(973) 403-9200

Marketing From The Big Firm Perspective


Charles F. Vuotto, Jr., Esq.

(With Special Thanks to Donna Krstec of AJIS.com)


The days of lawyers being above advertising and marketing have long since past.  We are in a new age.  There are approximately 57,600 lawyers in the State of New Jersey as of the latest census in 2000, representing one lawyer for roughly every 146 people.  When I began practicing in 1986, there were 29,724 lawyers, which was one lawyer for roughly every 256 people.[i]  Therefore, the number of lawyers has almost doubled, where the population has only increased by about 10%!  If you don’t market and seize the plethora of resources, both on the web and with more traditional marketing tactics, you don’t survive in this competitive environment.  I have had the opportunity to experience marketing my law practice from the perspective of a small and large law firm.  Clearly, there are more advantages in the latter, if you utilize the available resources.  This article will briefly outline the different approaches and methods of marketing yourself as a lawyer in a big law firm. Whatever you decide to do should be organized into a “Marketing Plan” that can be referred to and updated as you refine the manner in which you wish to market yourself.  This is intended to be a practical guide.  Therefore, where possible and appropriate, names and contact information is provided so that you can begin to initiate your plan.

A word of caution:  If you are in a “big firm,” you cannot simply embark on a marketing campaign without developing a comprehensive “Marketing Plan” and obtaining approval of the firm’s Marketing Director and/or firm management.

This article will provide a brief outline of the top ten points to consider when marketing yourself as an attorney in a “big firm.”

1.   Lawyer Advertising and the RPC’s  As with anything that we lawyers do or say, we must be cognizant of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  Since part of your Marketing Plan will entail some form of advertising, you must be cognizant of what the RPC says about lawyer advertising and stay within the bounds of propriety. 

·        Israel D. Dubin, Secretary to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Committee on Attorney Advertising, wrote a comprehensive section within Professional Responsibility in New Jersey entitled “A Primer on Attorney Advertising.”  Mr. Dubin writes that the basics of attorney advertising and solicitation in New Jersey may be found in Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) 7.1 to 7.5, Attorney Advertising Guideline 1, the opinions of the Committee on Attorney Advertising (CAA) and, to a lesser extent, the opinions of the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics (ACPE).  The Committee on Attorney Advertising is a relatively young committee, having been established in 1987[ii], and has thus far published 25 opinions.  Prior to 1987, all questions concerning attorney advertising were within the jurisdiction of the ACPE.  When reading the earlier advertising opinions issued by the ACPE, it is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of them was issued before the adoption of the RPC’s in 1984.[iii]  Therefore, compare the Canon or Disciplinary Rule upon which the ACPE relied to the current RPC in determining whether or not a particular holding is still good law.  

·        Committee on Attorney Advertising:  On January 13, 1987, the New Jersey Supreme Court created the Committee on Attorney Advertising by court order.  The Committee was formally established by New Jersey Court Rule 1:19A to establish procedures, publish forms, maintain records and set forth Advertising Guidelines consistent with the Rules.  The Committee has “exclusive authority to consider requests for advisory opinions and ethics grievances concerning the compliance of advertisements and other related communications with the Rules of Professional Conduct.”  The Committee has issued one Guideline: Attorney Advertising Guideline 1, which states, “In any advertisement by an attorney or law firm, the advertisement shall include the bona fide street address of the attorney or law firm.”  This Guidelines was adopted June 29, 1990, to be effective September 4, 1990. 

·        The following is a brief summary of the Rules of Professional Conduct:

o      Rule 7.1 – Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services:  “A lawyer shall not make false or misleading communications about the lawyer, the lawyer’s services, or any matter in which the lawyer has or seeks a professional involvement.”  The Rule provides a detailed definition of false or misleading communications.  The Rule further states that it is unethical for an attorney to use an advertisement “known to have been disproved by the Committee on Attorney Advertising.” 

