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Just over two years ago, I created the inaugural nointrigue.com Australian Law Firm Rankings, which worked on the basic assumption that the bigger and the more notable a law firm is, the more people would be wanting to talk about it. And what better way to measure this than to ask Google.
Here are the rankings updated, for 2011.
There have been some slight changes in methodology, in an attempt to focus the search results down to the pages that truly matter. Starting with what we used for the 2009 rankings:
"law firm name" law site:.au
this has been supplemented by search terms that remove pages from the law firm’s own web site and from some particular web-based directories (the list of which is arbitrary and could well be improved). For example:
"Allens Arthur Robinson" law site:.au -site:yellowpages.com.au -site:truelocal.com.au -site:findlaw.com.au -site:lawyerlist.com.au -site:hotfrog.com.au -site:aar.com.au
For law firms with an ampersand or a plus sign in their name, additional search terms were inserted to allow for variations in spelling, like so:
("Gilbert + Tobin" OR "Gilbert and Tobin" OR "Gilbert & Tobin" OR "Gilbert Tobin") law site:.au -site:yellowpages.com.au -site:truelocal.com.au -site:findlaw.com.au -site:lawyerlist.com.au -site:hotfrog.com.au -site:gtlaw.com.au
Now, without further ado:
|2||DLA Phillips Fox||72,400||149||10|
|6||Mallesons Stephen Jaques||46,600||186||2|
|7||Allens Arthur Robinson||37,900||177||3|
|8||Corrs Chambers Westgarth||25,700||108||9|
|10||Baker & McKenzie||21,200||90||13|
|14||Cooper Grace Ward||16,000||24||–||–|
|16||Henry Davis York||10,100||52||22|
|17||Gilbert + Tobin||9,470||55||15|
|19||Hunt & Hunt||7,130||55||7|
|20||Arnold Bloch Leibler||6,990||29||20||–|
|27||Davies Collison Cave||2,990||36||24|
|28||Hall & Wilcox||1,780||30||28||–|
|30||Lander & Rogers||815||47||26|
|31||Moray & Agnew||596||59||29|
|33||Colin Biggers & Paisley||324||29||–||–|
1 The number of partners is the projected figure for 2 January 2011, as reported by the Australian Financial Review on 10 December 2010, page 47.
2 Norton Rose merged with Deacons, which was #5 in the 2009 rankings.
3 Kennedy Strang is a group of law firms (Kemp Strang, Russell Kennedy, Thynne & Macartney, Lynch Meyer). The reported page count is the total count for these law firms.
4 Thomsons Lawyers was called Thomson Playford Cutlers at the time of the 2009 rankings.
To get a feel for the “noise” in the page count, that is, the number of pages in the result set that do not actually refer to the law firm in question, I manually examined the top 30 search results for each law firm. For only three firms was 1 out of the 30 pages identified as spurious; the other law firms had no spurious results. This, of course, doesn’t mean the signal-to-noise ratio remains constant as one progresses towards the tail end of the search results; Google’s algorithms, by now, are probably quite good at getting the more relevant pages to appear in earlier search results.
Mandatory reading (for those of you who have read this far and have taken everything seriously): xkcd on using Google to measure things
These rankings have been updated for 2011!
Other law firm rankings go by revenue, the number of partners, or some other measure of bigness. But in this Web 2.0 world, shouldn’t we be looking at what the unwashed masses have to say? In that vein, I am proud to present the 2009 nointrigue.com Australian Law Firm Rankings.
The basic idea is that the better the law firm, the more articles there should be on the Internet that refer to them. This is similar to the idea behind PageRank, although I can only find out the PageRank of a firm’s website to the nearest integer, which is insufficiently fine-grained.
I put each of the law firms’ full names through Google in the following format:
"law firm name" AND law site:.au. The name is combined with the word
law because firms like Gadens have rather common names that could be used in other contexts.1 The search is restricted to Australian sites, because international firms like Baker & McKenzie would be unfairly advantaged — these rankings are meant to be for the Australian market.
|Ranking||Law Firm||Page Count||Partners2|
|2||Mallesons Stephen Jaques (*)||19,600||197|
|3||Allens Arthur Robinson (*)||19,500||197|
|4||Minter Ellison (*)||18,600||286|
|6||Clayton Utz (*)||17,300||223|
|7||Hunt & Hunt||15,200||56|
|8||Blake Dawson4 (*)||14,800||182|
|9||Corrs Chambers Westgarth||9,700||120|
|10||DLA Phillips Fox||8,010||164|
|13||Baker & McKenzie||5,950||91|
|15||Gilbert + Tobin||4,830||54|
|18||Dibbs Abbott Stillman||3,330||68|
|20||Arnold Bloch Leibler||3,260||28|
|22||Henry Davis York||2,510||50|
|24||Davies Collison Cave||1,800||34|
|26||Lander & Rogers||1,400||42|
|28||Hall & Wilcox||1,290||27|
|29||Moray & Agnew||910||53|
|30||Thomson Playford Cutlers||335||37|
1 This is very rough and some irrelevant hits might still be returned. However, it appears to be “good enough” via inspection of some of the hits found.
2 The number of the partners is stated at 2 January 2009, and sourced from the Australian Financial Review, 12 December 2008, page 46.
3 “Deacon” is a common word and the search with this law firm’s name was particularly problematic with many irrelevant hits; the page count is therefore probably higher than what it should be.
