Building a Case for the Chamberlain Hrdlicka Brand
2008 – Present
Chamberlain Hrdlicka, a midsize national law firm with offices in Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Denver, has built a reputation as a national “bet the farm” firm for cases involving complex corporate tax litigation. However, its recognized strength proved to overshadow efforts to brand the firm’s other growing practice areas, such as estate planning, construction, intellectual property, labor and employment, and litigation.
To build awareness of its non-tax focused practices, educate prospective clients on the firm’s broad expertise and manage an overall perception of the brand, Chamberlain engaged Pierpont to develop a comprehensive communications strategy to tell the firm’s story of success in its emerging practice areas.
From the beginning of the engagement, Pierpont designed an outreach strategy with three key objectives:
1) Build a thought leadership platform with a particular focus on the firm’s value proposition to increase Chamberlain Hrdlicka’s national credibility and awareness;
2) Brand each individual Chamberlain practice group as an industry thought leader; and
3) Manage perceptions of Chamberlain’s overall brand in the legal industry.
Building a successful thought leadership platform through stories in national publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, typically requires multiple interviews and outreach over several months. However, Pierpont took a contrarian approach to developing the communications program for Chamberlain: build the thought leadership platform first and use the third-party validation to drive national media coverage.
Pierpont began by identifying the most effective channels for building thought leadership within each practice group, both locally and at the national level. In addition to strengthening its relationships with local Houston media, Pierpont identified two national organizations to provide an immediate platform for thought leadership: American Lawyer Media (ALM), publisher of practice area-specific legal publications and newsletters, and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the national trade association for the human resources industry, which touches, either directly or tangentially, a majority of Chamberlain’s non-tax practice groups.
Pierpont immediately set to work by building relationships with editors in the ALM network and proposing bylined articles authored by Chamberlain practice group leaders. Pierpont also secured webinar opportunities with SHRM to provide visibility and increase awareness of the firm to a bulls-eye group of potential clients. Webinar topics with SHRM, focused on employee benefits and IRS contract law, led to additional presentation opportunities for Chamberlain practice leaders via related trade association groups such as the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and media requests from business radio stations, including Houston’s CNN 650. The cumulative impact was a swell in prospective client inquiries and conversations between Chamberlain’s practice leaders and businesses around the country.
Along with media outreach and webinars, Pierpont developed a social media strategy to drive attention to individual practice areas within Chamberlain. Knowing that today’s reporters increasingly use social media to identify expert sources for their stories, Pierpont worked to place Chamberlain squarely into these online conversations. Pierpont also developed Chamberlain blogs as a cost-effective way to establish individual practice lawyers as industry experts for reporters, clients and prospects alike. Currently, there are four Chamberlain blogs devoted to different practice areas: corporate tax law
, state and local tax law
, sustainable building and construction
, and trusts and estates
. Pierpont worked with each practice group to design the blogs and continues to work with contributors on a regular basis to optimize content and drive traffic through both traditional media outreach and social media avenues, such as LinkedIn.
While many established law firms around the country fell victim to the economic recession and closed their doors, Chamberlain saw its 2009 profits rise 9 percent (and continue to rise year over year), added several new lawyers to its employee roster and opened a fifth office in San Antonio. This incredible growth was due in part to Pierpont’s work in raising awareness of the firm’s expertise and value proposition, especially at a time when billing rates were being closely scrutinized.
Pierpont also secured a number of media and webinar opportunities for Chamberlain, including:
KUHF Business News
: “The sagging economy is causing some law firms to do the once unthinkable: compete on price” (November 2008)
: “American law firms: Shanghai, Dubai, or Bye-bye?” (December 2008)
Fox Business Channel
– “Your Pension and the Recession: Time to Panic?” (March 2009)
The Wall Street Journal
– Page B1, “Midsize Law Firms Pick Up Clients as Companies Turn From Pricey Giants” (July 2009)
The Philadelphia Inquirer –
Front Page Business Section, “Smaller law firms benefit from new trend” (June 2010)
Houston Business Journal
– “Perfectly Positioned: Law Firm’s Focus on Budget-Conscious Clients Adds to Bottom Line” (Strategies piece – September 2011)
: ERISA (December 2009)
- 471 HR directors for the live presentation
- 304 downloads following the live program
: IRS “Worker vs. Contractor” Classification (February 2010)
- 2,010 HR directors for the live presentation
- 1,100 downloads following the live program
American Lawyer Media Webinar:
Technology Limitations on E-Discovery (April 2010)
- 820 attendees for the live presentation
- 575 downloads following the live program
Each of the above provided Chamberlain local and national media platforms to highlight its ongoing value proposition story and effectively illustrate its competitive edge during an economic recession.
In addition to many media and speaking opportunities secured by Pierpont, Chamberlain’s practice blogs have proven to be a valuable business-building tool for the firm. Launched in March 2010, the Tax Blawg is updated on a nearly daily basis, as a team of 10 attorneys have contributed more than 120 posts on a wide range of tax law topics. As of October 2011, the blog has drawn more than 36,000 total page views and more than 60 subscribers, including several in-house tax executives and practitioners at other firms, firmly establishing Chamberlain as a thought-leader in the industry. In fact, many Tax Blawg contributors continue to be sought on a regular basis to present at industry events across the country and serve as expert sources on critical issues for reporters nationwide.