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When Greenberg Traurig made its first push into marketing seven years ago, the law firm had one person assigned to the task who didn’t dare call herself a marketer. At a time when marketing was considered beneath the dignity of law firms, Sandy Grossman instead engaged in what she euphemistically described as “practice development.” “We could not use the ‘M’ word. I’ve been everything but marketing for a long time,” says Grossman, who now proudly holds the title of marketing and communications director for the 900-lawyer firm that is based in Miami. Even now, large law firms around the country devote only 2.4 percent of gross revenue to marketing, including salaries, compared with 7 percent to 10 percent that firms spend for other professionals, from architects to accountants, according to the Legal Marketing Association, a trade group based in Glenview, Ill. Competition and consolidation within the legal industry are prompting law firms to play catch-up — albeit at a cautious pace � by hiring marketing staff or outsourcing the work, according to law firm managers and marketers. The work ranges from orchestrating seminars to making presentations, encouraging lawyer participation in industry associations, familiarizing existing clients with other legal specialties available within a firm, developing publications and Web sites and generally organizing to build and expand relationships with clients and potential clients. “Law firms are recognizing that theirs is a business — a business driven by revenue — and you have to be aggressive in letting people know your capabilities,” says Peter Kramer, marketing partner at Miami-based Steel Hector & Davis, which has 210 lawyers and eight full-time marketers. Florida’s biggest law firm, 1,300-lawyer Holland & Knight, has 43 marketing professionals in 26 offices across the U.S. They do everything from writing proposals and creating newsletters to updating the firm’s Web site and developing brochures. The marketing staff, led by regional marketing managers, supports the firm’s planning efforts and tailors targeted approaches to individual clients. Marty Duvall became Holland & Knight’s first marketing director four years ago. “We’re doing dramatically more than we did back then,” says Duvall, who is based in Washington, D.C., where the firm has its largest concentration of lawyers. A 2002 survey by law firm consulting firm Altman Weil found that most U.S. firms spend between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of gross revenue on marketing, not including salaries for marketing staff, charitable contributions and directory listings. The big exception is plaintiff personal injury practices, which put nearly 8 percent of gross into marketing, according to Altman Weil. Few firms, particularly large ones, still shun marketing. The Legal Marketing Association survey found that 55 percent of the respondents in their survey reported having a firmwide marketing plan, 41 percent have a marketing committee and 87 percent have a formal marketing budget. Consolidation is the single biggest force behind increased marketing, says Mark Sell, president of Miami’s Mark Sell Communications. Many in the top levels of law firm management believe that the legal industry will be reduced to a handful of megafirms, similar to what has happened in the banking industry. That belief sparked an upswing in legal marketing starting around 1998, says Sell. Opinions still vary on how much marketing is enough. Cesar Alvarez, Greenberg Traurig’s chief executive, says his firm’s ratio of one marketer for every 50 lawyers is enough, particularly since the marketers are used in an efficient, businesslike organizational structure, rather than in a bureaucratic way with redundant layers of management. Grossman, the marketing director, reports directly to Alvarez. The firm also employs outside marketers for media relations and other activities. “If a firm is serious, it should have one full-time, in-house marketing professional for every 35 to 40 lawyers,” says John Remsen Jr., president of the marketing-related Remsen Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.. “Oh my gosh, that’s a scary thought,” replies Bowman Brown, executive committee chairman at Miami’s Shutts & Bowen, when told of Remsen’s suggested ratio. But even the venerable Shutts,a 150-lawyer firm with no marketing director, took a step in that direction five years ago by hiring the Miami public relations firm of Wragg & Casas. Shutts also has an in-house staffer who handles announcements, coordinates seminars and helps in the firm’s recruitment efforts. By and large the firm’s marketing efforts focus on targeting industry groups where the firm has “specialized, boutique-type expertise” and conducting seminars for those groups or for current clients, says Brown. The firm’s trust and estates group and labor and employment group have held seminars for potential clients, and the firm’s banking group advises various industry associations. Brown notes that although today’s efforts are more targeted to specialized practice areas, the partners who founded the firm in 1910 drew business from community involvement. “That was the way in which marketing was done then,” says Brown. “To some extent it’s still the way marketing is done. Be out there and get acquainted with people.” Remsen couldn’t agree more. In fact, he says that the rush to get more involved in marketing leads many law firms to forget the basics. “Law firms get too caught up in the ‘stuff’ — the ads, the Web sites, the brochures,” says Remsen. “But at the end of the day it’s all about relationships you have with people in a position to hire and refer. The ‘stuff’ doesn’t create and build those relationships. It can support the relationship-building activities, but the lawyer has to get out and cultivate those relationships.” Another common marketing error occurs when firms get too caught up in hooking new clients. “The low-hanging fruit is existing clients,” says Remsen. At Holland & Knight, the “relationship manager” � the term refers to a lawyer who has the strongest relationship with a client � works with marketing managers to respond to client requests for information. Even longstanding clients of the firm might not be aware of its full capabilities, says marketing director Duvall. Much of what the marketing staff does involves knowing the firm better than anyone else, providing information and connecting the right lawyers with the right clients, she says. Given the firm’s size, “The assumption is always, ‘Yes, we can do it,’ but the question is, ‘Who is the right lawyer to handle it?’ “ The marketer’s role should be considered defensive as well as offensive, says Kramer at Steel Hector. “If one of my clients is on an airplane with a lawyer from another firm and that lawyer is really looking out for his partners and his law firm, he’s going to try and develop business from my client,” says Kramer. “So I need to make sure I’ve established close relationships and I’m playing defense with my clients.” Increasingly, smaller firms are employing marketers, often for very specific tasks. Roy Black, a nationally known criminal defense lawyer based in Miami, didn’t need much help getting attention. Frequent television appearances made him something of a household name. But the firm expanded into civil litigation last fall, which created a new need for public relations. The 12-lawyer firm, Black Srebnick Kornspan & Stumpf, hired Wragg & Casas to generate press releases, pump up its Web site, design a new logo and generally get the word out about the firm’s expanded services. “We’re not like the big shot,” says Scott Kornspan, the firm’s managing partner. “We have a limited budget and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.” At Sandler Travis Rosenberg, a 36-lawyer firm based in Miami, and its affiliated international trade consultancy, Sandler Travis Trade Advisory Services, the marketing department publishes a daily trade bulletin for clients. The bulletin focuses on actions by the U.S. government that might affect trade and includes information on changes in laws and regulations. Including the consulting operation, the company has about 300 employees and employs five marketers who coordinate the dozens of seminars, speaking engagements and client presentations the firm conducts around the globe. The marketing staff makes the far-flung efforts more efficient and effective, says managing partner Thomas Travis. “We didn’t have a marketing person five years ago,” says Travis. “We wanted to formalize it and structure it. The efforts we expend on our international markets are part of the reason our practice has grown so much.” Still, even those who acknowledge the benefits of law firm marketing sometimes show little willingness to expand those efforts to the level of other industries. “I like to see what functions we need to get done and make sure we’re staffed for that,” says Alvarez, at Greenberg Traurig. “So if that requires one marketing person for every 15 lawyers, that’s what we should be. If it’s one for every 50 lawyers, that’s what we should be,” he says during a phone interview that includes Grossman, the marketing director. “I’m 10 people short,” Grossman cuts in. “No you’re not,” Alvarez replies, and then says to the interviewer: “She’s a couple of people short.” Tony Doris is a staff writer at the Miami Daily Business Review , an American Lawyer Media publication affiliated with The Recorder .

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