanted to write about lawyers instead of practicing the law myself.”  She left her law firm associate job and “I did what I could to get hired as the lowliest journalist at the Daily Journal in California.” The “lowly” journalist position became Editor in 1996, a move that  Dewey describes as “a huge and lucky break.”   In 2005, with a desire to work more in the emerging online journalism market, Dewey founded Lawdragon. Daily Journal reporter John Ryan joined her and continues to serve as the company’s editor-in-chief.

Looking back at the first issue, Dewey describes the publication process as like  “giving birth.”  They wanted to kick off  the magazine in an edgy, interesting way, and one of the first stories was on the idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices.  Dewey remembers, “the week after we shipped our first issue, Justice Rehnquist passed away.”  Another memory of the beginning was Hurricane Katrina.  That disaster hit the same weekend the first publication went out, and it lingered as a sort of ghost each time Lawdragon has published an article that showcased the aftermath of the storm and the various legal issues that followed afterwards.  Looking back, Dewey describes the early days by saying, “we saw ourselves as an intrepid band of journalists, taking on larger lawyer outlets that were a little slow on the digital uptake.”  And that has been part of Lawdragon’s success.  Dewey saw the writing on the wall about how the media landscape was changing–and she wanted to create a place for features and profiles of lawyers with a company that had “digital in its DNA.” After ten years, the company has grown into a marketing and branding platform packed with fascinating tales of the law, using the power of the internet to allow anyone who is interested access to their stories. In fact, the content had become so popular among firms and lawyers that Lawdragon created a new “Lawdragon Press” division that provides paid content, marketing and branding services for firms.

Along those lines, when asked to describe Lawdragon’s audience, Dewey says, “We write for everyone who can read and has an interest in the law.”  The goal is to create intelligent, wide-ranging, eclectic content that shows what an attorney can do with a law degree.   Dewey says, “The goal is to write stories that everyone can access, but are still interesting enough to appeal to attorneys.”

And true to the mission, reading Lawdragon provides perspective on just how far-reaching a law degree can be.  With features on everyone from David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, Adam Streisand of Sheppard Mullin, who litigated the trial that paved the way for the sale of the LA Clippers to Jodi Westbrook Flowers at Motley Rice, who has worked for over a decade for the victims of the September 11 attacks against  the financiers and and supporters of Al Qaeda, the subject matter is an abject lesson on just what the law can accomplish.

“We’ve tried to cast a wide net on our coverage of interesting lawyers and legal matters, which is why we’ve done original reporting on justice issues in places like South Africa, former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, The Hague and most recently Guantanamo Bay,” Ryan said.

One essential element of Lawdragon’s philosophy is an unwavering optimism about high-quality articles and reporting.  Dewey says, “We are optimists about good content; we believe there is a place for good content in the world.”  With an intrinsic belief that the law has the power to change people’s lives, right wrongs, and inspire as well as an understanding that lawyers who practice law have compelling reasons to do so, over the ten years of its existence Lawdragon has demonstrated a commitment to showcasing those stories.  Dewey says, “We are about the power of story, generally.  We want to show the individual stories of these attorneys who are advocates of the law, who all have their own perspective and ways of contributing to justice. ”

A natural outgrowth of that philosophy is the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers.  This feature  highlights some of the most captivating attorneys and the work they do across the nation. While the Lawdragon 500 is probably the best known element of the publication, it is not a ranking system.  Through a careful process balancing editorial research by Lawdragon staff, law firm submissions, and an open online nominations form, the 500 are carefully curated, but not ranked.  Instead, the guide is a way for Lawdragon to showcase attorneys and their perspectives, how they contribute to justice, and how they use the law as a tool to advocate.

As a result of the commitment to quality content and great stories, Lawdragon articles have strong SEO content and can be a great platform for the attorneys who are featured. One thing Lawdragon provides for the attorneys that are featured is objective, third party, independent recognition of their skills and reputation.  Additionally, Lawdragon publishes an annual print publication, giving attorneys and their clients something to hold, beautiful pictures to see, and amazing articles to read. As Carlton Dyce of Lawdragon points out, “Our print publication is great for attorneys to have in their offices, handy for their clients to read while they are waiting.  It’s a great way to showcase the attorney they are about to see.”  ​

The tenth edition of the Lawdragon 500 will be released soon, an exciting milestone for the company.  Over the years and after many compelling stories, Lawdragon remains excited about its core mission–telling stories of lawyers and lawyering. With millions of lawyers doing captivating work in many fields there is no shortage of stories, and Lawdragon remains committed to telling them.

