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What law firm wouldn’t want to write a newspaper story about itself? Bucking tradition in legal marketing, Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe has begun running “advertorials” in The New York Times as part of its “Heller Ehrman v. Boundaries” campaign. Heller’s advertorials — ads dressed up to look more like news stories — are drawing mixed reviews from normally cautious legal marketers. Which might be the point: The slogan is “Challenging the laws of convention.” Among law firms, advertorials “are not common at all,” said legal marketer David Schaefer of Euro RSCG Magnet. “Typically, the only time you see a firm take out an advertorial is when something goes wrong, and you have to explain it in a way you can’t do through a reporter or actual news story.” Brian Colucci, marketing manager for White & Case, agreed that lawyers prefer pure editorial coverage and that many firms refuse to run advertorials. However, Colucci conceded, “Sometimes for a new initiative or new market, it might make sense.” John Buchanan, Heller Ehrman’s communications director, said his firm has long been at the vanguard of legal marketing. Heller was the first firm to advertise in Wired magazine, he said, and the first to advertise “wholeheartedly” in Fortune, Forbes and other business magazines. The debut advertorial, in March, gave an overview of the firm’s practice. The second “Firms in Focus” page, in May, detailed the firm’s growth strategy in China. Two more advertorials are slated for later this summer. Heller will also run six more traditional ads in the Times this year. “I think The New York Times thought if we ran with them, they might be able to get other firms,” Buchanan said, explaining that the Times courted the firm with a sweet deal. A full-page ad in the Times Monday business section typically costs $155,565. Buchanan said Heller paid less, though he wouldn’t give a specific figure. “It was a package deal — they gave us good pricing and placement. It was hard for us to refuse,” he said. Heller Ehrman Chairman Barry Levin said he was pleased with the results. “We’ve gotten positive feedback from people literally all over the world who saw it. To us, that’s quite exciting.” Andrea Snedeker, of Townsend and Townsend and Crew and president of the Bay Area chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, said that many firms already run advertorials in trade publications. But Buchanan admits newspaper advertorials can be a hard sell. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from some clients and potential clients and other law firms,” said Buchanan. “But internally people were not as sold on it.” That doesn’t trouble Levin. “Traditionally, all advertising was viewed as unseemly,” he said. “The range of what people are doing now is all over the map.”

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