A TCL REPORT
TCL Please Tell Us Which Firm You Are With, How Long You've Been With The Firm, What Your Practice Area Is, And How Long You've Been Practicing Law
Antoinette M. Tease, P.L.L.C. I started my own practice in 2003 after practicing in-house and in private practice with large firms for 12 years. My practice area is intellectual property. I have been practicing law since 1991.
TCL When You Hear The Word "Marketing" What Comes Immediately To Mind?
When I hear the word “marketing,” I think of effective ways to make my presence and qualifications known to potential clients. Because I specialize in intellectual property, my clientele are generally very well educated, technologically savvy, entrepreneurial and creative. I try to target my marketing to forums in which those types of people participate, such as business incubators, inventors’ groups, universities, museums, and National Public Radio.
TCL Why Are You Successful At Marketing Yourself? Why Do Others Believe You Are Successful At Marketing Yourself?
I approach marketing in a non-traditional way. For example, one of the first things I did after starting my own practice was to register three trademarks, one of which is my logo (a “T” in a circle). My logo is featured prominently on my website, and I have even positioned it on a carry-on bag that garnered numerous compliments at a recent American Bar Association function. While IP attorneys routinely register trademarks for our clients, I do not know many IP attorneys who have their own registered trademarks and who use them to develop a brand for themselves.
When I was at the Crowley law firm, we started the first print newsletter in Montana dedicated solely to intellectual property topics. The Crowley firm was always very supportive of all of my marketing ideas, and I was lucky to have begun my career as a Montana attorney there. As a solo practitioner, I began publishing the first electronic newsletter in the state devoted to intellectual property and our newsletter now has nearly 1000 subscribers located all over the world.
In addition, I recently persuaded Western Business Magazine (now called Billings Business) to start publishing a list of all patents issued to Montana inventors based on information I compile each month. I felt that this was an important resource for the public and my legacy to the community.
To date, my marketing efforts have been well received. I regularly receive comments on my newsletter and my contacts with the IP community consistently yield new clients. As a solo practitioner I cannot afford marketing that is not targeted to a relevant audience, and I do not believe that any marketing is effective if it is not sincere.
TCL At What Marketing Skills Do You Believe You Excel?
I have given, organized and moderated dozens of presentations involving intellectual property during the course of my career, from local to national and even international audiences. One of my favorite presentations was to an eighth grade class at Laurel Middle School that was considering downloading music for a class project. I was asked to come and speak to them about the legalities of downloading music, and that talk resulted in my being invited back to train the entire Laurel School District administration and faculty on copyright basics. My most enjoyable “marketing” experiences are when I feel I can make a real-world difference, for example, by convincing eighth graders to do the right thing.
Visual presentations are also an important part of marketing. I designed my own website, as well as the format for my e-newsletter. I am compulsive about keeping my website up-to-date (for example, it includes links to all of my issued patents and published applications), and that is made easier by the fact that my ten-year-old son does all of the programming for my website!
TCL How Have You Developed The Marketing Skills You Have Now?
I have developed my own marketing strategies through a combination of listening to others who have been successful at marketing, observing effective and not-so-effective marketing approaches, and simply trying new things. I take some of my ideas from other (non-legal) professions or industries and then try to apply them to the legal arena. An example of that would be my website. I had observed other (non-lawyer) websites with revolving photo galleries, and I thought it would be nice for my clients (particularly those with whom I deal only over the phone or by email) to see me working with other clients or in a particularly Montanan context. So I included a revolving photo gallery on my home page.
TCL Do You Consider Yourself A Leader?
I devote a considerable amount of time to participating in Bar activities, both at the state level and with the American Bar Association. I served for three years on the Montana State Bar CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Institute, and I am currently one of only eight division chairs nationally within the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law. With my specialized practice, it is important to maintain connections not only with my colleagues in the Montana State Bar, but also with IP practitioners throughout the country. These organizations provide me an opportunity to develop my contacts in the legal community and to serve in leadership roles within the Bar. As a solo practitioner, I do not have the opportunity to develop leadership skills within a firm, so I rely on Bar organizations to provide those opportunities.
TCL Are You Alone Responsible For Your Marketing Effort? If Not, How Are Others Involved Or Is It Executed As A Team Effort?
Because I have no employees, I do all of my marketing by myself.
TCL What Do You Find To Be The Most Effective Approaches To Marketing Yourself?
