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Big Law Firm Launches Podcast

July 21, 2016, 5:08 PM

Davis Polk & Wardwell has launched its first-ever podcast, called Before the Board .

The host: Joseph Hall , head of Davis Polk’s corporate governance practice.

Here’s a quick description:

Before the Board will feature conversations on developments in corporate governance, providing insight on the current issues facing boards of directors, including shareholder engagement, board leadership, strategic planning, institutional investors, proxy advisory firms, executive compensation, board composition, activism, corporate and securities law, litigation and enforcement actions, cybersecurity, and much more.

Episode #1 featured a conversation with Linda Chatman Thomsen on some of the recent trends in SEC enforcement actions against public company directors. Ms. Thomsen is the former Director of Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission (2005-2009) and is currently a partner in Davis Polk’s Litigation Department in Washington DC.

Though it’s a first for Davis Polk, it’s not the first podcast in Big Law.

• Steptoe & Johnson has a podcast focusing on cybersecurity.

• Littler Mendelson offers podcasts on labor and employment.

However, peer firms of Davis Polk, which focuses heavily on the financial sector in New York City, have less of a presence. For all we could tell from Internet searches, there are no podcasts found at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Sullivan & Cromwell. We did find that Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft hosted at least two podcasts this May about legal issues surrounding college sports, including Title IX and performance enhancing drugs.

We caught up with Seth Apple, the business development manager behind Davis Polk’s podcast debut, and asked him about the rollout.

Big Law Business: So, why a podcast?

Apple: When people are watching webinars or conferences, they aren’t necessarily listening to the content that’s coming out of your mouth. They are listening to the cadence, and personality connections, and, thinking ‘Oh, I like this guy.’ When you get to a certain level of firm, expertise is assumed: you can do the big IPO or M&A deal. With a podcast, you’re listening in and thinking, ‘Oh, I like this woman or man.’ You get the human element.

Big Law Business: What’s it like doing marketing for an elite firm like Davis Polk?

Apple: I think when you get to firms that are at the upper tier there, things slow down and very much intentionally when it comes to trying to market the practices of the firm. People tell me all the time that I have one of the easiest jobs around: How hard is it to market a firm like Davis Polk? Are we going to have 11 Twitter handles and doing the LinkedIn thing? No. That’s very much an intentional play by us. So I think that when a firm like Davis Polk dips its toe into something like this, it may not be so groundbreaking for the rest of the world, but for us to try to expand what we do from a marketing perspective and being more proactive... it’s kind of a big deal.

Big Law Business: How many people are in Davis Polk’s business development department overall?

Apple: 35.

Big Law Business: How are you seeing business development efforts evolve in Big Law?

Apple: It’s so different depending on the size of the firm and what their client base is. I certainly think that at big law firms, you’re starting to see more and more law firms trying to make calculated decisions in how to be more brand offensive instead of just brand defensive. The world is much smaller than it used to be. There are a lot of firms out there that can do big deals and we need to find ways to find differentiation.

Big Law Business: So what are you hoping to gain from the pod? Do you think you’ll attract new clients, or is this just a fun thing for Davis Polk to do?

Apple: If you really peel it back, everything we’re doing should be pointing toward the generation of clients or the preservation of clients. We’re trying to provide value. When you speak on panels, webcasts and podcasts, it’s almost impossible to say, ‘As a result of that, we got a client.’ But it’s another spoke on the BD wheel. You’re not only calling on them, but you just want to be saying, ‘Did you check this out? Here’s what’s going on in the market. Give me a call if you have questions.’ You want to be providing as much of that as possible.

Big Law Business: So how frequently will the pod run?

Apple: We’re trying to feel that out. At the least, we’re shooting for monthly.

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