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posted: 11/4/2013 7:17 AM

Legal briefs: Social media success, outsourcing the nitty-gritty

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The conversational gambit typically goes something like this: "That law firm you wrote about. In the northwest suburbs someplace. Does their social media stuff work?"

Apparently so. But because enough conversations at luncheons and other gatherings I attend actually start like the one above, an update seems appropriate. We'll also look at a small legal services business that provides clerking services -- in many ways the nitty-gritty of lawyering -- in seven mostly Midwestern states.

First, lawyers and social media:

Standing out from the crowd can be as difficult for a law firm as for any small business. That's one reason Colin Gilbert spends "four hours a week, maybe five" on social media -- not a lot for many people but, I suspect, a fair amount of time for the typical suburban attorney.

Gilbert, however, is far more attuned to marketing and promotional opportunities than most lawyers. He is a founding partner at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella LLC, a still-new Palatine law firm that has staked much of its growth plans on social media.

I wrote about the firm's approach in April.

DGAA now has 1,100 likes on its Facebook page, and "We get a lot of community interaction," Gilbert says. Do all those likes translate to new business? "It's hard to quantify success," Gilbert answers. "It's like a billboard. You don't know who sees (the board), but our business is growing.

"Hits on our website went up when we started posting a link to Facebook on our site," Gilbert says. "The thing with Facebook now," he continues, "is to integrate our blog with Facebook postings."

The firm's blog, DGAA bLAWg, is updated about twice weekly. Topics range from estate planning to the legal rights of bicyclists.

DGAA's Thank You Thursday promotion, intended to connect with local businesses, has worked but is being scaled back from weekly to twice monthly. "We're busy," Gilbert says. He remains aware, however, that "more community involvement" still matters. "We need to be on the ground, meeting face-to-face."

Now clerking:

Who knew that lawyers outsource much of their go-here-check-this-get-that work? The folks at Legal Runners Inc. know. More than 600 lawyers, title firms, lenders and property managers use the 10-year old Chicago firm to obtain the paperwork that makes transactions work.

The solo practitioner in Dundee who needs to file court papers downtown but doesn't have staff and therefore must come to the city herself -- or have someone like Legal Runners do the legwork -- is a typical client, explains Judy Hemminger. So, however, are large companies with multistate operations.

"We do water and zoning certifications, tax searches, foreclosure filings. We record deeds" and the like, says Hemminger, office manager at Legal Runners and, literally, the mother hen.

Hemminger's late husband Jim O'Connell was an attorney who created the idea. Now the company is owned by son Bob; Jim III is COO; and Hemminger's son Greg is CFO. There are 12 employees who do clerking work.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at

2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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