Article by Eilene Spear of the National Law Review
Copyright ©2015 National Law Forum, LLC

Responding to a Hyper-Competitive Legal Market: 2015 and Beyond

The results of Citigroup’s 2015 Law Firm Leader’s Peer Monitor Report were examined by a highly informative panel[i] at Thomson Reuters’ recent 20th Annual Law Firm Leaders Conference in New York. The detailed discussion outlined overall marketplace trends and reviewed the strategies of law firms who are profitably navigating today’s turbulent legal market.

pic1articleState of the U.S. Business Law Marketplace

Market conditions for law firms are stabilizing in 2015 but a fragile global economy / geopolitical climate, and changing legal department purchasing behavior are leading to continuing flat demand for purchasing legal services. Current marketplace conditions include: more work being done in-house or by non-law firm outsourced providers and law firms coming in from other markets who are competing aggressively on price and / or who are buying business growth by lateral attorney hires.

Lower demand for law firms’ services is also being driven by a decreased appetite for costly litigation and developing technology which performs more cost effectively commodity type legal work.[ii].  The most common reasons for moving work in house is more control over costs and increased efficiency.[iii] In a 2015 survey of over 300 in-house counsel from 22 industries over 47% of the companies surveyed reported an increase in the number of law department lawyers employed.[iv]

Larger Business Trends Lead to a Less of an Appetite for Litigation and a Push for More Cost Effective Service Delivery

General Counsel manage their departments in tandem with the overall goals of the business.  Unresolved legal issues can have a negative impact on a company’s stock price and reserves set aside for lengthy litigation could be deployed for other business activities. Accordingly, there is an ongoing trend of companies settling earlier than before, and being more open to pursue alternatives to expensive and drawn out courtroom trials.[v]   Also, the increased cost of conducting complex litigation due to e-discovery, is also causing companies to think twice about how hard and how long they want to fight.

legal dept tech spend crop
A Look Inside: 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-sourcing and Efficiency Report

Since the great recession many law firms have become adept at trimming administrative overhead costs but seem to forget that corporate law departments are corporate overhead.   In a 2013 survey of 238 managing partners and law firm chairs, over 44 percent indicated that their firms had taken steps to improve the cost effectiveness of legal service delivery, mostly in the form of changing project staffing models to include part-time and contract lawyers and outsourcing an increasing number of non-lawyer functions at their firms. [vi] Alternative service providers in the legal arena cover functions such as discovery management, document creation, dispute resolution alternatives to litigation, and talent management services. Legal process out sourcing (LPO) through alternative service providers has a predicted growth of 30% in 2015 and it is estimated that there is currently $20 billion of outsourceable legal work in the U.S. legal marketplace.[vii]    It is estimated that the LPO market has only captured 5.5% or $1 billon of the estimated $437billion U.S. legal market.[viii] 

legal dept outside counsel spend cropped
A Look Inside: 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-sourcing and Efficiency Report

Practice Areas Where Demand Is Consistent or Growing for Law Firms

While businesses may have less of appetite for costly litigation, demand remains strong in certain areas due to more domestic regulatory investigations and U.S. lead examinations stemming from cross-border activities. [ix]  In a survey released this month, 48% of law departments predicted an increase in regulatory work in the next year.[x] Other growth practice areas include:  Intellectual Property/Patent; Cybersecurity/Data Privacy; Bankruptcy; Healthcare/Pharmaceutical, Financial Services and Mergers/Acquisitions. [xi]

Common Features of Underperforming Law Firms in Today’s Marketplace

To address the buying needs of corporate clients, firms which are surviving are becoming more efficient and predictable in their pricing and service delivery.  Firms who are underperforming tend to have:

  • The lowest overall leverage rate (partner to associate) and less cost effective use of leverage;

  • A higher reliance on income partners, and a declining income partner contribution;

  • A high use of Other Lawyers but the use of these lawyers make a negative contribution to the firm’s bottom line;

  • A lower overall equity partner productivity and a decline of equity partner equity during 2009-14;

  • The lowest realized rates and lowest growth in those rates during 2009-14;

  • A heavier litigation reliance;

  • Less rocket science work and more commoditized work; and

  • Firm brands that are not as sharply differentiated or recognized.[xii]

What a Hyper-Competitive Legal Market Marketplace Means Operationally

General Counsel are generalists, who manage the legal needs of a company but are limited in the legal tasks they can and should do on behalf of their client, the company.  Accordingly, there is always a set group of work that won’t be done in-house or for which third party specialized expertise is advisable.   Outsourcing of ‘rocket science’ work and going to law firms who have established reputations for certain types of work are easier sells for in-house counsel who have to sell their outsourcing decisions to company management. Marketplace trends are resulting in more of a concentration of high end work in a smaller group of law firms.  Notable legal market predications / observations made by the panel:

  • Clients will further segment the market (“financial and reputational tiering”);

  • Firms will further consolidate;

  • Lateral activity will remain high; and

  • Brand differentiation will help attract the right laterals and grow market share in a flat demand environment.

