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 weve 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. Its 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 theyll come in for a will, and theyll 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 whove 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 were 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, everybodys 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.
(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. Thats 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 its 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, were 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. Thats our primary source of cases, so we try to gear our marketing, as best we can, towards other lawyers. Were 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. Weve 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, were saying, We know who you are and what you need. That has worked pretty well. As we get into some of the other questions, Ill let you know some of the things that were doing to achieve that.
SANDY A. McGEE: Im with The Schroeder Group out in Waukesha, not too far from Darryls 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. Id like to start by asking you to take a look at what youre doing now and what you were doing five years ago. How have things changed in the approaches that your firms are taking?
RUPKEY: Ive been doing legal marketing for 10 years, so Ive seen quite a few changes. Five years ago, we didnt 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. Its really evolved i
nto 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 youll 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 Ive seen in the Yellow Pages ads is its 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. Its very expensive from a small firms perspective. You can spend $10,000 a month for a double-page ad.
"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,
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 werent in the beginning of the phone book … thats where you want to be. So this year, they started offering a new type of ad. Its a double-page, but on either side are columns for the other, smaller advertisers. … The idea is that youre 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: Weve 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, its 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 dont go with the full-page ads anymore.
McGEE: For a business firm, its a little different. Obviously, you dont have a business thumbing through the Yellow Pages saying I need an attorney. Okay, Ill pick them. … Were 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 dont put a lot of money into the Yellow Pages. However, we do have listings in there. Unfortunately, were 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 were like the only one or two people listing in there. It was just in the condemnation area and its only in one phone book. Its in an area that is growing. We wanted to kind of establish a presence out there. Well 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 youre 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, its 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 thats the case, then it would be of benefit to you to have an ad in there larger than life. But if thats not the process they go through in hiring a firm like yours, then you wouldnt, obviously, invest a lot of resources in it.
WESTRUP: I would like to see some data on that, how many people use listings. Im 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 weve 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 its 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 dont 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 theyve been practicing, what their practice areas are.
WLJ: What about other potential types of advertising and benefits or pitfalls from that?
TECHMEIER: Were 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 were looking at the cost of Yellow Pages. Were looking at the cost of Internet marketing. Were looking at the cost of our billboards, of radio advertising or television advertising … and print ads. Were making a comparison of what it costs and how many calls were getting from each one of those things. So after six months or a year, well be able to come up with some meaningful numbers as to what is working best for our firm.
Thats much different than the business law firms. Youre not trying to generate these calls the way a firm such as ours does. Now, Slattery & Lee, youve got a specialized practice. So youre looking for referrals. Right? Your marketing is going to be directed to that type of person.
LEE: It is. Weve also looked at TV advertising, radio advertising and print ads. Being a small firm, cost is always a factor for us. Thats 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? Thats a gamble. When youre a small firm, you dont 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. Thats not to produce it. Thats just to run it. If you go on network, its $20,000 for a 13-week run. And if youre going to do TV advertising or radio advertising, you cant just run one spot. You have to run it for a series of spots to get the exposure you need.
We evaluated that. We havent gone that way yet, but were 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. Its 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 hes spending about the same amount of money. And Im wondering if its 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 havent 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. Weve 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. Its very, very cost effective.
However, I dont think it would be really worthwhile for me to run a 60-second spot on WKLH. Thats 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?
"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,
McGEE: On NPR, we did some underwriting as well. So it will be interesting to see how [that works]. … Weve 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, its 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. Theyre 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 Bests 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 couldnt 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 youre going to invest in advertising, if youre going to put the money out there, make a splash and be the first one to do it. We have some target publications that weve 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 youre 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 dont. If youre 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. Its remarkable some of the results that you can get.
TECHMEIER: The advertising firm that Ive 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 theyve 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 youre spending on cable is usually much less than on network TV.
