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   Jan/Feb 2002


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Practice Development Clips

THE NEW WORLD OF LAW PRATICE MARKETING

By Ross Fishman

THIS WILL BE MY LAST CLIPS COLUMN. It’s been great fun these past few years applauding, lauding and lampooning some of the legal profession’s best and worst marketing efforts.

Eleven years ago, I gave up a litigation practice to begin marketing full-time at Winston & Strawn, in one of the legal profession’s first corporatestyle marketing departments. At that time, lawyers wanted the comfort of looking like their competitors. The letterheads of solo practitioners and the largest international firms were indistinguishable. A corporate counsel group had a humorous annual competition to identify firm brochures that looked exactly alike.

An example? In 1992 we created a controversy when an ad announcing a merger with a New York firm didn’t explicitly say we were "Pleased to Announce." Shortly, the ad salespeople used our ad as an example of cutting-edge design. It was so simple back then.

How Far We’ve Come in 10 Years

• Today, marketers have an almost unlimited array of tools available to help convey law firms’ messages. Law firm branding campaigns rival their corporate clients’ efforts in terms of style and sophistication (www.howrey.com), with an increasingly diverse collection of tools, including stunning computer games (www.orrick.com) and TV commercials (www.brobeck.com/news_ events). Firms differentiate themselves with aggressive strategies, including guaranteeing their client service (www.uhlaw.com).

• Law firm Web sites broadcast their messages using everything from crawling termites (www.buglaw.com) and snarling dogs (www.greatlawyers.com), to streaming video (www.kirkland.com) and even butterfly ballots (www.hawaiilawyer.com /misc_non_legal/election.htm).

• Firms target specialized industries of all types and descriptions, including collegiate sports (www.bsk.com/collegiates ports/index.cfm), transvironmental (www.schnader.com/shsl2.nsf/pages/tran svironmental), and life science litigation (www.morganlewis.com).

• Lawyers with outside interests can build consulting practices (www .hkconsulting.com, www.howrey.com /consulting and www.mintzlevin.com /pcgroup/ML_Strategies.htm).

• Firms have seen the rewards of niche marketing. Divorce lawyers now focus their marketing on specific genders (www.dadsrights.com), and consumer advocates seek work on specific statutes (www.lemonlaw.com). Some succeed by targeting specialty practices, like community associations (www.ortenhind man.com), and others have built entire practices online (www.visalaw.com).

• There are those that market fullservice skills into personal communities, such as gay and lesbian communities (www.lplegal.com/glbt). Still other firms seek referrals into their geographic location ("The Florida Law Firm,"www. carltonfields.com; "Texas Trail Lawyers," www.carringtoncoleman.com; and "America’s Canadian Law Firm," www.mcmillanbinch.com/ACLF).

• Today, our advertising is clever and compelling, like that of our corporate counterparts.We have four-color business cards and corporate-style logos (www.orrick.com, www.kmz.com). And while firm brochures are still important tools, they are not the stiff tomes popular a decade ago. Instead, they are as dynamic as a Nike annual report (www.mayer brown.com/retrospective/index.html).

Good Luck, and Good-bye

It’s an exciting time in the legal profession, a time of rapid change. Nimble, adaptable firms are making huge strides while stagnant firms wither and decay. Good luck! And good luck to my friend Larry Bodine, a great guy and terrific marketer, who will author Clips starting with the next issue. ■

Ross Fishman (rossfish@aol.com), a lawyer and president of Ross Fishman Marketing, has received 11 national marketing awards, including the 2000 Legal Marketing Association’s Best of Show Award. (847) 432-3546.