o      Rule 7.2 – Advertising:  This Rule permits lawyers to advertise services “through public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical, radio or television, or through mailed written communication,” subject to the requirements of Rule 7.1 and 7.3.  The Rule requires that lawyers keep a record of the content and use of advertising for three years after its dissemination; however, there is no requirement that advertising be subject to review prior to dissemination. Under the Rule, “A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that:  (1) a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of advertising or written communication permitted by this Rule; (2) a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of advertising, written communication, or other notification required in connection with the sale of a law practice as permitted by RPC 1.17; and (3) a lawyer may pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or other legal service organization.”

o      Rule 7.3 – Direct Contact with Prospective Clients:  This Rule sets forth the specific circumstances under which an attorney can contact a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining employment.

o      Rule 7.4 – Communication of Fields of Practice and Certification

o      Rule 7.5 – Firm Names and Letterheads:

Caveat:  Therefore, all comments made herein are made with the recommendation that you review and follow the RPC’s.

2.   Select Your Target

·        Decide which clients you can best service.

·        Direct your marketing efforts accordingly.

3.   Clients

·        Clients:  The general thrust of this article begins and ends with the clients. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the best source of new business is current clients. In order to maximize the potential of your marketing efforts you must reach out to your current and past client base.


·        Diversity of Servis:  Perhaps the biggest difference between marketing from small and large firm perspectives is the diversity of services available in the large firm.  This is a big selling point to prospective and past clients.  A prospective divorce client may feel better knowing that your firm has a criminal department should his/her spouse file a Domestic Violence complaint with a concurrent criminal complaint.  Also, it is attractive to a prospective client that his/her estate matters (changing a Will or Power of Appointment) or tax issues can be addressed “in-house.”  The advantages do not end with prospective clients.  Past clients may also benefit from your firm’s diversity.

·        Staying in Contact (E-mail Distribution Lists and Newsletters):  Part of your Marketing Plan should be to keep in contact with past clients to advise them of new developments in the law that may effect them or advise them of services that you can provide in other areas of their personal or business lives.  Using e-mail this way makes contact inexpensive as well as quick and effortless.  This can be done by creating lists of different client groups in your address book, such as “past clients,” “current clients,” “prenuptial clients,” etc.  With one e-mail, all clients who are part of that list will receive your message.

·        You should also make use of a Newsletter which can be sent out to past or current clients based on need.  Distributing a Newsletter allows you to stay in constant contact with past and present clients, and thus keeps your name on their minds.  It also lets them know that you care and wish to keep them informed and updated on current legal developments that may affect them. 


4.   Web Marketing

·        Personal Website:  By developing a personal website and having it properly marketed through web promotion, you can attract potential clients searching for a lawyer in your field, and even create a niche market for yourself.  It’s not enough to simply publish a website and hope visitors will come.  In order to attract and then keep your target audience, the site must contain certain key elements, such as informative and timely content, and plenty of resources and links.  The site must also be search engine friendly. As indicated earlier, the number of lawyers in the state of New Jersey is astounding, and the web has become an extremely competitive place.  Proper promotion and marketing of your site, as well as high rankings in the search engines, are paramount for your success on the web.

·        Is the web the only source for promoting your site?  Certainly not.  A combination of online and offline marketing can maximize the return on your efforts.  Always send new clients a traditional letter directing them to your website and to the areas that will serve them best, and then follow-up with newsletters.  On the other hand, use your site to notify clients of non-web happenings, such as upcoming seminars you will be hosting or information on a book you have authored.  You can even take this one step further by allowing them to purchase the book right at your site. To a large degree, the days of going to the phone book and leafing through the Yellow Pages have gone the way of the horse and buggy.  Today, most people research products and services on the web. Without exception, marketing of almost any business or product has been dramatically changed with the advent and proliferation of the this new marketing forum.  If we lawyers do not accept and embrace its progression, we will be left behind.

·        Most Economical:  When comparing cost to exposure, you get the most “bang for the buck” on the web. The cost of a standard half page in the Yellow Pages, which will run for 365 days, is approximately $15,000.  Creating a personal website that has sufficient “pages” to hold your introduction page, bio page, articles, and seminar and current events information (much more data than a half page in the Yellow Pages) can cost about $750 initially, with a quarterly service/hosting charge that varies based on what the services are and how often the site is regularly updated.  The cost is relatively lower for much greater exposure.  Of course you can go the build-it-yourself route for practically free, but we are lawyers and should leave web design to the professionals.  Most of the do-it-yourself sites in existence are obviously amateurish.  It’s just not worth losing potential clients the moment they enter your site because it appears unprofessional and thrown together.


