Attorney Peter Bartinek, of the Bartinek Law Firm in Groton, Conn., has been a guest speaker at seminars on civil litigation organized by other firms. He was a panelist at a seminar a few weeks ago on the topic of presenting evidence and expert testimony at trial.
He said his primary motive isn't to cultivate new clients. While he has picked up "a case or two" in the five years since he started participating in seminars, Bartinek said he considers them more a way of keeping himself educated on the topic at hand. "It's the type of thing where you really learn a lot by teaching something," he said.
But Jiran, the Shipman & Goodwin employment law partner, said client cultivation is a valid goal of some seminars.
He said the secret to success is to avoid topics that are overly broad. When holding seminars for prospective clients from the corporate world, the firm might focus on "a particular market, for example a trade group or trade association, in order to highlight our expertise in an area that is important for them."
The bottom line, he said, is for the law firm to impress the seminar attendees with their expertise. "So if someone thinks of labor law [in the future], we would like them to think of us," he said.
Seminars involving existing clients have a slightly different purpose, he said. It's "to show added value by bringing the clients information beyond just the legal work you do," Jiran said.
He says those seminars provide time to talk face-to-face with clients in a setting that is less stressful than instances when there is a specific legal problem to discuss. It's a way to "educate clients and strengthen bonds," Jiran said.
He agrees that webinars are gaining popularity. "I don't think there is any substitute for face-to-face contact, as far as getting new business," Jiran said, "but the Web is a way to reach anyone who has a computer."
WINE AND CHEESE
Giuliani, the law firm consultant, said law firms have two main challenges when offering seminars. The first is providing fresh, useful information to sophisticated consumers. The second is deciding whether the costs are worthwhile.