by Ambrose Clancy
Protect what you’ve built.
This isn’t just a survival tactic but a growth strategy for the Melville-based law firm of Cona Elder Law. It’s also the reason why Jennifer Cona was recently in a TV studio taping 30-second ads to promote the firm’s brand, which began running this week on Cablevision.
Cona, who came on board as a partner with Genser Dubow 10 years ago, practices elder law and has, since the beginning, established a solid reputation in this booming niche of law. Elder law involves planning and administering estates, tackling legal issues involving Medicare and Medicaid and advising on guardianship for elderly people.
Over the past year or so, attorneys with no experience in the field have recognized elder law as a hot area due to a graying population, while other fields of law are stagnating or going south, such as real estate law, Cona said.
“Some attorneys just call themselves elder lawyers and this is a problem because they make all kinds of mistakes,” she added, resulting in heartbreak for families. “These TV ads will solidify our position in the market and helps us to stay on top.”
The firm has seen outstanding growth, expanding from a staff of three to 18, and doubling the numbers of clients in the past seven years. Genser Dubow represents families as well as health-care facilities such as nursing homes. The latter side of the practice skyrocketed almost 300 percent over the past four years.
Sticking to specific strategies has solidified the firm’s leading position. One method was to go against the grain of traditional networking. We found it a waste of time going to broad, neutral groups like Chambers of Commerce,” Cona said. If there’s no opportunity for cross referrals, such as other law firms or directors of nursing homes, there’s little opportunity to expand the client base. And if you’re starting out, sacrifice
your personal time to face-time networking. “In the beginning I was at every lunch, every dinner,” Cona said.
Staying close to your clients is essential, and Cona burns the midnight oil putting out a newsletter sent to everyone in the firm’s database at least every two months.
“I write it myself, which is no small task,” Cona said with a laugh. “There’s so much information about elder law and our clients need real answers.” In addition, the firm publishes a comprehensive guidebook on elder law which goes to all clients and those interested in Genser Dubow’s services.
But another strategy is to go beyond printed communication and serve the community at large. “It’s important to give back, and that’s why we have the Elder Law Hot line,” Cona said, referring to a program the firm rolls out several times a year. All attorneys clear their schedules and field calls, answering all questions. “It’s instant gratification for people and for us,” she said. “People get a one-on-one with an attorney. They love it.”
Get a pro, as in a public relations consultant, to help you spread the word, Cona advises. “You can be the best at what you do, but if no one knows, where does it get you?” she said.
Every business is only as good as the people who conduct it, Cona believes, and she puts a premium on hiring the right person for the job. “When we started, we treated every client as if they were the only client,” Cona said. But with growth this became more and more difficult, so new and appropriate people had to be brought in to keep the personal touch alive,” she added.
The personal aspect is essential in the type of law she practices. “We become so involved with clients, we get to know them so well and we have a personal dynamic with them,” she said. “When you hire someone, you have to be absolutely sure they have the same values you do.”