With continued cost pressures, the panel commented that profitable law firms will:

•           Use systems and processes to improve:

  • Matter management;

  • Practice management;

  • Workforce management; and

  • Partner performance measurement.

In order to demonstrate a concern for efficiency, successful law firms need to facilitate better collaboration between the firm and client.  In order to leverage internal resources and grow deeper, more stable and more profitable relationships with clients, law firms need to improve or better communicate their client service offerings and share information about legal developments. The panel identified the following ways to stay or become known for expertise and to demonstrate concern for law firm department budgets:

  • Knowledge sharing;

  • Client relationship teams, strategic and well thought-out cross selling; and

  • Developing associates and younger partners to ensure a sustainable business and cost effective service delivery structure.

Take-Aways

You have to have a brand – “We’re cheaper – but still really good and can do whatever you need, especially the easy stuff” isn’t working.  Established brands make law firms an easier sell for in-house counsel to their management or management may even advocate for well know legal brands to their law departments.  Company management does suggest particular law firms and attorneys and they pass on to the law department relevant thought leadership that they were sent by law firms or that they have come across. Executive management approves the law department’s budget.  The general counsel should not be your only contact point. If you want to be considered for the less than 10% of litigation work that’s considered bet the company, shouldn’t management know you and feel comfortable that you know their needs?

According to David Cruickshank of Edge International, 96% of firms say lateral hires are part of their growth strategy[xiii].  Great legal brands help recruit great associates and laterals, as well as clients.   How do you keep the attention of attorneys at regulatory agencies, high potential law grads and star attorneys with established practices?  Share your knowledge.  Many legal recruiters scour publications as a starting point for finding lateral candidates in niche practices.  Your knowledge and service are your brand. How do you build or maintain a brand? Share your knowledge, write, speak, repeat.

How do you convey to clients and potential clients that you mean what you say – that you have deep expertise, that you can manage things in a cost effective manner, that you collaborate, that you are committed to technology – you show them. Jay Hull, Chief Innovation Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine mentioned during the conference that you go for wins on small projects with name brand clients, for proof of concept.  Per Jay if you want to show a commitment to technology and innovation, you bring a legal technologist to a pitch meeting.  Don’t drag your client into inter partner quarrels if you want to build confidence in your ability to manage complex multi-jurisdiction litigation. Want show deep expertise, include multiple authors on articles, rainmakers should bring along associates or new partners to speaking engagements or networking events – be a team and grow and show your depth.

Article by Jennifer Schaller of the National Law Review

Copyright ©2015 National Law Forum, LLC


[ii] Citi 2015 Law Firm Leaders Survey.

[iv] 2015 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey – the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor.

[v] 2015 Client Advisory 2014: Great News for Some, Mixed Results for Others Citi Private Bank and Hildebrandt Consulting.

[vi] 2013 Law Firms in Transition: An Altman Weil Flash Survey, Thomas S. Clay Altman Weil, Inc., May 2013

[viii] Revenues estimated using AmLaw 200 data, Peer Monitor, Hackett Group Report and New York Times; Expenses from Peer Monitor Corporate Legal Dept is based on internal spend on legal matters.

[ix] A Look Inside: 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-sourcing and Efficiency Report.

[x] 2015 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey.

[xi] Citi 2015 Law Firm Leaders Survey.

[xii]2015 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey – the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor.

[xiii] 7 Thoughts About The Lateral Hiring Process, Above the Law, April 15, 2014.

Register for the 20th Annual Law Firm Leaders Forum – October 8-9 at The Pierre in NYC

When: OCT 08 – 09, 2015
Where: New York, NY – The Pierre

Join us this October as the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute proudly presents the 20th Anniversary of Law Firm Leaders at The Pierre Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

Continuing the forum’s unrivaled tradition of industry-defining content and professional networking, the 2015 program offers a comprehensive update on the state of the legal profession and the ongoing challenges affecting law firm leadership throughout the AmLaw 150.