4 Full disclosure: I currently work at Blake Dawson as a summer clerk.
* The firms with an asterisk are the Big Six law firms.
For comparison, I used the same methodology on UK firms, this time switching the domain to
.uk. Clifford Chance, with 236 partners in the UK, returned 19,000 hits. Linklaters, with 227 partners, was second, with 12,800 hits. Thirdly, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer scored 12,500 hits; it has 219 partners and counsels, roughly counted from their website. Interestingly, this is the same order as reported by The Lawyer Global 100 2008, which ranks law firms by total revenue!
You may know that I write for the Wikipedia Signpost, and recently, I wrote an article for it on the comparison between Wikipedia and Google Knol. In the end, the article I wrote was substantially overhauled by the editor because it was an opinion piece biased towards one view — intentionally. Although opinion sometimes does make it into the Signpost, the editor felt that was not the time nor place for it, and so he rewrote most of it in a more objective style. So it’s old news, but instead of wasting (somewhat) good prose, here it is:
Google usually makes a noisy entry wherever it dares to tread, and this week’s announcement of Knol, a site that will host user-generated articles was no different. Wikipedians, however, should have nothing to fear.
Knol, which is currently only accessible to a select few who have been invited, will be a site that hosts user-generated content on a wide range of subjects. The term knol was coined by Google to mean a unit of knowledge, and refers to the entire project as well as individual articles. While the jury is still out on whether Knol will be successful, or whether it will even make it to a public launch, the obvious comparison that has sparked the Internet alight is with Wikipedia.
There are some immediately apparent differences between Knol and Wikipedia. The most important one is that Knol is not a wiki. Content pages will be owned by a single author and that sole author has the responsibility of maintaining its content; users can participate by suggesting edits, or by rating or commenting on the article, but that’s about it. There is no Wikipedia-style collaboration model; in fact, it is difficult to see how there can be much of a strong community. The single author approach admittedly has its attractions, though; an author’s reputation lives and dies by his or her words, and this builds trust into the equation. However, as many have noted, this denies Knol one of the more valuable aspects of Wikipedia articles, that controversial articles are likely to have been edited by a variety of users who have had to compromise to produce a relatively neutral and balanced piece of work. The competition between different Knol pages will not necessarily result in greater utility for the end user.
This competition is what will define Knol, and this further differentiates it from Wikipedia. Writers of Knol content will have the ability to insert Google advertising into their pages and earn a cut of the resulting revenue. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is advertising-free, and the competition on this site, if you can call it that, is one more akin to a friendly meritocracy than the harsh world of chasing advertising dollars. Knol, from its very foundations, does not seem conducive to a community spirit, something that may keep editors on Wikipedia.
But maybe Google doesn’t need a sense of community. Cynically, all it needs is for people to link to Knol articles, have the pages appear close to the top of its widely-used search results and then have its advertising cash registers chinking; by comparison, sending people to Wikipedia does Google no direct financial favours. Wikipedia could lose out by having less incoming traffic, and therefore less exposure to new, potential editors.
Knol is an interesting idea that will surely stimulate debate about how the face of user-generated content should proceed. It currently appears as neither friend nor foe, but as another choice for users that will probably satisfy its own niche.
I’m surprised I didn’t know about this till recently, but Google Blog Search is something that no blogger should ignore. (Here are some other, albeit somewhat old, first impressions.) Apparently, Google believes in blogs — “Google is a strong believer in the self-publishing phenomenon represented by blogging…” — and extends their search prowess to the world of blogs. It looks and feels just like the standard Google search, but one must ask the question: why bother searching blogs? After all, aren’t blogs (like this one), just filled with the immature rants of wannabe writers who just wouldn’t cut it in the real world of journalism?
No, I don’t believe it’s true in general. Sure, the quality of blogs does vary quite a bit — but they all serve some kind of a purpose. Whether it’s a professional blogger contributing in his or her field of expertise, or a university student writing about life, the universe and crap like that, it’s all because they have something to say. The ability to link between blogs and comment on blogs creates a kind of dynamic that encourages people to think — instead of merely being passive consumers. That is a great thing to see. I suppose Andrew Keen wouldn’t agree, but just because he’s published in dead tree form doesn’t amount to much: see the Wikipedia Signpost review. By being able to search exclusively in blogs, you too can participate in this part of the Internet — participate in free speech. You can find out things that traditional media will not cover — how-to’s in obscure topics, political rants that match your persuasion. The results you get are pretty good — see this description of how it all works. Yes, Google’s thorough.
For bloggers, it is important that you are indexed by search engines, even if you are a small time blogger like me. What’s the point of writing publicly if you don’t actually intend on anyone reading it? I had known of Technorati before this, but Technorati has many irritations that other bloggers have covered and I won’t cover here; anyway, Google’s overtaken it. To ping Google Blog Search, just add http://blogsearch.google.com/ping/RPC2 to your list of servers to ping.
In other news, Google Maps features content for the 2007 federal election. Click on the “My Maps” tab and it’s under the “Featured content” part. Overlay the party colours onto the map of Australia, and you’d be surprised about the land area that the Liberals/Nationals represent!
On a final note, Google Blog Search and these special maps rather emblematic of the problem that Google has so many fantastic services written by so many fantastic engineers that just aren’t seeing much of the light of day because… there are just so many of them.