Again, its 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 its really being selective. Dont 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 attorneys name in the newspaper having been quoted by a reporter for this or that, thats 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 youre going to place those ads, you really have to consider not only who your target market is, but who your current clients are. You dont 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. … Im sure you all know that 85 percent of new business comes from 20 percent of your clients. Thats a statistic that all legal marketers know.
Oftentimes, your current clients are your targets. Theyve already hired you to handle a certain matter. They already trust you because theyve 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 thats very effective for us. When were 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. Were very active in the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers. I act as the program chair.
All of our attorneys have spoken at those functions. Thats how people get exposed to our firm and what we do.
McGEE: Those are great things to do that dont 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 doesnt cost a lot of money. It takes time, but not a lot of money.
McGEE: Right. But if you put in the time, hopefully you will reap those benefits.
RUPKEY: Thats 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. Its not going to happen overnight. Granted, in some cases it does. But marketing really is a long process. Its so time consuming and youve got to practice law in addition to doing all these marketing things.
Roundtable Discussion – Part II
WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL: I want to follow up on the idea of networking and referrals. Darryl and Sandy, both your firms are involved in a group that is designed for that. Can you talk a little bit about it?
DARRYL J. LEE: Sure. Weve talked a bit about the amount of time that it takes to analyze marketing, what works and what doesnt work. We find that we dont really have the expertise to do that full analysis. So we joined a group called Primerus.
Its a national organization of small law firms right now I believe its about 60 firms in 25 states which has the expertise that we need. They help us with our marketing plans. They do print ads that the various firms can use. They do TV ads if you want.
Its also a great source of referrals especially for our practice because we specialize in complex product liability and automotive crash-worthiness. When lawyers in other states have those kinds of cases a Blazer rolls over and the roof crushes in and kills the driver any firm with a case like that is going to send it our way. So we find that its very useful.
But Primerus is really trying to raise the bar for lawyers. They have six pillars [ideals for members to uphold] integrity, excellence of work product, reasonable fee structure, continuing legal education, civility to bench and bar and community service. They market the Primerus name on a nationwide basis. They have their own Web site and we feed off of that. We rely on their expertise to help guide us on where we should be spending our marketing dollars.
SANDY A. McGEE: For us its been a good fit because with there being so much law firm competition, it helps us to be able to say were affiliated with Primerus. Theyve kind of done the homework. Good Housekeeping gave them the Seal of Approval for law firms.
AMY C. WESTRUP: We belong to Legal Network Alliance. It is a group of over 200 law firms, both national and international. They just opened an office in Brussels. … It provides some marketing tools, although we havent taken full advantage of those yet. Were still kind of looking at them. They are made up of firms that have complementary practice areas, mirror us in size and setup and our fee structure. So its almost like you have a satellite office now. It does help you compete with the larger firms.
[Unlike] Michael Best, I dont have a Chicago office. But I have no problem at all referring you to our [networked] firm down there. … We meet with them quarterly. We discuss cases, discuss issues. Every network does this. Its a very, very valuable service particularly for firms in Wisconsin. Because the majority are small and midsize firms.
LEE: Those types of entities allow the small firms to pool their resources to more effectively market themselves and reduce their overhead. So its a win-win situation for us.
JENNIFER R. RUPKEY: We belong to whats called Lex Mundi or Law of the World, which is a global affiliation. It does the exact same type of thing. Actually, Lex Mundi recently formed a marketing committee so that the marketers could get together and share benefits and things like that. It has really proven valuable for the firm. Obviously, the network works on referrals and things like that across the world. So if weve got a client who needs help in Switzerland, we can feel confident in referring that client to the firm in Switzerland because they do have certain standards in being a member of the affiliation. That has worked out quite well for us.
“It’s good if you can establish relationships with newspaper reporters. Then, when an important story comes up, they will call you and ask for your comments. I’ve been able to do that over the years.”
Willard P. Techmeier,
WLJ: We touched briefly on Web sites, but Id like to take a closer look at the Internet and how things have been evolving. As the Internet evolves and its role changes, how does your use of it for marketing change?
