Client Q&A: How Law Firm Baker Donelson Uses Webinars to Cover the Distance

by ON24


... we are using our content to connect with clients and prospects - and webinars help us do that well, across a broad geography.

As a super-regional firm, Baker Donelson (the 60th largest law firm in the U.S.) is home to more than 800 attorneys representing over 30 practice areas in 24 offices across 10 states. The firm’s most recent growth spurt came with the recent completion of a merger with Baltimore-based Ober|Kaler, resulting in Baker Donelson becoming home to the third-largest health practice in the country.

When it comes to marketing such a large and geographically dispersed enterprise, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer, Adam Severson, says: “We are always looking for ways to more efficiently promote the thought leadership of our attorneys and connect with clients across a broad geography." 

I recently sat down with the firm’s Director of Marketing, Jeff Hirka, to talk about Baker Donelson’s successful use of webinars as a key marketing tool to address this challenge and build connections between attorneys and clients/prospects.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning with the firm’s overall strategy. Why webinars?

For a firm likes ours that represents clients in more than 40 states, webinars have become a bigger part of our strategy because they're an efficient way to reach clients across our footprint and beyond.

Webinars are a successful extension of our ongoing, in-person events and seminars, which we’ve been doing for quite some time. Face-to-face is still really valuable to our attorneys and clients; however, webinars - which foster similar, interactive connections - give us the ability to reach a broader geography.

Q: Have your practice groups and attorneys taken well to webinars?

Yes. We do about 200 events and seminars a year. Last year, webinars made up about 30% of those events (the other being, again, in-person). As the firm has integrated webinars into our marketing and business development efforts, we have seen a pretty steady increase in demand. Last year there was a 79% increase in webinars, with only a very small reduction of in-person events. Webinars have expanded our events, not replaced them. 

...webinars have been a way for us to expand upon the success of what is special about an event — when people can connect with each other.

Again, for our firm, webinars have been a way for us to expand upon the success of what is special about an event — when people can connect with each other. Webinars don’t necessarily replace events, they just enable you to expand upon their value with the efficiency of using technology to reach multiple targets.

Q: Who is your audience? Do you target just clients? Or clients and prospects? 

We target both audiences: existing and prospective clients. While we target both, it does vary depending on the purpose for the webinar.

Most of our webinars cover recent and relevant legal issues meant to help clients and prospective clients make better business decisions. Labor & Employment, Long Term Care and Financial Services are good examples.

We also host webinars just for specific clients who might have multiple offices and need to get together around a specific issue. We’ll offer CLE credit and address whatever questions/issues they need to know. 

Q: How does an attorney or practice group decide upon a webinar? What’s involved in the process?

Our team is pretty plugged into the practice groups and attorneys, and stays on top of opportunities as they come up. 

When an attorney has an idea for a webinar, our business development and events team meet with the attorney to discuss strategy. They formulate the purpose, objectives, target audience, budget and logistics. This is a key step in the process where the plan, along with roles and responsibilities are established.

Most of our webinars cover recent and relevant legal issues meant to help clients and prospective clients make better business decisions...

From that point, our events team manages execution.

In the initial  conversation the team will also evaluate: would this be a better fit as an in-person event, or should it be a webinar? And again, as our attorneys have become more accustomed to webinars, we’ve seen a steady increase. It’s a natural growth.

Q: Have some practice groups taken to webinars more than others? 

Nothing definitive, but the Labor & Employment group might be an interesting example. 

Labor & Employment issues obviously impact every business and they host a lot of in-person seminars throughout the year and across offices. Last year, when the new overtime regulations came out is a good example of how they utilized webinar technology. Overall, we did nine different webinars on this topic, but it was the two right after the regulations came out that really stand out. 

...webinars rather than in person events enabled us to connect with over 400 clients within days of the new regulations coming out. 

There wasn’t a set date for when the regulations would be released but we knew we wanted to quickly get in front of clients and explain the impact. We looked at a webinar as the best option. Once the regulations were available, we were able to get invitations out and host the webinar within two days. We had over 200 people attend. We held a separate webinar four days later and again had over 200 attendees.

Doing webinars rather than in person events enabled us to connect with over 400 clients within days of the new regulations coming out. 

