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Roundtable Discussion – Part I

Marketing Law firms

No matter what size they are, law firms need to let people know who they are and what types of services they offer. Whether they target prospective clients or possible referral sources, law firms are engaged in ongoing marketing efforts. Wisconsin Law Journal editor Tony Anderson sat down with a panel of lawyers and marketing professionals to discuss how they go about bringing attention to their law firms.

WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL: I want to start out by going around the table and having each of you describe a little bit about your firm and how that affects the marketing that you do.

AMY C. WESTRUP: Weiss Berzowski Brady is a firm with 24 attorneys, 25 staff. We have two offices, one in downtown Milwaukee and another in Delafield. Our practice areas include tax, real estate, corporate, estate planning, employment law, and employee benefits. Those are our main areas.

I would say we’ve focused on small and midsize businesses, closely-held businesses. … That is the target market for most midsize and small-size firms and some of the large ones, too. It’s a very competitive legal market in Wisconsin. A lot of our companies and a lot of our clients will come in as, say, an estate planning client. … Or they’ll come in for a will, and they’ll stay forever.

WILLARD P. TECHMEIER: We are a plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm [in Milwaukee]. We have three attorneys. We are appealing to the average person out there, trying to get their business if they have an accident.

The market consists of a lot of talking heads on television. The important thing that we try to do is distinguish ourselves from the others. We are branching out into some newer areas, stock fraud litigation, which I think is going to be a really good area for us in terms of people who’ve lost a lot of money in the stock market through certain investment banking firms, like Solomon Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch. We also do some mass torts work, and we’re constantly following the trends with regard to that. We have a number of Baycol cases, quite a few Fen-Phen cases that are in our … inventory.

What we have to try to figure out always is who is our client and what are the demographics. Of course, everybody’s looking for the 18- to 49-year-old person in our business. Because the younger the person, the worse the injury, the more money we can generate for our client and, obviously, for ourselves. So in our marketing, what we always look at is who is the client, who are we trying to obtain as our client.

Marketing Group

(Front) Sandy A. McGee, The Schroeder Group, SC; Jennifer R. Rupkey, Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP; Amy C. Westrup, Weiss Berzowski Brady LLP; (Back) Darryl J. Lee, Slattery & Lee, Ltd.; Willard P. Techmeier, The Techmeier McCormick Group SC

DARRYL J. LEE: Slattery & Lee is a relatively small personal injury firm in Waukesha. We have a special emphasis on complex product liability law and automobile crash worthiness laws. That’s where someone is injured by a defective automobile component, such as failed tires, seat-back failures, roof-crush in a rollover, those types of things. Those cases are significant because it’s not really what caused the accident — because accidents are presumed to happen on the American roads — but what causes the injury and how you relate the defective component to the injury.
In that sense, we’re somewhat of a boutique firm. We practice all over the country on those types of cases. We generally get cases from referrals through other attorneys. That’s our primary source of cases, so we try to gear our marketing, as best we can, towards other lawyers. We’re somewhat different in that respect.

JENNIFER R. RUPKEY: I am with the law firm of Michael, Best & Friedrich. We are a full-service law firm with 350 attorneys and six office locations. We have a Midwestern marketing strategy. I think that allows us to really focus our marketing a little bit more rather than trying to be everything to everyone. We service middle-market companies. Our clients range anywhere from small start-ups to Fortune 500. So we run the gamut in terms of who we represent.

Our marketing is really focused around clients’ needs. I think we have developed or evolved from just doing marketing based on who we are versus what our clients need. We’ve really changed that because I think that provides a value-added service to our clients as opposed to saying, “This is who we are and this is what we offer.” Instead of that, we&
#146;re saying, “We know who you are and what you need.” That has worked pretty well. As we get into some of the other questions, I’ll let you know some of the things that we’re doing to achieve that.

SANDY A. McGEE: I’m with The Schroeder Group out in Waukesha, not too far from Darryl’s firm. We are a business law firm. Our clients are primarily closely-held businesses, family-owned businesses. There are 12 attorneys and 25 of us total. Our marketing is probably a little different from everybody else. We rely real heavily on referrals from current clients, the banking industry, accounting industry, life insurance, financial planners, who also are working with those clients. If they need a law firm … to hopefully send it our way.

WLJ: It seems that marketing is really in a very strong evolutionary period right now. Things have changed in how your firms are approaching marketing. I’d like to start by asking you to take a look at what you’re doing now and what you were doing five years ago. How have things changed in the approaches that your firms are taking?