WESTRUP: We just redid our Web site, and Ive been with Weiss for two years. When I first got there, one of the first action items on my plate was to get the Web site redone. That is not an easy task, because the technology is changing so quickly that by the time you get it ready, its completely obsolete.
I think that everyone, regardless of the size of your firm, has realized that you cant do the entire thing in-house. … Some of the really, really large firms, Im sure, do. But you really need the consultants to track all of the data, all of the marketing data, all of the technology, the emerging technologies, how to code the meta tags.
Were kind of in Phase I of our Web presence. When we put on seminars, we have people register online. Thats very effective. Im cutting back on much of our direct mail. We do very little. Im trying to do everything via the Web. Our clients and our referral sources appreciate it.
We just did a survey for an upcoming seminar where I sent it out in the morning to 300 people. By 5 p.m., I already had a 38 percent response rate. That is unheard of. If I had done a mailing and I had gotten 1 percent, it would have been amazing. And it would have cost me $2,000 to do. So … it saves you a lot of money. But you do have to have people who understand it. And you have to keep it … u
p to date. Theres nothing worse than going onto a site and its not working.
McGEE: I dont think you can just have a site. There are so many boilerplate sites that you go to that are just cookie cutter. I think your site has to set you apart. Going back to the branding, it has to tell people what youre about, what you stand for, and what you do and how you can help them.
WESTRUP: What makes you unique.
WILLARD P. TECHMEIER: In our practice, you have to figure out how youre going to be the first person who shows up when they go into Google or any other search engine. Weve subscribed to different services that help us do that. But I think that theres a lot more that can be done along those lines.
LEE: Theres no shortage of companies trying to sell you top spots in the search engines. To get in the top three or five listings, you can pay an exorbitant amount of money. Again as a small firm, were very conscious of how we spend our money. We sign up for as many free sites as we can, and its working okay so far. Id like to hear, if anyone has an experience buying those top spots, if they think its money well spent or not.
TECHMEIER: Ive never done it because it blew me away in terms of what they wanted to charge. Like you, Ive subscribed to some of the more inexpensive ones. And Ive actually checked them out to see where I was. When you first subscribe, you are right up there at the top. What Ive learned is, as these come through, you have to grab them. But I dont have the time to devote to the Web site. I know ours should be improved upon and Internet marketing is really important.
(To Lee) Youre doing referrals with lawyers, so theyre going to be on the Internet more. But many of my clients, people who Im appealing to, dont even have a computer. Its becoming more important, but we havent had a big response to our Web page.
Were doing some mass torts and I think it certainly will work there. Because that type of a person, whose been injured from Fen-Phen or asbestos or silicosis or something … will go on the Internet and check out who might be able to represent them in a case like that.
WESTRUP: Well, theres no doubt that its a very valuable tool. Theres an external marketing use for it and then theres an internal. Jen, you probably have more experience with this than our firm does. But there are Internets you set up for your individual clients so they can track their cases. … The possibilities are endless and I have no doubt that the larger firms really take advantage of that.
I think that pretty soon everyone is going to have to open a file for a client; then open a Web site for that client so they can track their [case]. Thats just the way its moving. I dont know if you do that or not.
RUPKEY: Yes, we have. Extranets for clients are very popular. Its exactly what you mentioned, they can track their files and see where we are on a certain matter or a document or anything like that. Some clients now, with the RFPs that weve seen, are requiring that you have the capability of providing an extranet for them…
When I joined the firm, we were just getting our Web site up and running. So we are looking at revamping it… But in terms of content, its changed dramatically. Our home page has a daily feature item. It changes every single day based on a new rule or something that has come down. The media likes it because they know that if theyre looking for a story … they can come to our site and theres something brand new every single day.
