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Attack of the podcast people: Attorneys opt for online broadcasts

ImageMilwaukee attorney Robert B. Teuber’s podcasts are available at itunes.com. That’s probably the last reason he’d give for why he has ventured into podcasts as a marketing tool — but he does get a kick out of it.

Teuber is the brainchild behind Weiss Berzowski Brady LLP’s podcast library, which, at the time of this writing, contained 35 podcasts from a dozen lawyers.

The firm’s Web site defines “podcasts” as recorded audio presentations, on a variety of legal topics, which can be listened to online. They can be directly downloaded from the site. However, what distinguishes a podcast from other digital media formats is its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added, using an aggregator or feed reader capable of reading feed formats such as RSS.

Attracting Clients or Referrals

Some of Weiss Berzowski’s podcasts are geared toward audiences of current or prospective clients, while some are targeted for an attorney audience for educational and referral purposes.

Teuber is on top of one of the newest developments in legal marketing, according to Jennifer R. Rupkey, the director of marketing at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Milwaukee, who adds that a couple of her firm’s attorneys have professional podcasts as well. She anticipates that more will join their ranks.

“It’s a big trend right now, and it’s something most, if not all, firms should consider,” she says. “People are getting used to the idea that they can get information from anywhere, at any time.”

Teuber, an associate with Weiss Berzowski who practices in tax, business planning and commercial litigation, first proposed the podcasting idea in December 2006. He came up with it when talking about marketing and technology with friends, Phil Gerbyshak, a motivational speaker/business consultant, and attorney Mark Andres, a friend from law school.

“We thought that in the right environment — in the right firm and with the right practice areas — this could be an effective medium for generating some business,” he says.

“We’d read ABA journals and magazines from other industries and professions, and knew that Internet marketing generally was becoming a successful medium for generating business in other areas, and we thought, ‘Why not lawyers?’”

Teuber then did his homework, investigating the costs and time involved with podcasting, as well as how they could be integrated into the firm’s other marketing efforts.

In March 2007, the firm began experimenting internally with the podcasts, before officially launching them over the Internet in May.

As a general rule, it’s tough sometimes to measure return on investment when talking about legal marketing. Yet, Teuber maintains he’s gotten a great deal of positive feedback from his existing clients about the podcasts. More than 10,000 visitors have downloaded a podcast from the firm’s Web site. In addition, legal marketing guru Larry Bodine gave the firm’s podcast library a thumbs-up in his blog.

Cost Effective

The investment was minimal. Teuber says that podcasting requires a fairly new computer running Windows XP (or if you have a Mac, running OS 9 or X) and a Broadband Internet connection (DSL, cable or T1) — tools most lawyers already have. He purchased a microphone in the range of $100-$150, and downloaded Audacity software, for audio recording and editing, which he’s happy to report is free on the Web.

He didn’t use outsourced consultants, but said his firm’s law librarian/Web site manager was a big help. The firm does outsource its Web site, and there is a cost associated with posting the podcast; Teuber believes it’s inexpensive.

Rupkey agrees that audio podcasting can be very affordable — but like most things, if someone wants to spend a lot of money on it, he or she can; some firms have posted video podcasts, using outside production companies, and that can get pricey.

As for the time involved, Teuber says he did devote a fair amount of time investigating how to podcast and writing material for it. But, if it hadn’t been spent that way, he would’ve likely devoted the same amount of time to some other marketing endeavor.

Teuber believes that his firm is the only one in Wisconsin to have extensively utilized podcasts for marketing.

“If you look nationwide, you’ll see a lot of this kind of activity on the coasts, but not so much in the rest of the country. It’s relatively new, and there’s probably some institutional hesitation among lawyers to jump into something that sounds and feels like it would be a big time commitment,” he says. “But, once you get past the initial hurdles, it becomes a familiar process. I wasn’t techy at all when I started this process. I may have become so, in certain areas, because I wanted to learn it. And I’ve really enjoyed it.

“Perhaps some lawyers are hesitant to get into it because, frankly, their perceptions of blogs and podcasts might be a little outdated. The first blogs and podcasts did talk about things like the weather, or other topics that were of little value, other than the catharsis it brought to the person writing or saying it. But now there are plenty of professional podcasts out there.”

Blawg vs. Podcast

On that note, Teuber says there probably are many more blawgs on the Internet these days, compared to podcasts. But keeping a blawg fresh probably consumes about the same amount of time.

He adds that Weiss Berzowski’s size was helpful in starting its podcast library. As a medium-sized firm, it was just easier to get people on board because there are fewer people and less protocol, compared to the typical large law firm.

Rupkey says that some practice areas probably are better suited for podcasting than others, judging by the potential audience. Podcasts would likely appeal to prospective clients in high-tech industries or venture capital, for example, as compared to trusts and estates, where the majority of the client base is older and less inclined to experiment with new technologies.

It just makes sense to use podcasting if you’re the kind of lawyer who enjoys speaking publicly, Teuber concludes. “If you like giving speeches, why not put it on the Internet, too? If you’re going to give a speech to 50 or 500 people, why not put it online as well and make it available to an unlimited audience?”

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