I have found that in-person presentations directed toward Montana and Wyoming audiences are effective in generating new clients, although I believe that my electronic newsletter and website, as well as my sponsorship of National Public Radio, have also been effective marketing tools. I also serve on Advisory Boards for business and technology incubators in Billings and Bozeman, Montana, and I have been asked to serve on the Advisory Board for the Montana World Trade Center due to the fact that much of my practice is international. The single most important factor in successful marketing, however, is doing great work at reasonable fees. Partly by virtue of the fact that I work from home, I have been able to keep my expenses down, which enables me to keep my billable rate significantly lower than most other patent attorneys.
TCL What Approaches Have You Found To Be Least Effective?
The vast majority of my clientele are computer-savvy, which means that having an Internet presence is critical. My website currently comes up first if you do a Google search for “Montana patents.” Among my clientele, most forms of print advertising are simply irrelevant.
TCL What Percent Of Your Time Do You Dedicate To Marketing? What Percent Of This Time Do You Dedicate To A) Current Clients; B) Prospective Clients; C) General Reputation Building?
Because everything you do to keep a current client happy technically constitutes “marketing,” and because nearly everything I do involves general reputation building, I would say that 100% of my time is devoted toward marketing in one form or another. I probably devote about 75% of my time toward billable work and 25% of my time to non-billable work, which includes marketing (seminars, newsletter, website, advisory board work, etc.).
TCL Do You Have A Niche? If Yes, How Would You Describe It?
Yes, my niche is intellectual property, which includes patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets, as well as a variety of contracts relating to intellectual property (software development, licensing, IP assignment agreements, publishing contracts, etc.).
TCL Do You Have A Plan? How Often Do You Review It? What Does It Include?
I do not have a formal marketing plan, but I do review my presentation commitments at least once a year, write an article for my e-newsletter monthly, and add new clients to my website twice a year. I also have developed a network of foreign patent and trademark associates to whom I refer work, and many of those relationships have become reciprocal. I have prepared a schedule of fees for foreign associates, and I periodically email my updated fee schedule to them.
TCL Do You Have A System For Marketing-Every Day, Every Wednesday, Calendar It?
Marketing is such an integral part of what I do that I think about it every day.
TCL Which Of The Following Tactics And Strategies Have You Used And How Effective Were They?
With Current Clients:
- Learning the client’s business and industry _3_
- Building a genuine relationship with the client (personal and professional) _4_
- Knowing more than one key person at the client company _2_
- Reading extensively about the client’s business _1_
- Providing the client with regular updates about work in progress and staffing _4_
- Spending non-billable time thinking about ways to help the client grow his/her business _3_
- Introducing other practice areas of your firm to existing clients with a view to cross-selling the firm’s services _N/A_
- Other (please specify) Doing great work at reasonable rates _5_; Treating the client’s business as your own _5_
With Prospective Clients:
- “Cold calling” prospects you are interested in representing _0_ (I never do this)
- Writing articles in journals that address the problems or opportunities or prospective clients _2_
- Developing a blog _0_
- Giving talks _5_
- Attending networking events _3_
- Networking with other professionals _4_
- Attending professional conferences _1_
- Serving on charitable and community boards _4_
- Being involved in alumni activities of both law school and the firm _3_
- Other (please specify) Doing great work for existing clients _5_
TCL How Long Did It Take You To Develop Your Book Of Business?
It took me about two months to develop a full book of business, but I am constantly accepting new clients on a selective basis.
TCL How Do You Keep Yourself Motivated To Market?
I love marketing, so I don’t need to “keep myself motivated.” I like to ask questions and listen to people talk about what motivates them—inventors are particularly passionate about pursuing their ideas. Marketing really means getting to know people, learning about their businesses, and becoming part of the team. That is all fun to me.
TCL What Advice Would You Give Other Lawyers Who Want To Improve Their Marketing Skills?
Be sincere and focus on your clients. Do things that reflect your personality and that are relevant to your practice area. Don’t be afraid to try something that no one else is doing. Be creative. Love what you do and excel at it.
TCL Anything Else You Would Like To Add?
I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to attend Harvard University as an undergraduate, and that opportunity has opened doors for me not only in terms of marketing but in my career in general. As I stated in the beginning, part of my marketing strategy is branding, and part of my brand is who I am and where I came from. There are some 400 or so Harvard graduates in Montana, and I am currently Treasurer of the Harvard Club of Montana.