In 1973, Atkinson & Kelsey was the first law firm in New Mexico to specialize in divorce and family law. We made that decision at a time when divorce lawyers were not generally held in high regard by the legal profession-or by our society as a whole. Attorneys in our firm have helped change the perception of divorce and family law-at both the state and national level-to a respected, recognized specialty. Our long-term marketing strategy—of which advertising is an integral part—has been to convey a consistent message that our firm is a leader in the field, with attorneys who have made substantive contributions to both the family law specialty and to the legal profession, and who provide top-quality and effective representation for our clients.
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We consistently dedicate 2% to 3% of our annual revenues to marketing efforts

Our advertising is designed both to enhance our image as a leader in our profession and to generate new clients and referrals from our target audiences: the general public, former clients, other attorneys in New Mexico, divorce and family law attorneys around the country, and other professionals such as CPAs and mental health counselors.

Our advertising decisions are based on two considerations:

  • We will have an opportunity to present the firm as a whole. The advertising vehicle reaches one or more of our target audiences.

  • We consistently dedicate 2 percent to 3 percent of our annual revenues to marketing efforts, and 50 percent of the marketing budget is spent on advertising. We schedule a marketing meeting once a month, during which we review our planned activities and make adjustments as circumstances warrant (and they often do).

Our marketing committee evaluates all the advertising proposals and selects which outlets best meet our basic criteria. As managing partner, I spend about 5 percent of my time generating marketing ideas, and an outside agency executes them. Our firm administrator spends seven hours a week coordinating our marketing strategy and advertising contracts and serving as liaison to the creative agency.

Although we view the print media as the best vehicle to communicate our messages to our target audiences, the Internet is fast becoming a very important resource for us as well.

>>>Advertising to the public

To reach the general public statewide, we buy advertising in two major print outlets, the Yellow Pages and the Albuquerque Journal, the state's leading newspaper. Because most of the state's population lives in the Albuquerque—Santa Fe corridor, we have built a major presence in those area Yellow Pages with full-page color ads on the back cover.

We also take out smaller ads in the Yellow Pages that serve another area of notable population density: around the southern New Mexico city of Las Cruces. In addition, we do not neglect the regular Albuquerque white pages: our smaller rectangular ads stand out with black type on a yellow background or white type on a blue background.

The Yellow Pages have become one of the most important sources of new clients for us. Twenty-two percent of new clients in the month of May cited those directories as the reason they called us. For the year to date, 17 percent of new clients found us this way.

As for the Albuquerque Journal, we advertise 26 times a year (twice a month) in its Monday "Business Outlook" section, because research has indicated that—after the sports section—"Business Outlook" has the highest readership, not only among business owners and managers but also among support staff and independent professionals. We use these ads to call attention to the accomplishments of our individual attorneys, while at the same time always promoting the entire firm.

Although only 2 percent of new clients in May cited the Journal as the outlet that triggered their call (1 percent for the year to date), we believe that our newspaper advertising (along with other marketing activities) helps keep our name "top of mind" among our referral sources. In May of this year, 26 percent of new clients came to us on referral (the year-to-date figure is 17 percent).

>>>Our Web site

Recognizing that people are using the Internet with increasing frequency to do research about their needs and interests, we decided to become more visible there to attract higher numbers of out-of-state clients who have connections to and family law issues in New Mexico. This past spring, we changed our Web hosting service from a local provider to a national company that offers an online directory of law firms and helps these firms enhance and promote their Web sites.

We increased our visibility on the Web by purchasing a "top five" position on the directory's divorce and family law page for Albuquerque, and we are among the top eleven firms listed on the New Mexico page. With the company's assistance, we added a special section to our site, which allows visitors to send us questions about their legal issues. One of our attorneys answers the questions with a quick turnaround and at no charge.

As an indication of how important the Internet has become in attracting new clients, in our first month with the national provider, our Web site received 530 hits. In May of this year, 23 percent of our new clients came to us through the Internet; for the year to date, that figure is 15 percent.

>>>Advertising to other lawyers

We advertise to the legal profession in New Mexico by placing ads on a quarterly basis on the back cover of The Bar Bulletin, which is published weekly by the New Mexico State Bar and is sent to every attorney in the state. To reach the national audience of divorce and family lawyers, we advertise on the back cover of Family Advocate once a year.

To present a consistent image and message about our firm, our print ads contain several unchanging elements: our logo, a word of congratulations, the name and photo of the attorney receiving the congratulations, the specific accomplishment for which we are congratulating him or her, our telephone number, and our tag line, "New Mexico's First and Most Experienced Divorce and Family Law Firm."

We believe that the tag line emphasizes what is true about us: that we've been in practice for a long time and are very skilled at what we do. This is the most critical point about our advertising and marketing as a whole: our efforts have paid off over time because they have communicated a truthful message to the audiences that are most important to our success. FA

David H. Kelsey is Managing Partner of Atkinson & Kelsey, P.A., in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Published in Family Advocate, Volume 29, No. 2, Fall 2006. © 2006 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.