Rainmaking with a Law Firm Newsletter

A firm newsletter can be an effective tool for marketing the services of your law firm. It can be used to alert existing clients to preventive law practices and recent legal developments and can also be used to attract new clients to the firm.

Newsletters are not yet widely produced by law firms, although they are likely to become more common during the 1980s. One corporation has reported that of more than 100 law firms retained as special counsel for litigation, securities, labor and other matters, only two provided the corporation with periodic newsletters. The corporation found the newsletters to be a useful source of information on current legal developments and services available from the firms.

A newsletter can help a firm to achieve these goals:

  • Make clients aware of the accomplishments of the members of the firm and their areas of specialty.
  • Help clients to meet their obligations to file reports with government agencies on a timely basis.
  • Inform clients about new developments in the law.
  • Introduce new members of the firm and new areas of firm expertise.
  • Publicize the firm's effort to maintain a high level of service to the profession and to the community.
  • Advise clients about significant litigation in which the firm has introduced successful trial techniques or novel issues of law.
  • Alert clients to the types of services available from the firm.
  • Maintain communications with clients during those periods when the firm is not currently engaged in providing service.
  • Summarize speeches and articles prepared by members of the firm.
  • Provide information about the firm's modern communications and word processing equipment.

 

Adding more detail

For example, a firm adding lawyers to establish a new area of specialization can use a newsletter to provide additional details to the customary announcement sent to clients when the new lawyers are added.

The newsletter concept also can be used by corporate law departments to advise management about current legal developments and extracurricular activities of in-house counsel.

There is an unlimited number of subjects that can be covered in each issue of a firm or corporate law department newsletter. For example, the newsletter can include articles in one or more of the following categories:

  • New laws and regulations
  • New court decisions
  • Due dates for filings
  • Notice of client seminars
  • Preventive law tips
  • Tax and estate planning tips

 

For additional sources of ideas for articles, a law firm or corporate law department can refer to new decisions reported in advance sheets and to current topics covered by lawyer newsletters such as The Corporate Counsel (available from the Corporate Counsel, P.O. Box 3895, San Francisco, Calif. 94199), The Lawyer's Brief (available from Business Laws Inc., 8228 Mayfield Road, Chesterland, Ohio 44026) and The Corporate Secretary (available from American Society of Corporate Secretaries Inc., 1270 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020).

The Production of a Newsletter

A law firm or corporate law department should find the following guidelines helpful for implementing production of a newsletter:

Management. One individual or an editorial board should be given responsibility for determining editorial content, making writing assignments and setting deadlines for submitting articles. Editorial factors should include professional ethics in order to assure that the newsletter complies with the applicable code of professional responsibility.

Submission of articles. The editor should assign article projects to members of the firm to assure a contract supply of articles for the newsletter. Assignments can be based on a combination of factors, including specific issues of the newsletter or subjects for which individual lawyers will be responsible for submitting an article.

Length. The newsletter should be no longer than two to four pages. A short newsletter is more likely to be read by clients and will require less time for preparation.

Preparation of copy. After the editor has reviewed the articles for an issue, a typist can prepare the copy using a typewriter or word processing equipment, or the newsletter can be typeset by a printer. The cost of typesetting may be uneconomical. In either case, a variety of techniques can be used to enhance the visual impact of the newsletter, such as use of a two columns per page format or different sizes and styles of typing elements.

Photographs. Pictures can be used to make the newsletter more personal. It is helpful to keep a photo file of firm members and support staff so that photographs are readily available. For example, a photograph of a firm lawyer can be included with an article discussing his recent accomplishments in the community or the profession.

Graphics. A small investment in design and graphics may yield a large return of reader acceptance. If the newsletter is printed, the printer's staff may be able to furnish advice on graphics or suggest a suitable graphics consultant.

Printing. The newsletter can be duplicated by photocopying or by printing, depending on the size of the mailing list and the firm's financial resources. It is advisable to print more copies than will be needed for distribution to the mailing list to allow for requests for additional copies.

Frequency. The newsletter should be published at regular monthly, semi-monthly or quarterly intervals in order to establish reader interest and loyalty. Alternatively, the newsletter can be published at irregular intervals to cover a collection of legal developments if the firm does not have sufficient manpower or financial resources to publish it on a periodic basis.

Distribution. Subject to ethical considerations, a firm can distribute the newsletter to former, current and potential clients, as well as friends of the firm.

Mailing list. The editorial board can delegate to one individual the responsibility for preparation and maintenance of a mailing list. Members of the firm should review the mailing list periodically to suggest inserting or deleting clients and to correct addresses and attention lines. If the firm does not have word processing capability, the mailing list can be reproduced for each mailing using self-adhesive labels designed for plain paper copiers.

Mailing. The newsletter can be sent first-class mail to assure timeliness. Third-class mail also can be used to reduce mailing costs.

What about the cost?

The cost of publishing a newsletter includes lawyers' time, overhead and out-of-pocket costs. For example, a single issue of a two-page newsletter should take about 25 hours to produce and involve approximately $345 in out-of-pocket costs. Although a subscription fee may be charged to offset the cost of publishing the newsletter, that may discourage readership or reduce the goodwill generated by the newsletter.

Inexpensive marketing

A client newsletter is an inexpensive method for marketing legal services available from a law firm or corporate law department. The subjects covered in a newsletter can provide clients with timely legal information to plan their business, avoid legal disputes and meet filing requirements of government agencies. The goodwill resulting from a newsletter will not only help retain existing clients but also make clients aware of the additional legal services they may need.

Provided by By Michael L. Goldblatt of the American Bar Association. Copyright 1984, American Bar Association. Reprinted with permission of ABA Journal.