·        Web Master:  Unless you are very proficient with a computer and the web, you need a “web master” to help you develop and promote your own site.  I use Donna Krstec of AJIS.com for design and promotion of my personal site.  My firm uses several other web site companies.  Be aware of the following pro’s and con’s and points to consider when choosing a web master:

o      Make sure whomever you choose has a marketing and promotion plan included.  Without this important element, you’ll be out on your own when trying to activate targeted traffic to your site.  They should also steer you away from too many bells and whistles.  The search engines, whose only job is to read your site’s content and then rank it accordingly, dislike having to trudge through too much code and may opt to ignore your site altogether.


o      Beware of exorbitant fees. The web is no longer a cutting edge forum for the elite, but rather a necessity of our time.  Long gone are the days of individuals or firms spending tens of thousands of dollars for a web presence.  Assuming you don’t have the need for complicated programming, a well-executed design and promotion plan should carry a reasonable price tag starting around $7,500.[iv]  This is a personal choice, as with any service provider.[v]  I recommend that you research the various providers thoroughly and make an informed choice.

·        Web Broadcasts:  One thing that you can not likely accomplish on your own, but can in a big firm, is live web broadcasts.  This requires substantial resources that are not usually available to the small firm (i.e., multi-media room, cameras, AV equipment, special computer equipment, etc.).  A live web broadcast is made available on the firm’s website and can take the form of a presentation by counsel on the law, recent developments or discussion of specific cases.  It can also be interactive, with the audience e-mailing questions into the speaker with immediate responses.  Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer has just recently embarked on this marketing tool as “wilentztv.com.”  Remember to notify of upcoming broadcasts via e-mail, regular mail and in your newsletter.


5.   Articles & Seminars

·        Articles & Seminars (generally):  Without question, one primary method of marketing yourself to the public (and other professionals) is to highlight your technical knowledge.  The way to do this, is to write articles and give seminars.

·        Articles:  Articles can be published in many places, starting with your personal website, the firm’s website or a “divorce” site that you may subscribe to (e.g., Divorce.com), New Jersey Law Journal, New Jersey Family Lawyer[vi], New Jersey Lawyer – the Magazine, or through the Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE).  In addition, articles can be distributed in-house .

·        Seminars:  When clients read in your bio that you lecture, there is a certain elevation of your status in their mind.  As with the author of articles, you are viewed as more of an authority in your field.  Although this may or may not be true, this perception heightens the potential client or referring professional’s view of you (not necessarily inaccurate) and increases the chances that they will retain you over another attorney.  ICLE and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America – New Jersey (ATLA-NJ) are always looking for good people to contribute time and expertise to the cause of continuing education.  Remember to allocate an area of your website for posting upcoming seminars, and always keep it up to date.

6.   Other Professionals

·        Lecture to Professionals Involved in Divorce:  One source of client referrals is professionals who are routinely involved in divorce litigation, such as forensic accountants and mental health professionals.  Your Marketing Plan should include contact with these professionals by way of lectures, articles, holiday cards, thank you or congratulatory notes and e-mails.  In the past, I have lectured to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA). These organizations have mandatory continuing education requirements and need people to lecture.  They appreciate the offer of your time and efforts.  In return, you expose yourself to professionals with whom you would not ordinarily come in contact.

·        Cross Refer Outside the Firm:  One must give to receive.  Send clients to other qualified professionals for their accounting, mental health, investigatory, appraisal, and other needs.  You may even consider giving other professionals a link from your website in return for a link from theirs.  Not only is this smart cross-referencing, but it may also boost your search engine rankings.

·        Cross Refer Inside the Firm:  Lawyers often forget about the wealth of potential clients lying within the framework of their own firm. Organize internal seminars for the other lawyers of your firm to tell them what you do and how you can meet their clients’ needs. You will be surprised at how many times your own firm mates will refer their existing clients to legal counsel outside the firm simply because they are not aware of the available internal resources.

