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Chrome advertisement on NYTimes.com

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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:

Law Firm  Pages  Part­ners1 ’09 
1 Clayton Utz 78,900 201 6 Up
2 DLA Phil­lips Fox 72,400 149 10 Up
3 Minter Ellis­on 66,100 291 4 Up
4 Blake Dawson 57,400 175 8 Up
5 Free­hills 48,500 202 1 Down
6 Mal­lesons Steph­en Jaques 46,600 186 2 Down
7 Allens Arthur Robin­son 37,900 177 3 Down
8 Corrs Cham­bers West­garth 25,700 108 9 Up
9 Mad­docks 23,500 53 12 Up
10 Baker & McK­en­zie 21,200 90 13 Up
11 Norton Rose2 19,800 146 5 Down
12 Middletons 18,900 67 17 Up
13 Sparke Hel­more 18,500 49 16 Up
14 Cooper Grace Ward 16,000 24
15 Hold­ing Red­lich 15,600 55 14 Down
16 Henry Dav­is York 10,100 52 22 Up
17 Gil­bert + Tobin 9,470 55 15 Down
18 Piper Alder­man 9,170 57 21 Up
19 Hunt & Hunt 7,130 55 7 Down
20 Arnold Bloch Lei­bler 6,990 29 20
21 McCul­lough Robertson 6,490 46 19 Down
22 HWL Ebsworth 5,320 120 27 Up
23 Kennedy Strang3 4,970 72 31 Up
24 Grif­fith Hack 4,890 30
25 Gadens 4,470 125 11 Down
26 TressCox 4,270 35 23 Down
27 Dav­ies Col­lis­on Cave 2,990 36 24 Down
28 Hall & Wil­cox 1,780 30 28
29 Thom­sons Law­yers4 1,250 47 30 Up
30 Lander & Rogers 815 47 26 Down
31 Moray & Agnew 596 59 29 Down
32 Macpherson+Kelley 340 51
33 Colin Big­gers & Pais­ley 324 29

Notes:
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

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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
1 Free­hills (*) 20,000 214
2 Mal­lesons Steph­en Jaques (*) 19,600 197
3 Allens Arthur Robin­son (*) 19,500 197
4 Minter Ellis­on (*) 18,600 286
5 Dea­cons3 18,200 133
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
11 Gadens 6,210 109
12 Mad­docks 6,160 53
13 Baker & McK­en­zie 5,950 91
14 Hold­ing Red­lich 5,720 49
15 Gil­bert + Tobin 4,830 54
16 Sparke Hel­more 4,760 57
17 Middletons 4,260 64
18 Dibbs Abbott Still­man 3,330 68
19 McCul­lough Robertson 3,300 39
20 Arnold Bloch Lei­bler 3,260 28
21 Piper Alder­man 3,080 56
22 Henry Dav­is York 2,510 50
23 TressCox 2,170 48
24 Dav­ies Col­lis­on Cave 1,800 34
25 Her­bert Geer 1,530 47
26 Lander & Rogers 1,400 42
27 HWL Ebsworth 1,310 99
28 Hall & Wil­cox 1,290 27
29 Moray & Agnew 910 53
30 Thom­son Play­ford Cut­lers 335 37
31 Kennedy Strang 252 95

Notes:
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!

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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.

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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://​blog​search​.google​.com/​p​i​n​g​/​R​PC2 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.

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I recently signed up to Google AdSense when I con­ver­ted the main site search to using Google Cus­tom Search. (The rev­en­ue share on my accounts page is lis­ted as 0.0% for some strange reas­on though; I’m not sure what that means, but Google doesn’t actu­ally pub­licly reveal what share of the rev­en­ue they give you, so I’m not too wor­ried about that.)

Now, I’m tri­al­ling Google refer­ral ads as well. Because my site’s primary pur­pose isn’t to make me money, I’ve tried to make them as unob­trus­ive as pos­sible. Cur­rently, they’re only show­ing on stat­ic pages (such as the home page), and they’re just ads for Fire­fox and Google Pack — two pieces of soft­ware that I’m more than happy to recom­mend. I def­in­itely won’t be going down the AdWords path just yet — I don’t have pos­it­ive asso­ci­ation with those types of advert­ise­ments.

By the way, this is the truth.

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