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BOSTON � A six-lawyer Massachusetts consumer law firm is raising its profile and attempting to create a national brand through cameo appearances on television shows such as “Scrubs” and “The Sopranos,” as well as by partnering with plaintiffs’ lawyers around the country. At his firm’s headquarters in the affluent Boston suburb of Newton, Mass., James Sokolove said his goal is to expand the Law Offices of James Sokolove into a national consumer law firm. “We see an unmet need,” he said. Sokolove is no stranger to attention-grabbing advertising. He’s known locally for personal injury commercials that he started running in the late 1970s, and he’s experimented with infomercials. The cameo on “Scrubs,” an NBC sitcom, features a physician character introducing a “successful esteemed bulldog of a lawyer” to a patient who might need legal help. The spot doesn’t mention Sokolove’s last name, and he said its targeted more to potential investors to show the firm’s uniqueness than to laymen. In HBO’s “The Sopranos,” a Sokolove commercial was audible in the background of one episode while Tony Soprano was watching television. At Sokolove’s firm, the branding is just one prong of the campaign to go national. The firm is mulling outside financing from a bank or hedge fund financing to increase its marketing budget and revenue, he said. “That’s what it will take to do national branding,” Sokolove said. Sokolove said the firm’s $25 million to $30 million in marketing expenditures � including Internet and traditional television advertising, generates about $250 million to $300 million in legal fees. Sokolove’s firm and his partner-lawyers in 30 states share about $30 million in revenue, including for their work on Social Security disability, automobile injury and general personal injury claims. The partners maintain their individual practices and identities in their respective states and are part of Sokolove’s limited liability corporation. Other, more complex cases are referred out to more than 300 law firms. The firm’s staffing includes a customer service team that makes outbound calls to plaintiff clients, a research team that finds new types of cases and a social worker to help plaintiffs with their nonlegal problems. Legal consultants say it’s almost unheard of for a law firm to use product placement. Washington’s Howrey experimented with the practice by arranging to be mentioned in the 2003 film “Runaway Jury.” Howrey was starting a new branding campaign and it was looking for novel ways to stand out, said Chris Till, the firm’s director of communications and public relations. The spots received attention from clients, other firms and employees. “People in the firm got a big kick out of it,” Till said. “For what we got out of it, it wasn’t terribly expensive.” Charles Maddock, a principal at law firm consultancy Altman Weil Inc., agreed that using product placement makes sense for a consumer-focused law firm. Maddock remembers Sokolove’s early forays into television advertising, which began in the late 1970s, and he said the firm has already successfully adapted a lot of consumer marketing principles at a time when many law firms were “struggling to put out a newsletter.” “His practice lends itself to that kind of consumer marketing,” Maddock said. “He wants to build a reputation nationwide because of the kind of work he’s done.” Sheri Qualters is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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