·        Multi-Professional Marketing Teams:  Another very effective marketing tool is the cross-professional marketing team approach.  This is where professionals from two or more professions (e.g., lawyers and accountants) get together to form a joint marketing team. This team can develop articles, seminars or newsletters to specific or general groups of potential clients.  The advantage of this approach is to broaden the base of expertise and spread the cost among multiple firms.


7.   Bar & Professional Organization Involvement

·        NJSBA-Family Law Section:  Involvement in the “Section” is an excellent way to contribute to the bar, network with other professionals in your field, learn of new developments, assist in the development and improvement of the bar and, perhaps, impact laws and rules. 

·        ATLA-NJ (Matrimonial Section):  The Matrimonial Section of ATLA-NJ is relatively new and in its fledgling stages.  This is an excellent time to become involved in a dozen or more committees that have been formed.  ATLA-NJ is intended to complement and not conflict with the Family Law Section of the NJSBA.  The Matrimonial Section intends to concentrate on trial advocacy and related skills.  Becoming involved in this organization will not only expose you to wonderful trial related education, but will also help convince potential clients that this aspect of your advocacy skills is honed as well.

8.   Community, Charitable, Political, Social & Recreational Activities

          Remember to involve yourself in the following activities as well:

·        Community

·        Charitable

·        Political

·        Social & Recreational Activities

9.   Be Courteous

·        You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.


10.  General Tips

·        Initial Social Contact:  Call a professional for a short lunch meeting to discuss exchange of clients, co-authoring an article or co-presenting a seminar.


·        Holiday Cards:  Everyone loves to receive something around the holidays, even if it’s a standard card that lets you know that you are in that person’s mind.  (Remember to sign the card yourself.)


·        Thank You Cards:  Never forget to thank someone for a referral, either with a quick e-mail or a traditional card.  The surest way of never getting another referral from that person is not to say thank you.



Develop a “Marketing Plan” that emphasizes your strengths and the strengths of your large firm.  Remember that past and current clients are the largest source of future business for you personally and other members of your firm.  Communicate to them and other referring professionals, not only your expertise, but also the expertise and diversity of your firm, by writing articles, giving seminars and becoming involved in various bar activities.  Always integrate online and offline marketing for maximum results.  Maintain and reaffirm contacts over time with the use of e-mail as well as traditional methods of communication.  Remember basic courtesies such as thank you cards.  Lastly, and most importantly, always keep the RPC’s in mind.


[i] See http://www.wnjpin.state.nj.us/OneStopCareerCenter/LaborMarketInformation/lmi02/ipestate.htm

[ii] The committee was created by the Supreme Court in Petition of Felmeister & Isaacs, 104 N.J. 515, 548-50 (1986).  The members of the committee were first appointed by an order dated January 12, 1987, 119 N.J.L.J. 103 (1987).

[iii] The Rules of Professional Conduct, as amended and supplemented, were adopted July 12, 1984, to be effective September 10, 1984.

[iv] $7,500 is more for a small- or medium-sized practitioner looking just to get some presence on the web; plus $2,500 for a small marketing plan.  Big firms with lots of attorneys are closer to $20,000, no marketing plan included.  Few large web designers do that.

[v] Donna Krstec of AJIS.com has locations in both New Jersey and Arizona and can be reached at www.ajis.com, 623.328.8906.  My firm has used NetVisibilities.

[vi] The Editor in Chief of NJFL is Mark Sobel, Esq.  Other editors include myself, Mark Biel, Esq., Cary Cheifetz, Esq., Robert J. Durst, II, Esq., John E. Finnerty, Esq., Lee Hymerling, Esq., Pat Judge, Jr., Esq., Frank Louis, Esq., Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq., John P. Paone, Jr., Esq., Richard A. Russell, Esq., Brian Schwartz, Esq., Toby Solomon, Esq., John J. Trombadore, Esq., and Margaret Goodzeit, Esq.  Contact any of them if you would like to submit an article for consideration for publication.

Leave a Message

Contact Form Homepage