RUPKEY: I’ve been doing legal marketing for 10 years, so I’ve seen quite a few changes. Five years ago, we didn’t even have an Internet — or a Web site. That has really changed things. … Five, six, seven years ago, legal marketing was a lot of just directory listings, like Martindale-Hubbell. It was seminars. It was newsletters. It’s really evolved into more of … a client-centric-type thing. You guys probably have seen those changes as well. It was really more focused toward creating awareness versus providing value-added service.

LEE: Five years ago, we were heavily into Yellow Pages ads. That was the big marketing tool that most lawyers used.

TECHMEIER: Yes. I attend a number of marketing seminars around the country. And I always hear one or two people describing themselves as “recovering Yellow Pages advertisers.” Occasionally you’ll have one or two lawyers in a particular market pull their Yellow Pages ads completely. But most of the lawyers that are at these seminars are a little bit too timid to do a drastic thing like that. They might cut back to some extent, but not completely.

LEE: The change I’ve seen in the Yellow Pages ads is it’s gone from small ads now to two-page ads.

TECHMEIER: In Arizona, they have three.

LEE: Three-page ads?

TECHMEIER: They call them triple-deckers.

WESTRUP: Oh, goodness. The necessary evil, the Yellow Pages.

LEE: I believe there are at least 13 firms now that have double-page ads. It’s very expensive from a small firm’s perspective. You can spend $10,000 a month for a double-page ad.

Techmeier

"If you can get an attorney’s name in the newspaper having been quoted by a reporter for this or that, that’s great advertising too, because it brings so much credibility to the person or the firm."

Willard P. Techmeier,
The Techmeier Mccormick Group SC

TECHMEIER: Tell me about it. …We had the double-page ad for a couple years. And the gimmick was, when they first started to get you to do it, it was going to be the price of the single-page ad. So, of course, everybody bought into it.

We were not the first ones to do it, so we weren’t in the beginning of the phone book … that’s where you want to be. So this year, they started offering a new type of ad. It’s a double-page, but on either side are columns for the other, smaller advertisers. … The idea is that you’re distinguishing yourself.

Because I decided to do it early on, I was the first position in the category called “Attorney-Accident.” This is a trial period for us to see if it really is working.

LEE: We’ve really shied away from the Yellow Page ads for a couple of reasons. One is cost. Like I mentioned, the double-page ads are $10,000 a month. The single-page full-page ad, with colors, are almost $7,000 a month. For a small firm, it’s almost prohibitive to spend that kind of money on marketing. Also, the number of ads that you see these days dilutes your exposure.

I went through the most recent Yellow Pages and I added them up. You have 37 pages of lawyer ads in there. How do you stand out when you hav37 pages of lawyer advertising? We have a listing in there, but we
don’t go with the full-page ads anymore.

McGEE: For a business firm, it’s a little different. Obviously, you don’t have a business thumbing through the Yellow Pages saying “I need an attorney. Okay, I’ll pick them.” … We’re listed in there very minimally. People are able to find us if they need it. But we rely more heavily on referrals than the Yellow Pages.

WESTRUP: Right. We don’t put a lot of money into the Yellow Pages. However, we do have listings in there. Unfortunately, we’re a “W.” So the alphabet works against us. … One thing that we did decide to do with our listing just to kind of test was pull out a very specialized practice area that we have. We did buy a first position — not an ad, but just a listing.

I think we’re like the only one or two people listing in there. It was just in the condemnation area and it’s only in one phone book. It’s in an area that is growing. We wanted to kind of establish a presence out there. We’ll see how it works out.

The directory listings are growing and growing and growing. How many phone books are there? I have about 15 phone books in my office. I have no idea which one you’re actually supposed to use.

RUPKEY: I think what it boils down to is taking a step back and looking at what the process is your clients go through to hire an attorney. In our case, it’s not the Yellow Pages. [To Techmeier] In your case, it may be. When they get into an accident, what is one of the first things they do, other than obviously go to the hospital? They look in the Yellow Pages. If that’s the case, then it would be of benefit to you to have an ad in there larger than life. But if that’s not the process they go through in hiring a firm like yours, then you wouldn’t, obviously, invest a lot of resources in it.

WESTRUP: I would like to see some data on that, how many people use listings. I’m sure Martindale-Hubbell has plenty of data to show us. But Martindale-Hubbell is kind of the listing of choice, or I guess FindLaw is kind of getting up there as well. Even the Martindale-Hubbell listings are so cost prohibitive that we’ve cut back considerably.

I know on legal marketing Listserves, that argument is out there all the time. Should we even list in Martindale-Hubbell anymore? There are firms that can spend a quarter of a million dollars on their Martindale-Hubbell listing. We cut back and saved about $5,000 on our listing. And it’s perfectly fine.

