February 13, 2015
By Kristen D'Andrea
To sign up consumers, law firms market services to businesses
While meeting with clients, attorney Jennifer Cona was hearing similar stories from individuals caring for their aging parents.
"Some said they had to cut back at work, take leaves or even close their business," said Cona, managing partner at Melville-based Cona Elder Law. "We realized that this is a lot more common than you would think."
Seminars, designed to help working caregivers navigate the elder care landscape, are held onsite at participating companies' offices. Intended to reduce the number of employees coming in late and using work time for personal phone calls, the seminars provide assistance on an array of elder care needs, including government benefits, legal issues and options for financing long-term healthcare.
"We always try to take what we're hearing in client conferences and do something more global,” Cona said. "Our goal is to arm employees with the tools needed to address various elder care scenarios and to encourage working caregivers to plan ahead for legal, financial and healthcare services."
According to a recent AARP study entitled "2014 State of the 50+ on Long Island," two-thirds of working caregivers have lost work time, wages and benefits from pensions and Social Security due to providing care for an aging loved one.
Cheryl Pritzker-Wolff, CFO of CBS Coverage Group, reached out to Genser Dubow on behalf of her 68 employees. "I said, 'Your firm has value to my staff,"' PritzkerWolff said of setting up the initial meeting at her Plainview-based insurance company. One-third of her employees attended the first seminar, during which attorneys "were able to offer great tools on how to broach some difficult topics," she said. Feedback from employee participants has been positive, Pritzker-Wolff added.
"They are not out as often as they feel they might have been had they not had that information available to them," she said. The program benefits are not exclusive to employees, however. "It's really about workplace wellness," Cona said. "Employers want to do more for their employees but not at a high cost." Pritzker-Wolff agreed, noting, "As an employer, to be able to say, 'Here's this resource to help you prepare for unfortunate events in the future,' is a great thing." And, in addition to providing valuable information to those who need it, the educational seminars serve as a marketing tool, helping to generate business for Genser Photo by BobGiglione Dubow. The law firm has seen an uptick in new clients who have participated in the educational programs offered through their employers. Employees who become clients of the firm after attending an educational seminar receive legal services at a discount.
While Genser Dubow began targeting Long Island firms with 100 or more employees for the program, the firm has since expanded to serve companies with 50 or more employees.
"We go through the human resources departments - the ones seeing the issues - who have personnel coming to them with their problems," Cona said. "HR professionals are rightfully very protective of their employees. They want to make sure what you're bringing is valuable."
In fact, the hardest part of the process has been educating HR professionals as to what the program is about, Cona said.
"Once we get through, the program sells itself because people need the information," she said.
Similar to the employer seminars offered by Genser Dubow, Great Neck-based matrimonial law firm Wisselman, Harounian and Associates is looking to partner with Long Island companies to expand its support groups, according to attorney Lisa Gardner.
One obstacle Gardner has encountered is the concern some employers have about partnering with any one law firm exclusively.
"A lot of companies don't like to recommend a particular law firm, so there's a little bit of finesse that goes on with many corporations," she said.
Still, hundreds of people have attended the firm's free, family law-related legal workshops and divorce support groups, such as "Divorce over 50,""Mediation Matters" and "Fathers' Rights," which are intended to provide participants with information, rather than advice.
"We have had a number of retainers over the course of the year, particularly from the seminars and presentations," Gardner said. "The support groups are often attended by people seeking information, and not necessarily ready at the time to move forward with legal proceedings."
Some of them will re-contact the firm months after the free consultation, when they are ready to move ahead, Gardner finds. The firm also gets referrals from people who attend the seminars.
"All of the programming we do, from a marketing standpoint, serves the purpose of promoting our firm and getting our attorneys in front of potential clients," Gardner said.
Partnering with employers to enhance workplace wellness for employees is a winwin for everyone involved.
"It's B-to-B marketing, but the result is B-to-C services," Cona said, noting her firm markets to other businesses but the consumers are the ones who, potentially, become her clients. "It's really unique."