Memes have gone mainstream. They’re no longer just silly little jokes for Gen Z and millennials. A recent conversation with a 50-year-old lawyer made me realize that memes have cross-generational appeal, and have a significant impact on the real world. “I love memes,” the lawyer said. “Especially the ones from NonEquityPartner.”
NonEquityPartner, an Instagram meme account with over 160,000 followers, is run by Bill Moore. He’s an incredibly creative lawyer with a background in corporate M&A, and has been recognized by The American Lawyer as a bona fide memelord. Others have said that NonEquityPartner is an account you should “follow immediately” or that it’s a “criminally underrated meme page.”
The account’s influence has created all sorts of unique opportunities for Bill. He now offers bespoke legal recruiting services, publishes The Industry Pulse Annual Law Firm Ranking alongside fellow legal meme account BigLawBoiz, and recently released an In-House Compensation Survey Report. As a bona fide influencer, Bill also sells merchandise with funny slogans on his own website and creates the occasional sponsored post for brands that inspire him. In all his “free time” (besides his actual, full-time career), he’s an angel investor and startup advisor!
I was very interested in meeting Bill, and wanted to talk to him about his experience running NonEquityPartner. As a content creator in the same niche, I have always been fascinated by the real-world impact of Internet culture. A few years ago, when I was just getting started on my content-creation journey, a friend suggested that social media clout didn’t really have any power. “You can have lots of followers online, but will that actually influence events in the real world?”
So when that 50-year-old lawyer mentioned a law meme account by name — in the real world — I was inspired to learn more. Who exactly is Bill Moore? Is that even his real name? (Spoiler: it’s not.) How did he get started on NonEquityPartner, and what are his goals with the account?
“I never expected it to get this big,” said Bill. His story goes like this. Years ago, while still in law school, Bill came across a Tumblr-style website where people would share gifs along with a funny caption. Bill had always been a creative person. On a whim, he decided to create and submit his own meme.
“It was super early in terms of meme culture,” he explained.
Bill’s talent was obvious to everyone, though. Within weeks, he became the site’s top contributor.
Although he had a talent for meme-making, at the time it was just a fun hobby. Like many other ambitious law students, Bill pursued the tried-and-true career path after law school. He joined the corporate group at a prestigious New York Biglaw firm and spent the first few years out of law school just like his peers, grinding away at the office.
“As juniors, we used to drop these notes in each other’s offices if we were working overnight: ‘BM;FL’ short for ‘Bill More; Feel Less.’ Those little moments of collegial commiseration kind of served as the origin story for the name and ethos of William Moore, Esq.”
In his free time, Bill would scroll through Instagram and find memes from accounting, finance, and consulting. That’s when he noticed that there was something missing. “There was no one focusing on lawyers like me. I mean, there were a lot of generic meme accounts, but nothing specifically for Biglaw.”
So, Bill created his own. At the time, it wasn’t a huge priority. It was just a hobby that would help him scratch his creative itch when work slowed down. “I was a Biglaw associate. I didn’t have time for any other type of outlet, like writing or reading.” So in late 2018, when deal flow died down during the holidays, Bill Moore created the Instagram account that would eventually become NonEquityPartner.
“There was no master plan,” Bill explained. He struggled to get his first 100 followers. There was no playbook for building an audience for his memes, so the account meandered for a few months while he honed his craft. There came a point though — in spring 2019 — when an interruption in Bill’s personal life forced him to take some time away from work and allowed him to focus on his side project.
“I told myself I’m going to pour myself into this, and started observing larger accounts to see how they did it. Over the course of three weeks, it went from 100 to 1,000 followers, and then I was off to the races. Turns out a lot of lawyers shared the same experiences.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this pattern. In my experience, one of the best ways to discover your superpower is to create something small on the side, without quitting your job. Not to make money necessarily, but to do something you enjoy for its own sake. In this new, social media empowered world, you can go massively viral and suddenly gain an audience of like-minded fans overnight.
Internet fame has brought Bill lots of interesting commercial opportunities, but despite all that, he’s remained true to his original goals. “At the end of the day, this is a passion project,” he told me. “I do it on the side. Right now I’m just focused on maintaining authenticity and using it for fun. At the end of the day, I just love trash talking lawyers online.”
That authenticity helps Bill cut through the noise. It’s why that 50-year-old lawyer I mentioned earlier, who is probably bombarded by marketing content every single day, remembered NonEquityPartner by name. As someone who thinks a lot about brand marketing, I can tell you that this is very special. I’ve spent the past six years in legal tech — first in e-discovery, and then in contracts tech — I’ve experienced how challenging it is to capture the attention of busy lawyers.
That’s where the memes come in. Their virality creates their own distribution. According to RevGenius, in an article describing how powerful meme marketing is, it all “comes from the human instinct to commiserate on deeply-felt emotions. For this reason, the best memes are born out of experience and are difficult, if not impossible, to fabricate.”
Despite this, there’s still some skepticism in some corners about memes and social media generally. Probably because it’s hard to measure their effectiveness. They operate in the dark funnel. So the companies that serve the legal industry, like recruiting firms, alternative legal services providers, or legal tech startups, mostly still rely on outdated marketing playbooks.
“I feel kind of like a teenager in the early 2000s,” Bill joked. “It’s like, I’ve got these Internet friends but now have to convince my parents that they’re real.”
I mean, I get the hesitation. It’s all kind of strange. To those not immersed in Internet culture, memes aren’t supposed to work. You’re supposed to say nice things about the people you’re trying to market to, right? You don’t make fun of them. But Bill built his audience by, as he put it, “trash talking lawyers.”
In reality, that’s precisely what makes memes work so well. You don’t engage with the community you serve by offering platitudes and empty marketing messages. You do it by making inside jokes and calling out commonly known truths that no one talks about openly. This is especially effective in opaque industries, like the legal profession. It’s related to why Instagram and TikTok are eating into Google’s market share.
I predict that the early adopters of meme culture will collect the lion’s share of the rewards. In a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach the most valuable audiences in the legal world, the unique space that memelords like Bill Moore occupy will only grow in value. Over time, we’ll start to see the corporate world embrace these “silly pictures with captions” even more as copyright law evolves. (For more on that, check out this fascinating NYU Law Review article titled “Memes On Memes And The New Creativity.”)
Like it or not, memes are here to stay. I expect that over the next few years, NonEquityPartner will transform into a major media and marketing force for the legal industry, kind of like what Litquidity did for finance or IMGN/Daquan did for music. And Bill, by being early to the game, will be incredibly well positioned to create massive value.
In the real world.
Alex Su is currently the Head of Community Development at Ironclad, a leading legal technology company that helps accelerate the contracting process. Earlier in his career, he was an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and clerked for a federal district judge. Alex graduated from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, where he was an editor of the law review and the student commencement speaker. In his free time, he writes about his career journey and legal tech in his newsletter Off The Record. You can find Alex on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and yes, even Tik Tok.