This year’s key topics include:

  • Restoring Professionalism to the Practice of Law
  • Leading Change: A Presentation from Heidi Gardner, Lecturer on Law & Distinguished Fellow, Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School
  • The Meaning of Client Relationships in the 21st Century
  • Data Privacy & Cybersecurity in the Global Law Firm

Call to register: 1-800-308-1700

Or click here to email and we will contact you.

Attend the 20th Annual Law Firm Leaders Forum Oct 8-9 in NYC – Brought to you by the Legal Executive Institute

When: OCT 08 – 09, 2015
Where: New York, NY – The Pierre

Join us this October as the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute proudly presents the 20th Anniversary of Law Firm Leaders at The Pierre Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

Continuing the forum’s unrivaled tradition of industry-defining content and professional networking, the 2015 program offers a comprehensive update on the state of the legal profession and the ongoing challenges affecting law firm leadership throughout the AmLaw 150.

This year’s key topics include:

  • Restoring Professionalism to the Practice of Law
  • Leading Change: A Presentation from Heidi Gardner, Lecturer on Law & Distinguished Fellow, Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School
  • The Meaning of Client Relationships in the 21st Century
  • Data Privacy & Cybersecurity in the Global Law Firm

Call to register: 1-800-308-1700

Or click here to email and we will contact you.

InsideCounsel Super Conference – May 11-13 in Chicago: Early Bird Registration Ends on the 30th! Register now for exclusive NLR Discount!

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All NLR readers get an exclusive $150 discount off current rates through April 30th.
Register today!

The 15th annual Inside Counsel SuperConference, May 11-13, 2015 in Chicago is the can’t miss conference for legal professionals.

SuperConference 2014 played host to a diverse and senior level audience of participants:

  • More than 80 In-House Counsel experts comprised our speaker faculty – GCs, AGCs, and executives
  • More than 80% of attendees were In-House Counsel
  • More than 65% of attendees were senior level and above

The annual InsideCounsel SuperConference, for the past 14 years, has offered the highest value for educational investment within a constructive learning and networking environment. Legal professionals will gain the opportunity to elevate the quality of their performance and learn ways to become a strategic partner within his/her organization. In two-and-half days attendees earn CLE credits, network with hundreds of peers and legal service providers and hear strategies to tackle corporate legal issues that are top of mind throughout this comprehensive program. SuperConference is presented by InsideCounsel magazine, published by Summit Professional Networks.

This week – Register for ABA National Institute for New Partners – April 17 in Washington D.C.

ABA Nat Inst New Partners April 17 2015 Wash DC

If you are a new partner or are on the cusp of becoming a new partner, register today for the ABA’s National Institute on New Partners.

At this unique one-day Institute, you will:

Network with new partners throughout the country, comparing and contrasting their firm’s business and professional development practices with your own.
Learn from top practitioners as they divulge key considerations for new partners, from ownership issues to pitfalls, finances to business development.
Meet and socialize with your colleagues during breakfast, lunch and concluding reception. All for the cost of about one billable hour!
Hear from our distinguished Invited Keynote speaker Ted Olson, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  Among other accolades, he was selected by Time magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and he is one of the nation’s premier appellate and United States Supreme Court advocates.  He has argued 61 cases in the Supreme Court, including the twoBush v. Gore cases, Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case affirming the overturning of California’s Proposition 8 banning same sex marriage.
Receive 4 hours of CLE credit, including 2.75 hours of ethics credit.

Register now!

Join the ABA for their National Institute for New Partners – April 17 in D.C. – Register Today!

ABA Nat Inst New Partners April 17 2015 Wash DC

If you are a new partner or are on the cusp of becoming a new partner, register today for the ABA’s National Institute on New Partners.

At this unique one-day Institute, you will:

Network with new partners throughout the country, comparing and contrasting their firm’s business and professional development practices with your own.
Learn from top practitioners as they divulge key considerations for new partners, from ownership issues to pitfalls, finances to business development.
Meet and socialize with your colleagues during breakfast, lunch and concluding reception. All for the cost of about one billable hour!
Hear from our distinguished Invited Keynote speaker Ted Olson, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  Among other accolades, he was selected by Time magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and he is one of the nation’s premier appellate and United States Supreme Court advocates.  He has argued 61 cases in the Supreme Court, including the twoBush v. Gore cases, Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case affirming the overturning of California’s Proposition 8 banning same sex marriage.
Receive 4 hours of CLE credit, including 2.75 hours of ethics credit.

Register now!