We still get referrals from it.

RUPKEY: Just setting up guidelines will help you reduce or minimize the costs. But it is essential for a firm, especially of our size, to be listed in Martindale-Hubbell. We have gotten cases from our listing there.

For example, someone out in Florida called our Waukesha office just because we had a listing in the Waukesha area in Martindale-Hubbell. That would not have happened had we not listed in there. So I think they do work. But you do not have to go crazy on your listing.

WESTRUP: I almost tend to think that those long, very detailed listings are almost a turnoff, too. … People don’t want to read a tome on each attorney. They just want the facts. They want to know perhaps where they went to school, how long they’ve been practicing, what their practice areas are.

WLJ: What about other potential types of advertising and benefits or pitfalls from that?

TECHMEIER: We’re actually doing an analysis. I hired a consultant to work with us in trying to figure out the cost per call. How much does it cost for us to get that call? So we’re looking at the cost of Yellow Pages. We’re looking at the cost of Internet marketing. We’re looking at the cost of our billboards, of radio advertising or television advertising … and print ads. We’re making a comparison of what it costs and how many calls we’re getting from each one of those things. So after six months or a year, we’ll be able to come up with some meaningful numbers as to what is working best for our firm.

That’s much different than the business law firms. You’re not trying to generate these calls the way a firm such as ours does. Now, Slattery & Lee, you’ve got a specialized practice. So you’re looking for referrals. Right? Your marketing is going to be directed to that type of person.

LEE: It is. We’ve also looked at TV advertising, radio advertising and print ads. Being a small firm, cost is always a factor for us. That’s probably one of the primary factors we look at. Can we afford to take a chance and run a TV ad, and will it pay off? That’s a gamble. When you’re a small firm, you don’t necessarily take those chances. You go with what you think will work.

TV ads can run you, for a 13-week run on cable, $7,000 just to run the ad. That’s not to produce it. That’s just to run it. If you go on network, i
t’s $20,000 for a 13-week run. And if you’re going to do TV advertising or radio advertising, you can’t just run one spot. You have to run it for a series of spots to get the exposure you need.

We evaluated that. We haven’t gone that way yet, but we’re considering it — the radio, WTMJ, for example. … You want the most exposure you can get, and you want either the morning commute or the afternoon commute because people tend not to listen to the radio midday. A 13-week run on WTMJ can cost $10,000. And it goes up from there. So those are serious numbers for small law firms.

RUPKEY: And large ones.

WESTRUP: Any law firm.

TECHMEIER: The verdict is not in on radio advertising for attorneys. First of all, those spots are 60 seconds instead of 30 seconds. It’s very expensive in comparison to television advertising. I was paying $300 a spot. It was at 7:45 in the morning. Right now Daniel Kondos is advertising at 8:15 on WKTI. So I know that he’s spending about the same amount of money. And I’m wondering if it’s really going to come home for him in comparison to a 30-second spot that you probably can run during the Today Show for maybe $150. I haven’t looked at their numbers lately, but I know it would be less than the radio advertising.

WESTRUP: I thought about radio advertising and we do underwriting on NPR. We’ve gotten remarkable results from that. … I can tell you exactly what files came from that because that is really our target market, that group of professionals. We underwrite on certain shows and at certain times. It’s very, very cost effective.

However, I don’t think it would be really worthwhile for me to run a 60-second spot on WKLH. That’s probably not my target. But it could be for a certain practice area. I guess it just boils down to demographics — who you really want to target.

LEE: Sandy, did you just start running ads on the radio?

Lee

"We speak at as many seminars as we can. We’re very active in the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers. … All of our attorneys have spoken at those functions. That’s how people get exposed to our firm and what we do."

Darryl J. Lee,
Slattery & Lee, Ltd.

McGEE: On NPR, we did some underwriting as well. So it will be interesting to see how [that works]. … We’ve gotten good feedback from people who have heard the ad. … Hopefully, it will be a good thing for us.

RUPKEY: I think for a firm our size and larger, it’s a completely different ball game. We have taken the conservative approach. We took a step back to see what was going on with advertising and firms in the medium- to large-size market.

Taking a look at Corporate Counsel Magazine just yesterday and leafing through, half the publication is advertising. So it still is very prevalent among the mid- and large-size law firms. They’re still doing it. But I think the verdict is still out on what the ROI is on placing these ads. It is very, very cost prohibitive.

From Michael Best’s standpoint, I think we would rather use our resources to do other things that benefit our clients as opposed to placing an ad that just gets lost in the shuffle with all these other several hundreds of ads.