The other thing that we do, which is more recent, is we offer our publications online, either for purchase or for free. One of our publications also offers a discussion forum where our clients or any visitor to the site can e-mail a question to our attorney and the attorney responds. So thats something new that were doing that is actually working out quite well in terms of selling this publication and in terms of exposure for this attorney in a particular area HIPAA. … That really has generated a lot of traffic.
For one of our largest clients, we have a Q&A session where the client can ask several different questions and the attorney responds with the answers. And its posted on a certain site where other clients have access to that as well. That has worked out really well.
Obviously, we also have registration for seminars. People can contact us through our contact page, things like that. But were always changing it. Were always finding new ways to not just provide information but to provide value to our clients.
WESTRUP: Creating sticky content that people want to go back to and that keeps them engaged is … invaluable. Its not an easy task to develop. One thing that is very important to let your attorneys know is anytime they give a speech, anytime they write an article, that also translates onto the Web. If you put four outlines on the Web, thats very valuable information.
If [you put] that information out there, what are you going to get from the person visiting? You have to capture their information. You just dont want people going out there willy-nilly without knowing who they are or, getting some of their information so that you can contact them.
The ABA will provide you information to put on your Web site. Its very, very affordable. I think its like $500 a year or something. And they will provide you content that you can stream onto your Web site.
“Those types of entities allow the small firms to pool their resources to more effectively market themselves and reduce their overhead. So it’s a win-win situation for us.” (Discussing participation in groups such as Primerus, Legal Network Alliance and Lex Mundi)
McGEE: I think the Internet has made consumers that much more knowledgeable. I dont know how many times weve had a potential new client or even a potential new employee jump on, check out our site, have all that information when they come in so theyre able to ask important questions.
WLJ: A little earlier in the discussion, we started moving into the realm of public relations. I just wanted to come back to that for a moment and give you a chance to talk about the role of public relations in marketing.
RUPKEY: For us, its huge. I think it always boils down to, what do we sponsor and what dont we sponsor. We get calls daily. Do I do this or dont I do it? You have to really take a look at whats in it for you and be ready to negotiate with whomever youre working with. What will we get out of doing this sponsorship?
One of our best sponsorships is also sponsored by the Journal-Sentinel, a radio station and, believe it or not, Sendiks over in Brookfield. We get so much exposure out of that because our logo is huge in Sendiks. A lot of our attorneys live out there, and our clients live out there. They see our logo in there in affiliation with this sponsorship. And they comment on it…
Just doing a golf hole will not do you justice. If we do the golf hole, can we also give a five-minute spiel about who we are? Its really a matter of looking at what the benefits are of doing the sponsorship and not just divvying out dollars here and there. Otherwise, youll be spending so much money on sponsorships that you dont get anything out of.
WESTRUP: I kind of lump PR with some of the advertising. But I agree with you that if youre going to sponsor something you have to work it. You have to get your moneys worth and make sure that you capitalize on every opportunity.
As far as free public relations goes, you cant put a price tag on that. Its so powerful having an article and getting your firm name out there, getting an attorney, or an individual out there.
For our firm, I make a point of meeting with the editors of all the area publications. People find the press to be very intimidating. … Theres no reason why you shouldnt call and talk to them. Can I have 10 minutes of your time? I just want to tell you about a recent … issue thats going on and how our firm is handling it.
Theres nothing stopping you from calling the most obscure publication and saying, Hey, Ive got this person who is heading up this estate planning area and the way he practices estate planning is kind of cutting edge. Heres why. Sometimes you totally strike out. The bottom line is, you just cant be intimidated by the press because they do need you.
RUPKEY: But you have to keep in mind PR is not just media. PR is a whole host of other things. Its community relations. It really is a sponsorship. Its all of the ways that you can get your name out there. I think that sometimes attorneys have blinders on when it comes to PR. It is the networking events. It is your community involvement. It is even your alumni relations. It is keeping in touch with your law schoolmates. PR is all of that combined.
