Tom Tuft on marketing a well-established family law firm

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Every Friday for the last few weeks I have posted interviews with solo and small firm attorneys who talked to me about their marketing strategies, online and offline, high tech and old school. Today’s (belatedly posted) interview with Tom Tuft is the last interview.

My last interviewee is Tom Tuft, of Tuft & Arnold Law Office, PLLC. We actually collaborated on a CLE for the Ramsey County Bar Association this winter, which was well-attended and well-reviewed. Like me, Tuft is interested in technology, although he is a gadget man (he carried a Fujitsu ScanSnap s1500 in his briefcase), while I prefer one gadget—my laptop.

The Tuft & Arnold website is a good example of a clean, nice-looking, and effective website. It has a lot of information about the firm, its practice areas, and some “handouts” for prospective clients.

Like my own practice, Tuft’s clients tend to hire him only once. This kind of practice requires a fundamentally different marketing approach from a practice with clients who have ongoing legal needs. Instead of cultivating current contacts, one must constantly try to reach new people and new markets.

Keep reading for the full interview.

How long has your firm been up and running?

Fourteen years, since shortly after I was sworn in as a lawyer.

What kind of law do you practice?

I practice primarily in family law and related areas—criminal (domestic assault and DWI), wills, and real estate.

Have you ever hired a marketing consultant?

No, but I am considering it.

Describe your (formal or informal) marketing plan, both online and
offline. In other words, how do you plan to get new clients?

Our general view is that we want our clients to see or hear our name multiple times.  Many of our clients have heard our name from one or two people, they may have seen our name in an ad, and most definitely on the internet.  We pride ourselves on providing excellent legal services and, as a result, get referrals from clients, attorneys, and even former opposing parties.What unique challenges exist for you in trying to reach your potential clients?

Most of our clients use our services once.  Each new case is the result of unique circumstances.

Describe your ideal client(s).

There really is no ideal client for our firm.  For the partners we seek affluent professionals.  However, we have associates at a more modest fee to serve clients of more modest means.

Did you pay someone to design your website?

Carlson Designs charged about $3,500.

Do you advertise, either online or offline?

We have tried newspaper ads and Google AdWords.

Where do you advertise?

I found Google Adwords to be the most effective.  We still have a presence in the yellow pages and the occasional newspaper ad.

Do you use a third-party company to place your ads?

No.

Do you blog?

No.

Do you use online social networking services?

Yes. LinkedIn.

Do you consider your online social networking to be part of your marketing effort?

In a small way.  It certainly keeps my name before certain colleagues.

How well do you keep up with your online social networks?

I check it quite regularly and monitor activity on it.

Has your online social networking activity been worthwhile?

I have received a flattering job offer and referred some business to others on it.  I have enjoyed building the network, but have gotten any business from it.

Any thoughts on online social networking as a marketing method?

I think it will continue to grow.

Do you focus on networking offline?

I try to be present at CLEs, chair committees, and otherwise try to be visible in the bar.  The bar is my best source of referrals.

How do you track the results of (all of) your marketing efforts?

My paralegals inquire of every person who wants to set up an initial consultation.  We know who referred the case and to whom the case was referred.

What part of your marketing effort have you found to be the most effective?

Visibility within the bar on committees with attorneys outside my practice area.

Overall, what percentage of your time or how many hours per week would you say you spend on marketing?

Four.

As a matter of personal interest, what do you use for the following?:

Calendar. Letter size weekly calendar book.  I also keep an online calendar, WebCalendar an open source program.

Tasks / to-dos. A Mac program called Notebook.
Contacts. In my cell phone.
E-mail. Microsoft Entourage [the Mac equivalent to Outlook -ed].
Word processing / document creation. Word.
PDF creation. Mac OS.
Timekeeping. Timesolv.
Billing. Timesolv.
Bookkeeping / accounting. Quicken.

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  • The telephone is still the least expensive most effective marketing tool. The internet, and blogging in particular, is becoming more important to convey one’s bona fides.

    And, without outstanding service, none of the above matters. Still the single most frequent complaint against lawyers is a failure to return phone calls.