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Solo and small firm practitioners must be lawyers, office managers, bookkeepers and sometimes secretaries. They also fill the changing and (sometimes) dreaded role of marketing director. Experienced practitioners agree that the keys to successful marketing — and thus a successful practice — include a commitment to the task, a carefully-crafted plan and a well-chosen niche. “It is difficult to do the things that you need to do to develop your practice because of time constraints, but you have to dedicate yourself to set aside a certain amount of time and resources on a weekly, or even daily, basis in order to attract new business,” Duca & Prim partner Joseph A. Prim Jr. said. “Otherwise, [your practice] won’t grow.” Prim, along with Richard F. Furia of Furia & Turner, co-chairs the Philadelphia Bar Association solo and small firm practitioners committee. Solo and small firm attorneys The Legal Intelligencer contacted agreed that while it is easier to commit to marketing during a practice’s infancy, firms that find themselves handling all the work they can stand still must dedicate themselves to bringing in new business. If they don’t, said Harold M. Goldner, vice chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s solo and small firm practice section, the work may not be there down the road. ASSESS, SET GOALS AND PLAN Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers director of marketing Pamela McCarthy, who recently presented a Philadelphia Bar Association marketing videotape to the association’s solo and small firm practitioners committee, said practitioners must write and follow marketing plans. According to McCarthy, a firm need not come up with an exhaustive, lengthy or complicated plan. The plan should, however, include marketing goals, organizations firm members might join and referral services to which a firm might subscribe. McCarthy emphasized that marketing includes much more than public relations and advertising. These activities are merely small parts of a firm’s tool kit for keeping clients and expanding its client base. Marketing efforts should include a wide spectrum of activities, including strategic planning; entertainment; social activities; charitable activities; marketing materials; interacting with prospective clients; interacting with current clients; and Internet referral services, McCarthy said. Goldner, who presented a marketing session to the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s solo and small firm section, also highlighted the importance of plotting a course of action. He said doing so requires much self-assessment and again, a commitment to maintaining and bringing in new business. “You have to develop a marketing mindset,” Goldner said. “You have to know what your goals are, know what your strengths are, know what your limitations are, [and] know your bottom line and … your clientele. “Goals are such as: Why are you a lawyer? Where do you want to be in six months? In one year? In five years?” In terms of strengths, Goldner said practitioners should consider what they do well, what they like to do and what comes easily. Limitations include determining what firm members do not do well, what they dislike doing, and what tasks present the greatest challenges. Determining a firm’s bottom line requires a thorough financial assessment. “You have to have complete control of your numbers,” Goldner said. And finally, firms must be cognizant of who their clients are and what needs they present, Goldner advised. According to Goldner, marketing also requires differentiating among goals, strategies and tactics. “Goals are what you want to accomplish,” he said. “Strategies are the methodologies by which you accomplish them; [and] tactics are the specific to-do items associated with strategies.” For example, Goldner said if a practitioner would like to do more estate work, he or she might decide to go to a nursing home to attract new clients by speaking on a specific topic. In this scenario, gaining estate work would be the goal, visiting the nursing home the strategy and speaking the tactic. But effective marketing does not end with developing goals and plans for meeting them. Virtually all of those interviewed for this article identified niche marketing as a must for building a successful practice. FINDING A NICHE, WORKING IT “People have specific needs,” Hepburn Willcox Hamilton & Putnam partner Susan L. White observed. “They don’t wake up and say ‘Gee, I think I need a legal checkup,’ so it’s not the same as when they choose a physician. Niche marketing is key in this day and age.” White, for instance, specializes in entertainment law. In order to bring in clients and cultivate visibility, she heads out to listen to local bands and speak to them about their needs. She also gives entertainment law seminars to local musicians and takes part in a high-profile music publication’s activities. “The most effective way [to market], I think, is just getting out there and making it known what you do and getting clients that way,” White said. “Find something that really interests you because you’re going to spend a lot of time involved in [the area] but not see compensation right away.” McCarthy similarly advised making sure a practitioner’s target niche is an area of personal interest. “Basically, if anyone wants to expand their network by joining an organization, the best thing they should do first is find something that interests them,” she said. “The key once you join is to get active.” McCarthy said if attorneys try to participate in activities that don’t interest them, they simply would not be successful in their marketing endeavors. And she advised not merely going to meetings, but also joining committees and seeking out board membership. One of the most difficult aspects of advising practitioners on niche marketing is convincing them to abandon the idea that niche marketing means a limited practice, McCarthy said. “You’re not limiting your practice, you’re limiting marketing. … To the extent you can market to a niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of cases in that niche.” Prim likewise said niche marketing does not mean abandoning other practice areas. “If you happen to have a particular expertise in one area, you should market that, which doesn’t mean that you don’t do everything else,” he said. “You may market yourself as being a specialist in auto license suspensions because you happen to have one or two cases in that, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t do an estate or personal injury matter.” In terms of promoting oneself within a niche market, McCarthy advised joining trade groups and other organizations to which people in the industry belong. Practitioners should attend local and national meetings, and write articles for trade publications. She also said advertising in such publications tends to be inexpensive, yet valuable exposure. REFERRALS AND WEB SITES Randi J. Vladimer, who practices with an associate in King of Prussia, Pa., recommended building a referral system with fellow lawyers. For example, she said if an attorney doesn’t practice in New Jersey, he or she might refer New Jersey cases to a Philadelphia firm that typically does not take suburban cases. That firm, in turn, would refer its suburban work to the attorney. Vladimer also recommended getting to know professionals such as psychologists, accountants and real estate agents. “It’s just getting out there and being seen,” she said. “I don’t think that for a small firm or for a solo practitioner something like Martindale-Hubbell is going to work. I don’t even do the yellow pages because I’m at the end of the alphabet. It might work for some people, it just doesn’t work for me. It’s really reputation and word of mouth. … And doing a good job for your clients.” Chester County solo Edith M. Chew has received referrals from services through her local bar association, a women’s resource center and a listing with a provider of prepaid legal plans. For example, the Women’s Resource Center in Wayne, Pa., has an affiliates program, Chew said. The program includes listings for lawyers and therapists, who in return must pay a yearly fee, agree to charge $50 for an initial consultation and volunteer two nights each year for a program that offers free legal advice to women. Web sites may also be a fruitful marketing tool, practitioners agreed. “You absolutely need electronic presence in this day and age,” White said. “But I don’t think it’s an initial step.” Robert C. Gerhard III of Gerhard & Gerhard in Glenside agreed. “The Web site is a secondary marketing tool,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily get people to call you initially, but it saves you time in terms of driving directions, lets people know they’ve come to the right place, answers frequently asked questions and establishes some credibility in terms of background.” Like White, McCarthy said a Web site is essential to successful marketing. “Get a Web site,” McCarthy said. “I can’t be more emphatic. People are going to the Internet today to find out about attorneys — whether they want to hire them, whether they’re opposite them in a case, whether they’ve heard about them, whether they want to refer someone to them. If people can’t find you in today’s technological world, that’s a negative in terms of marketing. It’s not even a neutral.” According to McCarthy, firms would be wise to invest in professional Web site development. She said though a Web site need not cost thousands, it should not look like the teenage son of a friend built it. Finally, Gay Chacker & Mittin partner Edward F. Chacker said a business card in an attorney’s pocket does not help the attorney or potential clients. “Every person you meet is a potential new client,” he said. “You should not be embarrassed to provide someone your card.”

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