When attorneys in Murtha Cullina’s trusts and estate practice were looking at ways to inform existing clients about changes in the tax law earlier this year, they decided to step out of their comfort zone—and in front of the camera.

The result of their Hollywood-like approach is a series of brief, educational videos called “Murtha Minutes” featuring the firm’s lawyers.

Professionally shot and edited by Frontline Productions in Glastonbury, each of the five videos posted on Murtha’s website highlights a different legal issue and topic of interest relating to the T&E practice. The first of the videos is called “The Basics of a Trust”; another looks at “Choosing a Trustee.” Lawyers with starring roles include Elizabeth Leamon, Richard Marone, Alfred Casella and Irving Schloss.

The idea for the videos began “as a way to create more exposure and depth within the department,” said Mark Korber, a Murtha attorney and chair of its trusts and estate department. Korber also appeared in some of the videos.

“While we understand and value the one-on-one in-person communication with each of our clients, we also understand that it’s important to offer information in an easily accessible and easy to comprehend format,” he said.

In addition to providing a service to their clients, Korber said, the videos have a public service component as well. “Through these videos, we try to touch on the estate planning issues that most families should consider addressing,” he said. “We want the ‘Murtha Minutes’ to serve as a resource for our client base.”

Many law firms are catching on to the benefits of producing informational videos to serve their clients and attract new business. In Connecticut, Willinger Willinger & Bucci in Bridgeport and Trantolo & Trantolo in Hartford are among those who have posted videos on their sites.

At this point, most law firm videos on the web are more advertisement than instructional. But according to marketing experts, there is a growing trend for law firms with deep pockets to produce more polished and substantive videos. In recognition of that trend, the American Bar Association last year created the “Golden Gavels” awards recognizing with small trophies the best videos among large, small and mid-sized firms.

Nicholas Gaffney, a partner at Infinite Public Relations in San Francisco and director of the Golden Gavels program, said firms are increasingly using videos as educational resources.

“More firms, large and small, have begun exploring how to incorporate them into their marketing mix,” he said. “Law firms are producing their own videos but some are hiring outside vendors. There is a growing belief that in the competitive market for selling legal services, video can help firms distinguish themselves from others.”

Murtha Cullina has distinguished itself in the past by hosting seminars on various legal topics. But firm leaders saw video as a way to achieve many of the same goals with added advantages.

“With a seminar, you have to pick out a date and time and there will always be a time that is inconvenient for some people who can’t attend,” Korber said. “So we thought, why not videotape the material and let people view it when they can?”

Murtha’s marketing director, Debra Sciarra, said the firm recognized that short videos could effectively deliver “snippets of information in an accessible and succinct format.”

The videos took about six months each to produce and cost between $1,500 and $2,500, a piece, including script writing and filming.

Keeping each video to only a minute or two proved to be one of the greatest challenges as lawyers like to explain things in depth, Korber said.

“One of the interesting things in making these was the videographers would refer to me as the talent and I’d laugh,” said Korber. “It was a challenge at first. But after you did three of four of them, the crew would show up with their audio equipment and we’d sit down for five minutes and film and then go back to work. I think efforts like this will become easier and easier to do and less expensive to do, as we all get more familiar with doing them.”

John Dickson, president of Frontline Productions, directed Murtha’s videos. He said he expects a growing demand for similar law firm videos. Over the past few years, Dickson said, “a couple of law firms” have hired his company to produce what he calls “public service, soft-marketing” videos.

Such videos, he said, feature a lawyer explaining basic information about a practice area or service he or she provides. The informational videos first gained popularity with professional services providers in the health care field, said Dickson.

“With a hospital, they might explain a new treatment for a heart-attack survivor,” he said. “It’s the same kind of thing with law firms, except they are talking about wills and trusts.”

Dickson said Murtha Cullina was easier to work with than some of his prior clients, who are for the most part Fortune 500 companies.

“I think it has to do with the fact that lawyers are comfortable using the power of the language,” Dickson said.

“It was a little difficult to make their videos concise, so there were a few issues with that,” he added. As a result, some of the Murtha minutes became “Murtha many minutes,” he joked.•