While attorneys say building relationships remains the primary tool for growth of legal practices, even the most traditional Tulsa law firms have found the Internet a necessary extension of their marketing efforts.
The resulting Web sites run the gamut from the succinctly informational to the sublimely humorous.
Feldman, Franden, Woodard, Farris & Boudreaux, 525 S. Main St., which was probably the first law firm in Tulsa to have a Web site, uses humor to make its site stand out.
But while browsing through the “Fun Stuff,” “Strange but True” and “Retro Tulsa Museum” sections of www.tulsalawyer.com, you can also learn a lot about the firm and its 14 attorneys.
“We got the (domain name) tulsalawyer.com, which shows you we must be the first one,” said Paula Quillin, partner.
The Web site was created in 1994 at the urging of Barbara Rush, research and writing specialist, who approached partner Joseph R. Farris, and said, “Joe, I think we need a Web site, and he said, ‘What’s a Web site?’”
Quillin said, “The theory was that this was going to be the wave of the future – that that is where people were going to be getting their information – and sure enough it is.
“First of all, we found that clients actually do go to the Web site. They go online to find a lawyer,” she said. “We’ve also found that in recruiting new lawyers, and we have gotten this over and over in letters applying to our law firm: ‘You’re one of the few firms that has an entertaining Web site, and/or we actually can use your Web site to get in contact with you.’
Rush, who designs and builds the Web site, credits Farris for the inspiration to make the site stand out.
“Joe thinks that all of the marketing that is done by law firms is boring and just puts you to sleep,” Rush said. “He said, “I want something that people will read. I want the average person to go on there and be able to read it and understand it and get something out of it and enjoy it.’ And the same thing with our newsletter, he said, ‘I want people to read it. I don’t want it thrown in the trash.’”
“And I said, ‘Then it’s not going to be about law, is it?’”
The Web site and the newsletter, which carries through the entertaining bent, garner a lot of attention, Quillin said. “We get a lot of comments both from clients and other lawyers.”
The firm’s partners are active in several professional organizations, including the Defense Research Institute (DRI) and ALFA International, Quillin said.
“Every time we go, without fail, somebody mentions the newsletter – somebody mentions the Web site,” she said.
Easing the Search
Michael D. Cooke, managing partner of Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., Tulsa’s largest law firm with 117 attorneys, confirmed that while law firm marketing has changed little, the Internet has had an impact as an information source.
“Law firm services are marketed pretty much the way they have been for a long time. It is still very much a relationship business,” he said at the firm’s offices at 320 S. Boston ?Ave., but “there are some new ways to get information out.”
He noted that while the industry still relies on longtime marketing resources like the Martindale-Hubbell attorney directories and Bar Register of Pre-eminent Lawyers, those “tools have now been patched onto the Internet.”
“The Internet is one of the biggest ways people get information today,” Cooke said. “When we’re looking for lawyers in other states, when clients are looking for lawyers in other states, and when potential clients are looking for lawyers in Oklahoma, or in particular fields of expertise, without having first established a relationship, those information sources like Martindale, or just the Internet itself, are now ways to go searching for lawyers in other areas.”
The firm’s Web site, www.hallestill.com, provides access to an intensive collection of information about the law firm, including attorneys, fields of practice, case results and career opportunities.
“We first started moving into it maybe eight years ago, but really began to refine it four years ago,” Cooke said. “We do a lot of work for out-of-state clients who have some commercial activity in the state of Oklahoma. The Internet probably makes it a little easier for us to be found by people who don’t already have a relationship with an Oklahoma lawyer.”
Although Hall Estill, which has branches in Oklahoma City, Northwest Arkansas and Washington, D.C., has used an informational print and radio campaign in the past, “advertising is really a small part of law firm marketing,” Cooke said.
“I think the main marketing avenue for legal services is personal contact and personal relationships,” he said. “We are looking for people who have relationships. We are looking for clients with whom we have existing relationships.”
The only major change Hall Estill has made in its marketing strategy is the addition of Lari L. Gulley as director of business development and recruitment.
“It was and is my belief that although much of legal marketing is personal, it was not all that, and lawyers need help getting themselves organized. They need help developing tools and ideas about how to go about marketing,” Cooke said. There are lots and lots of personal marketing things that can be done with lawyers, but they have to have help with somebody like Lari – they have to have help in organizing their thoughts.”
The weakness in relationships marketing is that it is not intentional, he said. “It’s largely through luck. I don’t think we want to rely on luck.”
Across the street at 401 S. Boston Ave., Jack Santee, managing partner of Moyers, Martin, Santee, Imel & Tetrick, LLP, believes the firm probably is one of the most traditional legal practices in Tulsa.
Still, its Web site, www.moyersmartin.com, provides a succinct overview of the 11-attorney boutique firm, including history, attorney biographies and contact.
“We recognize the relevance of the Internet,” Santee said. “While we are traditional, we don’t view ourselves as dinosaurs.”
Santee also sees the importance of the Internet for the legal industry as an extension of the Martindale-Hubbell resources for searching out legal representation.
“Those sources are all important,” he said. “We recognize that not everybody is going to search us out, and so we need to do those kinds of things that people today use. And of course the Internet probably is the medium today. It is a tremendous timesaver.”
“Our business has come to us over the years mostly by word of mouth, most of it is local,” Santee said. “We do get occasional referrals from people who are looking for our kind of representation.” ?