Jeffrey Sussman (Courtesy photo)
Every lawyer wants to attract new clients and increase revenues. They may try a variety of tactics, but the results often fall short of expectations. What to do?
To attract new clients, one must be positioned as a leading expert. No one wants to retain the services of mediocrities. One begins to be perceived as an expert by publishing bylined articles in appropriately prestigious journals, being the subject of news stories that may be marketed through email and direct mail, as well as by putting on seminars and webinars. Too many attorneys do not let the world know of important cases they have won, of successful deals they have negotiated, or challenges to judicial decisions that may result in new precedents. Such accomplishments should be touted not just to the legal community, but also to spheres of influence that can enhance one’s professional reputation. News stories that are the subject of one’s accomplishments can also highlight one’s overall legal skills and creativity in formulating winning strategies and tactics. In addition, after one is recognized as a leading authority on certain legal issues, one can be called upon to offer commentary on topical legal subjects, even though one may not have direct involvement in the subject under discussion.
Here’s a concrete example of what I did for one of my clients, a nationally well known labor relations lawyer. When he originally contacted me, he represented numerous small businesses such as auto dealers, restaurants, and nursing homes. He wanted to represent Fortune 1000 companies. I was able to get him a front page story in The Wall Street Journal about how the government would be dealing with strikes by public employees and unions that stifled productivity. We obtained reprints of that story, and I wrote a covering letter. Both pieces were mailed to presidents, CEOs, and senior HR executives at the 20,000 largest companies in the United States. The covering letter invited the recipients to contact my client with any questions they might have. As a result, he had numerous conversations with several companies and eventually got three of those companies as clients, and each paid him a substantial retainer. As new labor issues popped up, I continued to get him coverage in major media, such as on national television news programs and in major business and trade magazines. He appeared several times as a legal expert on the PBS program, The News Hour, on Face the Nation, on ABC News, as well as on several interview programs. In addition, I regularly helped with articles that were published under his byline in important business publications. All articles and news stories were reprinted and regularly mailed to prospective clients. In addition, he put on a series on seminars in the spring and fall. I wrote ads and brochure copy for those seminars, and he attracted many new clients from those who attended. Not only did he conduct his own seminars, but many of his seminars were sponsored by major trade magazines in a wide variety of industries, such as construction, food service, hospitality, and manufacturing. Finally, I engaged a New York Times business writer to co-author a book for my client. Once the book was published, the attorney went on a national media tour to 15 cities, where he was interviewed by business reporters on daily newspapers, editors at weekly business publication, and on business-oriented radio programs. The result of the PR/marketing campaign was that the attorney not only enlisted a large number of major corporate clients, but he also became well known as one of the foremost labor relations lawyers in the United States.
Here’s another example. A small boutique law firm of medical malpractice litigators had won numerous cases against hospitals and doctors. The awards were substantial, and the firm wanted to attract more clients based upon its recent successes. We discussed their bringing a class action law suit on behalf of prisoners who had contracted hepatitis C, but were not being treated for the disease. The subject was timely and provocative. After they were appointed attorneys for the class, I went to an editor at The New York Times and explained who the victims were and why the story was important. The editor assigned two reporters to cover it, and their story appeared on page one of The Metro Section. As a result, various groups representing infected prisoners contacted my client and asked that they be represented by the firm. The principals of the law firm had become leading authorities on medical negligence in prisons and were frequently called upon by the media for commentary.
One more example: A brilliant real estate litigator had been representing numerous landlords and winning case after case. He was contacted by a landlord who was about to lose a substantial part of real estate holdings. My client devised a plan of action that helped the landlord retain the majority of his holdings. I contacted the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the New York Times, and Crain’s New York Business about the case. The attorney had lunch with several of the reporters and explained in detail what he had accomplished. The ensuing stories resulted in significantly raising his profile. To top it off, I arranged for him to write a book about the real estate market. The book received numerous positive reviews as well as getting endorsements from leaders in the financial and real estate communities.
Whether one uses a public relations marketing professional, or takes advantage of one’s own creativity, one should develop a strategic PR/marketing plan that will be effective in producing results. Not to do so means that one will be an “also ran.” And with thousands of lawyers competing with one another to attract clients, if one is not a triple-crown contender, one will run with the pack, not ahead of it.