WESTRUP: I couldn’t agree with you more. If you open Corporate Counsel Magazine, half of it is ads. So why on earth would I advertise in there?

If you’re going to invest in advertising, if you’re going to put the money out there, make a splash and be the first one to do it. We have some target publications that we’ve advertised in. And I can actually go to my managing partners and say, look, we have a great return on our investment. We have four files or we have X number of calls generated from this.

When you have limited funds, you have to really think about where you’re putting those dollars. …

I did just go to a very, very good seminar from one of the leading advertising agencies here and their media buyer spoke. If you plan to spend a lot of money on advertising, I would highly recommend talking to a media buyer, a consultant, an ad agency … a professional who does this. You may think you know everything about it, but you don’t. If you’re spending money on television advertising, I guarantee if you talk to a media buyer, they could help improve those buys. They know the industry and they know the people to talk to. It’s remarkable some of the results that you ca
n get.

TECHMEIER: The advertising firm that I’ve been talking with is tracking the popularity of different shows during the daytime. And they track it from week to week and month to month. … What they’ve noticed is all these reality shows are getting to be very popular. But some of them are on cable television now. So that the advertising dollar that you’re spending on cable is usually much less than on network TV.

Again, it’s always looking at who your client is. Who are you trying to target as your client?

We recently did a print ad. I put it in the paper the day after the Super Bowl, in the sports section. It was for securities fraud litigation — for Solomon Smith Barney and WorldCom. And the response that we had to that ad was just tremendous. Then I ran the ad in the eastern part of the state. I found out that the Gannett newspaper, which runs USA Today, owns all the other newspapers in the eastern part of Wisconsin. So I placed an ad there too and got a number of people that called from Green Bay and Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and so forth on cases like that.

McGEE: But it’s really being selective. Don’t you think? Especially for a small firm. Everybody would like to do everything if you could, if you had an endless budget. … But I think you really have to be selective, know your clients, know the market, and know what will work for your firms.

TECHMEIER: You have to know what is going to work for your firm. In my business, we have one huge advertiser, who will remain nameless. But everyone knows who that is. … And we have to distinguish ourselves from that firm

RUPKEY: From our standpoint a much better ad, if you will, is an article written by one of our attorneys on a specific area. That really brings in the calls, more so than any type of ad would.

TECHMEIER: If you can get an attorney’s name in the newspaper having been quoted by a reporter for this or that, that’s great advertising too because it brings so much credibility to the person or to the firm.

WESTRUP: Right. It just sets you apart.

One thing I was going to say about advertising that kind of goes back to your original question on how the size of your firm and what makes it unique and how you market it. I think that when developing ads and choosing where you’re going to place those ads, you really have to consider not only who your target market is, but who your current clients are. You don’t want to offend any of your current clients. Your ads have to be tasteful and reflect the look and feel of your firm.

RUPKEY: Going off from that, for us our prospects are our current clients in many cases. … I’m sure you all know that 85 percent of new business comes from 20 percent of your clients. That’s a statistic that all legal marketers know.

Oftentimes, your current clients are your targets. They’ve already hired you to handle a certain matter. They already trust you because they’ve gone through that whole process, so they are a potential client in another area.

LEE: You mentioned getting business from writing articles, lawyers who write articles. We find that’s very effective for us. When we’re looking to get referrals from other attorneys, we want to expose ourselves to other attorneys. And all the attorneys at our firm, including the head paralegal, get on a speaking tour. We speak at as many seminars as we can. We’re very active in the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers. I act as the program chair.

All of our attorneys have spoken at those functions. That’s how people get exposed to our firm and what we do.

McGEE: Those are great things to do that don’t cost anything — or very little — yet they are priceless when it comes time to getting your name out there.

LEE: There are a number of groups that we speak at. … There is ABOTA, which is the American Board of Trial Advocates, which Mr. Slattery is a member of and he participates in their discussions; the Attorneys Information Exchange Group, which is an automotive crash-worthiness group that is nationwide. We find we get a lot of referral business through those sources, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. It takes time, but not a lot of money.

Related Article

Roundtable – Part II

McGEE: Right. But if you put in the time, hopefully you will reap those benefits.

LEE: True.

RUPKEY: That’s a good point. One of the hardest things for attorneys to recognize is that marketing does not happen overnight. I have to remind them of that all the time. Your speaking engagement may bring about a call a year from now. It’s not going to happen overnight. Granted, in some cases it does. But marketing really is a long process. It’s so time consuming and you’ve got to practice law in addition to doing all these marketing things.

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