Legal Business Blogs

Social media influencer: James Bremen, chair of Quinn Emanuel’s construction and engineering practice

In the early days of the pandemic, James Bremen began posting direct-to-camera explainers on Covid-19 legal issues, before branching out into career advice on making partner and successfully building client relationships, attracting thousands of views with the minimum of fuss

What motivated you to begin posting videos about various aspects of the legal sector, and why on LinkedIn?

I had a LinkedIn profile that I wasn’t doing much with before the pandemic, and then everything changed and it was the end of the world and you couldn’t go outside and didn’t have a commute, and I thought, ‘Well, what am I going to do with this time?’ I figured I can do one of these videos a day pretty quickly, just commenting on the things I was dealing with that day, mostly ex tempore, on the spot. I didn’t prepare for them because they were subjects I’d been looking at for work and thought they were interesting, so I just did it to fill the time. Originally, in the first year, the vast majority were legal topics, then I did some professional development topics a little later.

In terms of why on LinkedIn, it’s a professional platform and the only platform I had so it wasn’t really a choice. I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of that as I am a private person and don’t want to put pictures of my dog on the internet – some people enjoy that, but I just don’t see the point.

Given that LinkedIn is predominantly a text-based platform, why did you decide to make videos instead?

I think the key word you need to focus on here is laziness. Whenever I’m looking at something for work I go, ‘OK, I’m going to speak about this as a general concept for ten minutes’ and move on. It was a way of filling in time in the pandemic that I may have otherwise had to go for a walk or get a coffee. I tried to think about how to do something that’s slightly different and may be of interest to people because I bet others are sitting at home as well thinking about what to do with their day. Occasionally I have written pieces, but to be completely honest, a text article will take half an hour and I’ve got the lawyer’s problem of ‘if it’s written, it has to be right’. Words are printed forever, but videos feel more impermanent (even if that isn’t technically true).

As you have continued to make videos post-pandemic, what’s your motivation to keep doing it, and what benefits have you seen?

Well, quite a few, maybe 100 different people, emailed me in the pandemic saying how they wanted me to continue and that they enjoyed it. When the pandemic ended and we could come out of our cocoons and start going on trips, I found that wherever I had meetings, from Saudi Arabia to the US to Malaysia, people would tell me that they’d watched the videos. For example, I recently had a trip to Saudi Arabia where we were pitching to a brand new client and the American general counsel said that he’d watched the videos every day during the pandemic and it kept him sane. I really appreciate that.

I also found a lot of younger lawyers watched it and, during the pandemic in particular, there was no interaction and so not really any kind of mentoring for people to talk about issues or what they should do or how law firms work, so I had a lot of people say that they found the posts very valuable. Unfortunately, it seems as though a lot of people have forgotten that this is a profession, not just a business, and you are obliged to contribute to the commonwealth of the profession and development of other people in some selfless way and, I hope in my own small way, this has contributed something.

I’m very fortunate and my career is far better than it ever deserved to be, so this hasn’t helped me win work and there’s no obvious financial gain. This is purely either cathartic for me in some subconscious way or something I got into the habit of doing with the positive reinforcement from people watching.

Is this approach something you would recommend others try?

Sure, if they want to. You’ll be exposed to different people. I worry greatly for the profession because I think we’ll get to a time where firms are not firms, just people on a screen, and that’s not fun and it’s not real. Almost all of the things I learnt as a junior lawyer, it wasn’t because I was supposed to learn them, it was because I was in the room when someone else was doing them, and you just don’t get that anymore. Many lawyers don’t have people they can talk to or connect with regularly to get advice, and I think this kind of thing helps in a small way, filling some of that void.

James Bremen’s top three most watched LinkedIn videos

Return to our social media influencers feature ‘Social circles’.