Women Mean Business

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The emery boards embossed with the law firm’s name and the Bigelow tea bags surely are among the most unusual marketing materials in the legal industry. But they suit the goals of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold.

The items are part of the San Francisco-based firm’s Women’s Forum, a $100,000-a-year campaign launched last fall to recruit female lawyers and target female cli­ents, especially women who own businesses.

The strategy is simple, according to Kathleen Flynn, director of client relations and marketing. “Women,” she says, “like working with women.”

That basic observation informs a marketing strategy more firms are adopting: reaching out to create networks between female lawyers and their businesswomen clients.

For example, the firm sponsored an issue of a business news­paper that highlighted the Bay Area’s top 100 wom­en-owned businesses, held a reading by the author of Naked in the Boardroom: A CEO Bares Her Secrets So You Can Trans­form Your Career, and hosted a tea at the Waldorf-Astoria (hence the tea bags). Women’s Forum events are so popular that some male lawyers crash them, Flynn says.

Former entrepreneur Susan Morgan also wanted to sup­port women-owned businesses once she became an attorney, so she hooked up with the Women’s Technology Cluster, a San Francisco business incubator dedicated to women-owned technology companies.

“I go to board meetings all the time where I’m the only woman in the room,” she says. “We need more role models for women who want to take the leap in running a business.”

Freebies Pay Off

Through the WTC, Morgan organized office hours during which lawyers from her firm give free one-hour counseling sessions to female business owners. The result: paid work for Morgan’s firm. “As the companies of these women grow, we’re the ones they come back to,” she says.

Male lawyers are targeting women-owned businesses, too. When David Leffler of New York City started his own firm in 1990, he joined the American Woman’s Economic Development Corp., which trained female business owners for 28 years. “Working with women business owners was a fit with my personality,” Leffler says.

Michelle Tidalgo’s San Jose, Calif.-based firm, McManis Faulkner & Morgan, is devising marketing brochures to target women-owned businesses. The text will highlight that women constitute more than three-quarters of the attorneys in Tidalgo’s firm.

“Women aren’t used to asking other women for business,” Tidalgo says. But, she adds, “women are very comfortable with other women giving them legal advice and also with asking for advice from women.”

Kathleen Wu of Andrews Kurth has seen her Dallas-based firm’s efforts to lure women-owned businesses blossom in her 16 years of practice. The firm’s executive women’s retreat has evolved from three small cabins in Aspen, Colo., to 200 women networking at world-class resorts. With a price tag that’s equivalent to a junior partner’s salary, the retreat is an acknowledged business generator.

“It’s no longer a little dirty secret that women don’t want to play golf or go to baseball games,” she says. So Wu’s firm treats female clients to afternoon spa jaunts, cooking classes and hiking trips. Mornings are devoted to legal education and presentations like one by the author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success That Women Need to Learn.

“By the second afternoon, we don’t need name tags or prearranged seating,” Wu says.

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