Q: Do you use Labor & Employment webinars to cross-sell to clients served by other practice groups?

Yes. The Labor & Employment group covers such a wide range of issues and always seems to have a lot of content. We cross-sell and cross-promote this group and the webinars they host. 

Q: Can you walk us through the internal process once your team has decided to do a webinar?

It starts with the strategy discussion I mentioned earlier. From there, we move into execution mode with our events team taking the lead  creating target list, invitations, venue setup, schedules, timelines etc. 

Our events and business development teams are aligned by practice group, so they end up working with the same team members on each event. They have weekly calls to stay in sync on upcoming deadlines and key dates. This structure has really helped build continuity with our events, understand what works for a practice group and establish a good relationship with the attorneys. 

As for the process itself, we work with a continuous improvement mindset to define and refine the steps that will make it as efficient and effective as possible. 

There are a lot of moving parts and the events team works with a number of other team members on execution. Graphics for the invitation, database coordinator to develop the target list in our CRM system, digital marketing coordinator to setup the campaign in our marketing automation platform and to administer the actual webinar. 

Our best practice is to send the invitations four weeks in advance and send a reminder. 

The attorney creates the presentation and hands it over to our graphics team. Our designers make it presentation ready and review against brand guidelines, then send it to our digital marketing coordinator. We like to have the PowerPoint done three to five days before so it can be loaded into the ON24 platform.

Our digital marketing coordinator does a training session with the attorneys and administers the actual webinar. practice is to send the invitations four weeks in advance and send a reminder. 

Q: Describe the training. Is this before every webinar?

The digital marketing coordinator is responsible for setting up the training session. They talk through how the webinar technology works and roles during the actual webinar. Typically it can be 30 minutes to an hour. With the more experienced attorneys who have been doing webinars for a while, it may be a quick walk-through. The ON24 platform is really user friendly and attorneys pick it up quickly.

Q: With attorneys so comfortable, do you strive to make your webinars interactive?

We do, starting with the invitation. During online registration we ask for questions the attendee would like the presenter to cover. Engagement starts then and we encourage questions along the way. The Q&A window next to the presentation during the webinar is a really nice feature. 

During online registration we ask for questions the attendee would like the presenter to cover...

We’ve started to experiment with polling, too - but that’s an area for improvement.

Q: Which leads to analytics and follow-up. Can you talk about what you do there?

Follow-up is key part of our process - and we follow up with both the attorney and attendees.  

For each webinar, we look at a number of KPIs and use them to establish (or measure against) benchmarks for different practice groups. The marketing and business development team does a debrief with the attorney to determine what worked and what didn’t.

We hear: “Someone attended and had a question for me and it lead to a new matter…”

For example we look at the number and quality of attendees. How many people attended, who were they? Did we get the audience we wanted?  

We provide the list of registrants and attendees to the attorney - sometimes just for their point of reference, other times to talk about it and plan next steps (a best practice). It depends on the event - again, tied to that initial objective determined in the kick-off meeting.

We send out a formal “Thank you” that goes to all attendees. They can click in the email to see other webinars.

We also hear, anecdotally, from our attorneys: “Someone attended and had a question for me and it lead to a new matter…” Love hearing those examples. 

Q: Fantastic! And a last question from me, do you tie your webinars to other existing content?

We do, but we’re focusing on doing it even more and better. We recently brought on board a Content Manager and she’s looking at all content, making sure its repurposed and tailored for each platform — break a webinar into three or four tweets and a blog post, etc.

The key to all of this: repurposing content. Over the past year-and-a-half we’ve been more focused on identifying key topics and building a content campaign around them, an integrated plan with the goal of multiple touch points.

The key to all of this: repurposing content ... an integrated plan with the goal of multiple touch points.

Sometimes we use our analytics - including JD Supra Trend Alerts and our firm’s analytics on that platform - to identify trending topics. We’ll take that knowledge to the attorneys. Sometimes our attorneys come to us and know exactly what they want to cover. Sometimes it’s more consultative. We discuss. 

In the end, we are using our content to connect with clients and prospects - and webinars help us do that well, across a broad geography.


[Samantha McKenna is a Senior Director, Sales at ON24. Connect with her LinkedIn to learn how webinars can supercharge your firm's content efforts.]

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