Verdict is good for law firm's custom title

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Dave Harvey had a tough case on his hands. In September 2008, he started work as senior marketing manager for Morrison & Foerster, a 1,000 attorney-strong law firm that caters to technology and life sciences companies.

One of his first ideas was to enhance the firm's marketing with a custom publication, even though the timing was bad. “We were discussing this during the darkest days of the recession, and it's not an insignificant investment to take on this sort of thing,” Harvey said. “Management knew it would be tough to get [it] into the marketing budget, but it survived because everybody embraced the idea.”

Michael Jacobs, partner and co-chairman of the intellectual property group at Morrison & Foerster, added: “We've got a lot of information bottled up in the heads of our lawyers, and we wanted a vehicle to get it out to clients.”

Some of that information is now appearing in MoFo Tech, a custom biannual that debuted in the spring with a circulation of 25,000. Circulation was boosted to 40,000 for the fall/winter issue.

The publication, which is produced by Leverage Media, has a distribution deal with ALM, a b-to-b publisher serving the legal arena. Included in MoFo Tech's total circulation were 6,000 copies of the spring/summer issue that had been polybagged with the August/September issue of IP Law & Business (25,000 circ.). Some 20,000 issues of the fall/winter issue will be polybagged with the January/February issue of Corporate Counsel (40,000 circ.).

“Part of our distribution strategy is to look for appropriate places to ride along with other legal publications,” Harvey said, adding that the law firm plans to stick with a biannual frequency, but will be “opportunistic” regarding circulation.

Distribution is split between existing clients (such as Yahoo and Hitachi) and prospects in California, Colorado, New York and the Washington, D.C., metro area.

MoFo Tech is largely editorial, with house ads on the back flap and back cover. “It is more thought leadership than sales,” Harvey said, adding that the publication is a “good way to generate both new business and raise our visibility with important industry segments.” The law firm generally does not buy traditional advertising.

The cover story of the fall/winter issue, for example, examines the growing number of joint defense groups among competitors in the technology sector. Feature stories include pieces on financing options during the economic downturn; cost savings from so-called “cloud computing”; and harnessing genetics and technology through personalized medicine to improve treatment and reduce medical costs.

“In the legal business, it's so difficult to differentiate yourself. Among the top laws firms, everyone has extremely smart lawyers and a lot of the same practice groups, so you really struggle to find an edge [that allows you] to stand out in the marketplace,” Harvey said. “This kind of vehicle is great for doing that and it's not a vehicle that many law firms are doing.”

The response rate for the first issue was roughly 2.5 reply cards per thousand, compared with the industry average of 1.3 per thousand, Harvey said. “We're definitely looking at this as an ongoing publication,” he said. “It's exciting to see attorneys from throughout the firm get involved.”

While there's a PDF version of MoFo Tech on Morrison & Foerster's Web site, Harvey said management is eager to expand the product online using a microsite, as well as social media and mobile applications.

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