One story idea that’s been kicking around the office here is the deep-dive into the Twitter presence of the country’s most profitable law firms.
We already know that lawyers aren’t the most social media savvy individuals, but what are their marketing people doing with the accounts? And, if they aren’t really making a splash in the space, should they be investing in it at all?
With the recent publication of the 2016 Am Law 100 rankings and a fresh deck of Big Law playing cards that comes with it, we decided to take a look at how the top 10 most profitable U.S. law firms stack up on Twitter.
Right off the bat, the country’s two most profitable law firms — Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan — have essentially no Twitter presence at all.
Well, Wachtell does technically have an account. Or at least it appears that way: @WachtellLipton joined Twitter in July 2009 and has no published tweets; it follows nobody; and 91 people follow the firm account — mainly legal journalists, lawyers and vendors, who may need some sort of a heads up that they’re following a dark void of nothing. There is no picture in the Wachtell avatar. Just a little egg in a green square.
Search Wachtell in the Twitter search function, and you’ll see Lipton Tea pop up for “Wachtell Lipton,” right above a flurry of tweeters mentioning the law firm with, sadly, no live Twitter account to reference. One of our favorite tweets read, “Wachtell Lipton Rosen and Katz it’s a law firm” by @sabina_snow, responding to another user who asked, “who the [expletive] are WLRK?”
We should note that there is another Wachtell account, @Wachtell_Lipton, with just seven followers, as seen above. It’s a good opportunity to let you know that we didn’t verify every law firm Twitter account’s authenticity.
Let’s move onto Quinn Emanuel. Perhaps appropriately, when you run a search of the firm name, John Quinn’s face is the first thing that appears. “Founder & Managing Partner at Quinn Emanuel, largest biz litigation firm in the world. GC @AMPAS. Ironman tri-athlete, Shakespeare enthusiast, father of 5.” Strong. Personable. A nice human touch. But again, no Quinn Emanuel account appears, and none could be found in the search function.
Paul Weiss is the first law firm that actually appears to have a legitimate Twitter presence, although it is clearly not playing the game. Like Wachtell, the firm has not tweeted a single word. A bigger firm by headcount, it is more popular than Wachtell — Paul Weiss has 821 followers compared to Wachtell’s 91 [Disclosure: Big Law Business is a follower of Paul Weiss]. Perhaps the difference in popularity has to do with the fact that the firm’s marketing team cared enough to place the firm’s brand in the profile picture, and even a firm description:
“Paul, Weiss is a firm of more than 900 lawyers who collaborate with clients to help them solve their critical legal challenges and achieve their business goals.”
It suggests: this is a real account, no matter how little used.
The fourth most profitable law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, is where things start to get interesting. The Twitter account has a beautiful backdrop of what appears to either be a fence outside of a prison or a bridge of some sort. The firm is at least upfront about what followers should expect, saying “Content may include attorney advertising.” Regardless, its 442 tweets have generated 1,291 followers, including distinguished legal journalists such as the WSJ’s Ashby Jones and Alison Frankel of Reuters, and even competitor firms like DLA Piper and Shearman & Sterling. Not surprisingly, a number of recruiting firms are in the mix.
The next firm on our list is Kirkland & Ellis, which has been slightly more active, pushing out 765 tweets since its start in July 2009. Its output doubles that of Sullivan & Cromwell’s Twitter feed, but it also gets more bang out of its buck. I guess poaching top talent isn’t the only thing that prestigious Wall Street firms have to be jealous about: Kirkland boasts 10.5K followers, who range from law schools to bar organizations and real estate advisory companies. Digging into the details a bit, the tweets hit on a pretty consistent basis and range from announcements of deals that the firm has advised on to coverage of its lawyers public speaking engagements. So even though K&E is tweeting up a storm, let’s be clear: the content mirrors that of traditional law firm publishing models: press releases and standard marketing.
The first three tweets read:
Kirkland & Ellis Represents Celator Pharmaceuticals in $1.5B Acquisition by Jazz Pharmaceuticals
Kirkland & Ellis Represents Vista Equity Partners in $1.79B Acquisition of Marketo
Thanks @ChambersGuides for recognizing Kirkland as “a market leader in the IP space”
To say the least, nothing revolutionary quite yet. Nothing that resembles law firms’ corporate clients, or lives up to the catch phrase that lawyers love to say: “We strive to look like our clients.” They should probably take a look at Goldman Sachs, which has created its own publishing platform and features a talk show called, “Talks at GS,” which features interviews with business leaders, celebrities and famous journalists.
But we’ve only been through five. Let’s keep going and check in on Cravath Swaine & Moore, the No. 6 most profitable law firm in the country. Cravath, well… It’s at least doing better than Wachtell and Paul Weiss. The firm has 1,456 followers and 532 tweets. And it is actually tweeting, so there’s that. Not much else to say about this one. And it looks like the next two law firms in the lineup are even more sleepy: Simpson Thacher doesn’t appear to maintain a presence, with 28 followers on the account of @STBLLP, and Cahill Gordon @CahillGordon is described simply as, “Legal Services” with a single tweet from 2009, “Get up-to-date news on Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP here: www.cahill.com/news.” Thanks for the heads up, Cahill.
The ninth most profitable law firm is Davis Polk & Wardwell, which interestingly is most popular for its handle regarding “news and updates on U.S. regulatory reform, including the Dodd-Frank Act.” The user handle is @DavisPolkReg, which has 2,452 followers with 394 tweets. The more straightforward, general @DavisPolk handle doesn’t appear to be managed. It has 68 followers and follows two users: Hootsuite UK and Hootsuite. This is puzzling. Was the marketing employee looking to try to use Hootsuite and figured they’d try to search for the program on Twitter, and ended up following instead of downloading it? We reached out to Davis Polk and we’ll update if we hear back, though we’re not holding our breath.
Last but certainly not least of the 10 most profitable firms is Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, home of the New York litigator Randy Mastro and Supreme Court regular Ted Olson. The @gibsondunn handle features retweets of Chambers & Partners and its own, Ted Boutrous, as well as publishers of content that the law firm appears to approve of. When CBS Boston wrote about how Tom Brady was adding lawyer Thomas Dupree from Gibson Dunn to its already star-studded roster (Olson and Jeffrey Kessler of Winston & Strawn), @gibsondunn was right there to share that tweet with the firm’s network of 3,140 followers.
The firm also mixes in significant regulatory developments and press releases.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of our list of ten. The conclusion? The top firms still don’t care much about Twitter. And why should they? It’s hard to imagine a lawyer landing a large litigation or deal by tweeting up a storm, unless his or her practice specializes in cute kitten civil rights or Drake memes.
For what it’s worth, there do seem to be some top law firms out there experimenting with different publishing models. Earlier this year, we covered Debevoise & Plimpton launching a new website that publishes profiles and commentary on women leaders that should create some good Twitter material for the old @Debevoise handle, with 952 followers. And Dentons has started a news feed that includes job openings, and of course, awards and rankings announcements. But which firm will be the first among the top to really explore the Twitter space?
Let us know what you think by writing to BigLawBusiness@bna.com or placing a comment below.