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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, and she 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 “practice development.” “We could not use the ‘M’ word. I’ve been everything but marketing for a long time,” said Grossman, who now proudly wears the title of marketing and communications director for the 900-lawyer, Miami-based firm, and whose role firm chief executive officer Cesar Alvarez elevates to “sort of a right-hand person.” 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 leading law firms to play catch-up — albeit at a cautious pace — hiring marketing staff in many cases and outsourcing the work in others, said 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 it is a business — a business driven by revenue — and you have to be aggressive in letting people know your capabilities,” said 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 to creating newsletters, 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,” said 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 firms across the U.S. 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 the Newtown Square, Pa.-based consultant. 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 driver of the increased marketing, said Mark Sell, president of Mark Sell Communications in Miami. 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, Sell said. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH Opinions still vary on how much marketing is enough. Greenberg Traurig chief executive Alvarez said 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. Marketing director Grossman reports directly to him. The firm also employs outside marketers, Thorp & Co. of Coral Gables, for media relations and other marketing work. “If a firm is serious, for every 35 to 40 lawyers it should have one full-time, in-house marketing professional,” said marketer John Remsen Jr., president of the Remsen Group in Fort Lauderdale. “Oh, my gosh, that’s a scary thought,” said Bowman Brown, executive committee chairman for Shutts & Bowen in Miami, upon hearing Remsen’s numbers. But even venerable Shutts & Bowen, a 150-lawyer firm with no marketing director, did step up to outsourcing its marketing five years ago when it hired public relations firm Wragg & Casas of Miami. Shutts also has an in-house staffer who handles announcements, coordinates seminars and recruits. 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, Brown said. The firm’s trust and estates group and its labor and employment group have held seminars for potential clients and the firm’s banking group advises various industry associations, he added. Brown noted that although today’s efforts are more targeted to specialized practice areas, the partners who founded the firm in 1910, including former Miami Herald publisher Frank B. Shutts, drew business from community involvement. “That was the way in which marketing was done then. To some extent it’s still the way marketing is done: to be out there, to get acquainted with people.” Remsen couldn’t agree more. In fact, he asserted 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,” Remsen said. “But at the end of the day it’s all about relationships you have with people in a position to hire and refer and ‘stuff’ doesn’t create and build those relationships. It can support the relationship-building activities, but at the end of the day, the lawyer has to get out and cultivate those relationships.” The other common error in marketing is to get too caught up in hooking new clients, marketing experts say. “The low-hanging fruit is existing clients,” as Remsen put it. At Holland & Knight, the “relationship manager,” the 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, said 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 said. At a large firm like Holland & Knight, she said, “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, said Steel Hector’s Kramer. “If one of my clients is on an airplane with a lawyer from another firm, if that lawyer is really looking out for his partners and his law firm, he’s going to try and develop business from my client,” Kramer said. “So I need to make sure I’ve established close relationships and I’m playing defense with my clients.” That’s a big part of what responding to calls and providing information, as well as efficient service, is about, he said. THE SMALL FIRM Increasingly, smaller firms are employing marketers, often for precise tasks. Roy Black, a nationally known criminal defense lawyer based in Miami, didn’t need much help getting attention. Frequent TV appearances made him something of a household name. But last September, the firm expanded into civil litigation, hiring litigator Larry Stumpf away from Akerman Senterfitt. 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 new ability to handle a client’s civil as well as criminal matters. “We’re not like the big shot,” managing partner Scott Kornspan said. “I don’t run tombstone ads around the country in American Lawyer. 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, managing partner Thomas G. Travis said. “We didn’t have a marketing person five years ago,” he said. “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 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,” Greenberg’s Alvarez said. “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 said in a conference call along with marketing director Grossman. “I’m 10 people short,” Grossman said. “No you’re not,” the CEO replied. “She’s a couple of people short.”

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