Who’s Reading State Bar Journals? Everybody.

Posted in Blogs | Commercial Publishers | Content Marketing | Law Firms | Planning

Most law firms with business practices are anxious to get their names in front of in-house counsel. If you’re in that boat, you should look hard at publishing with state bar journals. Here’s why: Every attorney reads these publications.

Legal Publishers, Blogs, Associations

Specialty legal publications such as those produced by American Lawyer Media, Law360, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg BNA, and others, do a good job reporting news for a niche readership in many subject areas. In theory, they should be attractive vehicles for reaching in-house counsel. In practice, however, they’re not. I’ve been told more than once that the steep prices charged for these services place them beyond the budget of most in-house counsel law libraries. (Mentions of publication in these services look good on the firm website, however.)

Law blogs? In theory, the audience for a blog post is vast. In practice, information overload and findability challenges limit the effective reach of blog posts. According to a 2015 Greentarget/Zeughauser Group survey, just 35 percent of in-house counsel respondents rated law blogs as the most valuable form of law firm content. They liked client alerts more. Not everyone agrees, however. Regardless of where you come down on this debate, clearly many in-house counsel regularly read law firm blogs. Still, there’s no guarantee that they are reading your blog. This is particularly true if your firm is not actively promoting its blog posts.

What about publications specifically targeting in-house counsel?

American Lawyer Media’s InsideCounsel.com digital-only platform claims 114K monthly unique visitors, 43 percent of whom are general counsel or senior inside counsel.

Better yet are publication opportunities with the Association of Corporate Counsel. The ACC boasts more than 40,000 members representing 51 percent of the Global 1000 companies and 99 percent of Fortune 100 companies. According to the ACC, more than 65 percent of the ACC’s membership “regularly reads” its ACC Docket publication. The ACC’s website acc.com claims 146K average monthly unique visits.

InsideCounsel and ACC Docket reach a lot of in-house attorneys, but not all of them.

Finally there are professional associations, many of which publish newsletters and websites. In-house counsel often join national bar associations. For example, an in-house attorney with litigation oversight responsibilities might be a member of the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section. Outside the legal profession, industry associations such as the Society for Human Resource Management or the American Intellectual Property Law Association have many in-house counsel members.

Publications created by these groups will reach a good chunk of the in-house counsel market, but they’re not pervasive.

State Bar Publications: Pretty, With Reliable Circulation Data

Which leads me to state bar publications. If you want to reach every in-house counsel in your jurisdiction, state bar publications are the way to go. A subscription is included with membership in nearly every state bar association. Law firms can be confident that a state bar publication will land on every licensed attorney’s desk and that it will be read. These publications are usually glossy, full-color productions. They look nice.

Speciality legal publishers (Lexis, West, Bloomberg, ALM et al.) consider their readership numbers to be proprietary information and they are reluctant to release this information to their authors. State bar journals, on the other hand, always publish accurate circulation numbers. These publications are often advertiser-supported, a fact that requires them to publish circulation numbers when setting ad rates. Also, for those publications distributed via second class mail, U.S. Postal Service regulations require the publisher to disclose circulation numbers annually.

There are two downsides to publishing with state bar journals. First, they’re limited to the relevant bar’s membership. An in-house counsel in Illinois won’t read that great article you wrote in NWLawyer.

Second, the lead time from article submission to publication can be considerable — sometimes as long as nine months. This fact limits the types of articles that can be published. Case summaries and analyses of fast-moving policy initiatives are poor candidates for state bar publications. Semi-evergreen content on topics such as motion practice, evidentiary rules, technology and law practice management, history, profiles, analysis of enacted legislation of wide applicability (insurance, workers’ compensation, tax, municipal government) should find a warm reception with state bar journal editors.

In many cases, state bar journals publish editorial calendars alerting lawyers as to the types of material they are seeking. For example, here are a few publications with announced topic needs:

Due to the rather long lead time for these publications, the time to pitch editors for these topics is now.

Choosing a publication partner for a particular article requires careful consideration of (1) audience size, (2) audience composition, (3) the reputation of the publication, and (4) whether the article is a good fit for the publication. When these variables are factored in, the right choice will often be a state bar publication.