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Law firms are harnessing the power of the Web to connect to clients, referral sources and prospects. Three hot trends have emerged: online, opt-in newsletters, branded e-mail alerts and Webinars. Let’s take a look! NEWSLETTERS E-mail newsletters are a powerful way to market, and offer easy access to demographic information about Web site visitors. It’s the very best in permission marketing. A good example is Hale and Dorr, a 500-lawyer firm based in Boston. This fall, the firm upgraded its site ( www.haledorr.com) and now encourages visitors to sign up for any of its 38 newsletters right on its home page. Before the revamp, visitors had to dig deep to find the sign-up form. Now, the link to the opt-in form is the first thing visitors see. The form is simple: It captures name, job title, company name, land and e-mail addresses. Using a simple check-box, visitors pick the newsletters they would like e-mailed directly to them. The e-newsletters themselves contain links back to the site. Marketing publications manager Nancy Kostakos says this simple change has multiplied new sign-ups for the newsletters. BRANDED E-ALERTS Baker & McKenzie, with 3,000 attorneys in 64 offices, uses the same technique. The firm offers its global “E-Law Alert,” which covers e-commerce, IT and telecommunications law. Using an easy Web opt-in form, the firm has built its subscriber list to more than 30,000 recipients. A clever aspect of the Baker e-newsletters is that they match the look of the firm’s Web site. E-mails carry the same graphics of the site, pointing up the second hot trend: branded e-mail alerts. Formatted in HTML, the e-alerts look and perform like the firm’s home page, with sophisticated graphics, hyperlinked images and, most importantly, logo and other branding elements. E-mail formatted in HTML is much more eye-catching than text-based e-mail, and like a Web site, the content is easy to browse. The hidden benefit of HTML is that the newsletters are completely trackable. The sender can tell how many e-mails were opened, who opened them and what links the reader clicked on. For example, Benesch Friedlander, a 130-lawyer law firm in Cleveland, sent out an e-mail alert to notify clients of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. The firm got a 66 percent “open” rate and a 38 percent click-through rate (readers clicked to the firm’s Web site). Neal Gerber of Chicago sent a branded e-alert inviting clients to attend a health plan seminar. Eighty percent of the recipients confirmed they would attend. They responded via the e-mail-based R.S.V.P. form in the e-alert, saving the firm’s marketing staff time and trouble. SEMINARS ON THE WEB Education is a powerful tool to attract new business from clients. With fewer people traveling by air these days, many law firms are turning to online “Webinars” in lieu of live programs. Webinars are a virtual event, where the audience views a presenter’s PowerPoint slides on the Web and hears the speaker’s voice over a telephone line. They are cheaper and easier to stage than in-person programs, and are easier to promote. Chicago’s Winston & Strawn, with 850 lawyers, has presented more than a dozen “eLunch Briefings” Webinars starting in January 2001. They are free, one-hour presentations given by attorneys. Each month the program focuses on a different topic, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, affirmative action and benefit plan changes. Each program has attracted 50 to 150 attendees, reports marketing partner Barbara Sessions. Clients are invited by e-mail, and sent a username and password, and are provided a dial-in telephone number to call for the audio. The programs are interactive: Attendees can ask questions using a chat feature, and presenters can poll the audience, annotate slides with online pointers, take attendees on a tour of Web sites, and share programs such as an Excel spreadsheet. Attendees can view the show in the privacy or their office or home, or invite a crowd by displaying the computer screen onto a wall and turning on a speakerphone for the audio. The beauty of Webinars is that neither the presenters nor the attendees must travel. In fact, I have given several Webinars of my own, sitting in my slippers at the kitchen table. Larry Bodine is a Web and marketing consultant based in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and the founder of the LawMarketing Portal (www.LawMarketing.com) and LawMarketing Listserv (www.lawmarketing.biz). E-mail: [email protected].

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