Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series.

I am always on the hunt to learn about firms doing new things to market their practices. Overall, firms tend to be rather quiet when it comes to divulging what is really working for them these days. So I took to my colleagues in the legal marketing community and especially to my groups on LinkedIn — yes, LinkedIn — and asked lawyers, marketers and administrators from firms around the country to share (or boast) about marketing programs that were really doing the job for them. So many replies came in that I needed to write two articles to cover all the great news. Here is part one of some of the replies I got from solo to large firms:

Solo firms

• "Ask an Attorney" events. At Franz Law in Santa Clara, Calif., Elena Rivkin Franz, managing partner of the firm, reported that she has been hosting "Ask an Attorney" events where the public can ask attorneys questions for free. The events are promoted through the firm’s connections with financial advisers, other attorneys and professionals. She said these events, hosted at her offices, have been very helpful to gaining new business. According to Franz, "If we can answer the question without doing research — the individual gets some information for free and we have provided some good will. If not, and the potential client wants to engage us to do the research, we’ll do so." More times than not, they have been retained to do so — qualifying these events as a business development success.

• Educational videos that are blasted everywhere online. Ramsey A. Bahrawy of Bahrawy Law Offices in North Andover, Mass., an estates and elder law solo practitioner, reported receiving new business by regularly airing educational videos on YouTube. Bahrawy said, "I provide the YouTube link on Facebook, LinkedIn and my website. I also partner with other professionals to have my YouTube link appear on their websites. The videos often result in live speaking engagements or an invitation on a radio show. What makes my videos unique is that I talk about aging issues in general, not just legal or financial issues. I include planning for future housing, transportation, disability, care, family dynamics, moving, stress, depression, alcohol and Rx drug abuse and common age -related infirmities such as dementia, joint replacement, etc. Often experts in their field will share their valuable insights."

He adds he can trace substantial new business to these efforts.

• Targeting the Latino community. Edward Mazurek of the Mazurek Law Firm in Philadelphia said, "Before starting my own firm three years ago, I was a partner in the labor and employment practice group at Morgan Lewis [& Bockius]. A major part of my practice now focuses on representing plaintiffs in employment matters. One of the marketing strategies that I recently implemented focuses on the Latino community. There is a great legal directory website, www.latinos.org, that targets the Latino community specifically. It is very inexpensive and enables subscribers to post articles and newsworthy items of interest to Latino Internet users of which there are millions."

Large Firms

• Website development using "eye-tracking technology." According to marketing director Amy Smith of Thompson McMullan in Virginia, the firm took a big leap of faith when designing its current website. Smith said, "For many years, we had a very traditional law firm website with photos of attorneys standing in front of doors and in hallways. Fishman Marketing offered three unique looks for a cutting-edge new site that focused on our amazing client-service culture. We chose one of the most forward-thinking designs. But to ensure that the visitors saw and remembered our most-important marketing messages, including our name, new headlines and taglines, and descriptive language, Ross [Fishman] offered our firm a new tool called ‘eye-track testing.’"

According to Fishman, "We used two powerful new measurement technologies. First, eye-track testing showed what parts of the home page visitors looked at, in what order, and for how long, so we could measure precisely how effectively our designs conveyed the specific marketing messages. Then, we worked closely with Amy to conduct A/B and multivariate testing of specific home page design elements; for example, the menus, links and wording. We could test different versions — "Our Lawyers" against "Our Attorneys," for example — to see which one elicited more of the activity we wanted to encourage — like click-throughs to lawyer biographies, downloads of white papers and sign-ups for seminars."

Smith said, "These cutting-edge tools gave our lawyers even more confidence in the effectiveness of the new site. It ensured that we’d optimized the site even before the launch. We are delighted with the site because not only does the design clearly convey our firm’s creativity, but we have the hard data to prove that it does precisely what we intended. And we can continue to improve the site over the years, so it doesn’t get stale, like most law firm websites."

• Figuring out how to keep emails from spam folders. Sometimes the littlest things are the most important in any marketing effort. What good is a great communication if it goes right to a client’s spam folder? Eileen Kenney, chief marketing officer of Ballard Spahr, asked her marketing technology team to find out what words and punctuation symbols in a subject line of an email would tip the scales toward sending the email straight to a spam folder. Her team also researched other email features (size of JPEG photos and the proportion of text to photos, e.g.) and any possible spam consequences. Fascinating and very smart stuff, right? One lesson I learned from Kenney — do not put an exclamation point in your subject line.

• Using technology to deliver great content. Lisa Gianakos, director of knowledge management at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, reports that her mega-firm has ramped up the use of technology on many levels to demonstrate and deliver value to clients. Newly rolled out services include:

• "A mobile version of our website. The mobile version works on a multitude of devices from pocket-size to tablet. Clients on the go can now more easily access our bios, our legal services, and use geolocation capabilities to find our offices.

• "An app for sourcing professionals. The Global Sourcing section launched the Sourcing Deal Tool Kit app, an original application that goes beyond simply repackaging information, as most law firm apps do, and presents a helpful tool to users. The app has been downloaded hundreds of times. See http://goo.gl/0MA24 or http://goo.gl/kQFKJ.

• "Videos for posting to social media sites. We are posting short videos to our website, to our new YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/PillsburyLaw) and to our LinkedIn and Twitter pages. Videos enhance our Google search results, and are a great way to create favorable first impressions and cultivate credibility around our capabilities. We have developed video content for crisis management; privacy, data security and information use; and pro bono. Our latest video series offers perspectives on startup success for entrepreneurs."

Stay tuned for part two — There is so much happening out there. I have much more to share. If you want to be part of the next article — write me fast. •

Stacy West Clark has been helping Pennsylvania lawyers and law firms expand their practices for more than 25 years. She is a former attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and was the firm’s first marketing director. She is president of Stacy Clark Marketing LLC, www.stacyclarkmarketing.com, a firm that helps law firms grow their businesses.