McGEE: As a small firm 25 of us were all marketers. Everybody is out there doing the PR. Weve tried to create a great atmosphere at work and hopefully that spills out to people talking with their friends and family and other businesses about us. You want the people who are working with you to be able to say great things and mean it.
TECHMEIER: Its good if you can establish relationships with newspaper reporters. Then, when an important story comes up, they will call you and ask for your comments. Ive been able to do that over the years. Reporters change all the time, so you have to keep up with whos doing the legal reporting.
The important thing is that you have to be prepared for that call. How do you get yourself prepared for that call as an attorney? I have my legal who takes the call, try to get as much information as she possibly can as to what the reporter wants, so that when I call back later I will know what the call was about.
If it required some research on my part, Im then ready to respond. And I know that there are going to be sound bites that are going to come from that call, so I have to be prepared. Thats the way we handle it, so then when your name appears in the paper and youre quoted, youre sounding right; youre presenting the image that you want; and youve accomplished something for the public.
The other thing is … you referred to how you treat other people or your appearance and that type of thing. Im always very aware that Im an attorney and people who I dont know might know who I am. So, I dont go into a store and get rude with a clerk or something because theyre rude with me or throw my weight around inappropriately on different occasions just because I happen to be a lawyer. I always try to remember that my image with the public is very important.
WLJ: I do have one question specific to the two lawyers. There has been a lot of talk about how much you do in your own marketing and the time that you spend on that. How do you balance that while continuing to practice law?
LEE: Its difficult.
TECHMEIER: Its hard.
LEE: It really is. We just dont have the personnel to have one person focus their time on marketing, so its a collective, ongoing effort. We actually rely on Primerus to do most of that for us, to put together our marketing plans and figure out where we should be spending our money. We all are constantly seeking ways to get free exposure, free publicity. One of the best things that we find is when we have a good result in a case, we make sure that that result gets published. There are various magazines and organizations the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers, ABOTA, AIEG, ATLA, Verdicts & Settlements…
RUPKEY: Wisconsin Law Journal.
LEE: Wisconsin Law Journal. … When we have a very successful result, we get more calls from those types of things than from any other source.
TECHMEIER: Well, your business is probably more of a referral business than ours. On the larger cases that our office has handled, theyve all actually been on a referral basis. But we do other general type of injury work as well. So that our advertising sometimes is more call-to-action type advertising to generate the calls.
WLJ: But in balancing the time that you spend practicing versus marketing?
TECHMEIER: You try to do as much as you can on marketing by yourself. But in my case, I have to rely on people who I trust and who I know as well. Some of these people help me informally where I dont have to pay them. Others I have to pay. But they are people who have knowledge and experience and people who I trust. As I said, we have a consultant who I recently retained to help us with figuring out whats best for us.
LEE: The only thing Id like to add is we like to look for people who are active in their communities. Even though its not direct marketing, its indirect marketing people who are active with their church, with the Cub Scouts, with the sports teams or any kind of community level activity. Your name gets out there.
McGEE: Weve taken advantage of some of the free advertising this year and have been actually very successful at it. Weve won now our third award this year. Its having the time to sit down and respond to some things. Its been very successful for us. Its gotten the name out there.
LEE: Didnt you just get an award for the small business…
McGEE: Yeah. Top Business of the Year for Waukesha County. Then we were on the Future 50 list. And … were actually one of the Innovators through the Wisconsin Law Journal … for our community service work.
WLJ: Any final thoughts?
LEE: Well, we do pro bono work on a regular basis, but we dont promote that. We dont market that. And Im just wondering what anyones thoughts were on how to do that. Is that something we should be…
TECHMEIER: If you do pro bono work, I think the community should know about it.
RUPKEY: Yes. Its a definite feather in your cap. In fact, we do an annual report that goes out about the different clients that weve helped and the different cases weve won and things like that. At the back, we talk a little bit about our pro bono work. And we get comments from our clients: I had no idea Michael Best did this much pro bono work; this is great. So I think its definitely a feather in your cap to get the word out on that.