January/February 2003  Volume 29, Issue 1
January/February 2003
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Practice Development Clips
by Larry Bodine

How does a Toronto-based law firm differentiate itself and break into the consciousness of U.S. firms and corporations? Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt (www.osler.com) did it by creating a CD-ROM compendium of Canadian business law developments for U.S. counsel. To date, the firm has savvily distributed more than 80,000 copies. It gave out the disc at this fall's American Corporate Counsel Associate meeting as part of the Corporate Counsel and ACCA Docket distributions, and it sent out copies with every issue of the July 2002 American Lawyer. Titled "North South," the CD cleverly allows readers to sign up for the firm's newsletters and contains links back to the firm's Web site. According to Osler's client development director Judy Stein-Korte, the five-office 400-lawyer firm is also proceeding with its own mailing to U.S. practitioners. The disc "appears to really resonate," she says. "We've been getting calls from managing partners and Wall Street lawyers, all wanting extra copies."

With more than 1 billion Web pages out there, it's hard to stand out in the crowd. But thanks to some nifty optimization techniques, prospective clients are finding Stokes Lawrence at www.stokeslaw.com. The firm, which has a big technology practice, hired West Group to run its Search Engine Optimization program to capture more site traffic. In tech-rich Seattle, "there is a perception that if you're not marketing online, you're not a player," says Pati Taksa, administrator of Stokes Lawrence. So West consultants worked with the firm to identify which search terms visitors use to find the site, customized the site to reflect those terms, and then submitted the site for inclusion in directories and search engine databases. The firm's traffic reports show that the number of unique visitors and page views on the site increased dramatically-more than doubling in the past six months.

Wouldn't it be nice to translate your Web site for foreign visitors? No problem. Just go to http://world.altavista.com and do it for free. Under "Translate a Web Site," type in the URL for a page from your site. Pick one that has a lot of text, like a practice description. Click the button and your page appears in Spanish, German, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean or Portuguese. It also works in reverse. The "Babelfish Translation" feature isn't perfect-but it's a lot cheaper than hiring a professional translator.

Being conservative by nature, it's difficult for law firms to get buy-in for novel marketing plans. The solution at the Phoenix firm Fennemore Craig ( www.fennemorecraig.com) was to ask the clients what they thought. Working with consultants from Extreme Marketing, the firm gathered six clients as a focus group. Each received a packet of taglines, brand rationale and sample ads. At the end of an hour, the clients clearly supported one tagline, "A History to Leverage," giving rich feedback on why it reflected the firm's distinction. The firm's client development and retention committee quickly adopted the positioning line and provided firm members with a specific, measurable marketing plan. And when a few of the lawyers raised questions about the line, the committee was armed with the client feedback.

Harnessing the huge interest in the Harry Potter movies, Sherman Brown in Toronto held a private screening just two days after the second film opened in November. The six-lawyer real estate boutique firm invited all its clients, potential clients, brokers and referral sources to bring their families. Show time was at 10 a.m. on a Sunday, and the firm served a light breakfast for the adults and a "kiddie combo" for the children. "Though we have undertaken many events through the years, the response to the Harry Potter event was incredibly positive," the firm's Corey Sherman says. "This provided a perfect opportunity to see colleagues in the real estate community while sharing a wonderful experience with our families."

How to clean up that baleful mailing list that's been gathering dust for months? The elegantly simple solution at Philadelphia's Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley was to mail out a business-reply postcard to everyone on its newsletter lists, asking for updates to their mailing addresses. Recipients had the option to mail back the postcard, phone a contact person, send an e-mail or complete a form on the firm's site, at www.blankrome.com. Here's the clincher. The card read: "Understanding that some of you are just too busy and don't have time to read materials, if we don't hear back from you, you will be removed from our mailing list."

Larry Bodine ( lbodine@lawmarketing.com) is a Web and Marketing Consultant who advises law firms on how to get more business. Based in Glen Ellyn, IL, he can be reached at (630) 942-0977.