Nov/Dec 2001

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Listservs: E-mail that Brings in Business


Wouldn’t it be great if your law firm mailing lists to clients maintained themselves? If each list had a single e-mail address to automatically broadcast your messages to everyone on the list? If the lists were interactive so recipients could broadcast a message back to all other recipients? It’s all possible with listserv technology. Listserv software turns e-mail distribution lists into easy to operate, reasonably priced and effective marketing vehicles. There are two flavors: send-only, or announcement, lists; and interactive discussion lists.

"There’s no question in my mind that listservs are the number one way for law firms to make a quick, inexpensive and effective name for themselves on the Net," says Kevin O’Keefe, founder of the PrairieLaw online community (

How They Work

Listserv software resides on the Web. Typical programs are licensed by Lyris (, L-Soft (, Sparklist ( and I.S.Max (

Each program creates a central address to which you can address an e-mail. When you send the message, the listserv sends it to all recipients on the list. Behind-the-scenes administration features allow the list owner to add or delete members, approve new messages and control the listserv. If the owner allows members to join and quit on their own, the listserv is totally self-maintaining.

Law firms can set up free interactive listservs with Yahoo! Groups (formerly eGroups). Alternatively, they can spare themselves the technical hassle by retaining a service like Customzines (, which sets up listservs and even designs and e-mails the newsletters for its customers.

Successful Listservs in Action

Smart law firms nationwide are using listservs to promote themselves and garner new business.

Collier Shannon Scott in Washington, D.C. has a send-only listserv that broadcasts the firm’s Privacy News newsletter to 300 people daily ( "It’s great for my practice," says lawyer Reed Freeman, who spends about one hour a day preparing the newsletter. "Every day people see my name in connection with my area of practice. And it’s terrific branding for Collier Shannon." Recipients include clients, potential clients, government officials, in-house counsel—and even competitors. "A lot of our business comes from referrals," Freeman explains.

John M. Baker at Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young in Washington, D.C. ( runs the popular Fundlaw listserv, an interactive list focusing on federal securities law. "There definitely is a promotional and marketing benefit to Fundlaw," Baker says. "It has added visibility and credibility for both me and Stradley Ronon." The list has 500 members. "It can only be a good thing for an e-mail from me to land every few days in the inbox of several hundred people, many of whom are potential clients," Baker points out.

International megafirm Baker & McKenzie runs a listserv that sends the weekly Global E-Commerce/IT alert to 10,000 recipients ( Typical recipients are corporate counsel, IT professionals and CIOs. The firm’s new Global Employment Law Alert has 1,500 recipients, including corporate counsel, HR managers and COOs. Both listservs are send-only, although there is a response mechanism for questions.

McKenna & Cuneo operates a send-only listserv to provide news about government contract law (www.mckennacuneo .com). The 500 subscribers—including clients, prospects, government employees and educators—receive two to four messages per month. "It’s a very good way to provide legislative and regulatory updates on government contracting issues that are important to our clients," says partner Tom Burke.

The biggest law firm listserv is a send-only list operated by Siskind Susser Haas & Devine in Nashville ( Greg Siskind sends out the firm’s weekly Immigration Bulletin to 30,000 subscribers in 50 states and 144 countries. The weekly newsletter discusses new laws, court rulings and promotional messages from the firm. "Our Web site and e-mail newsletter are major sources of new business. We actually get clients from many areas, and now that we’re one of the biggest immigration firms in the country—largely as a result of the Web and e-mail—we can invest in more traditional forms of marketing," Siskind says.

Arent Fox operates a listserv to send newsletters to clients about advertising law issues ( It has more than 1,000 members and is growing. "It’s been a terrific marketing tool as it puts the firm’s name in front of clients and potential clients on a regular basis," according to Lew Rose, who recently moved from Arent Fox to Collier Shannon, where he is creating new client listservs.

Philadelphia-based Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll operates The Virtual Chase listserv about legal research on the Internet. Genie Tyburski, Web Manager for the firm’s site www.vir, sends 15 to 20 issues of TVC Alert to 1,300 subscribers each month. Recipients include law librarians, professional researchers, lawyers and educators. "I can’t put a price on receiving mention in USA Today or the New York Times," Tyburski says. "Suffice it to say, it doesn’t hurt our reputation."

Larry Bodine ( ) is a Chicago-area marketing consultant and Web Master of the LawMarketing Portal, . Contact him at (630) 942-0977.