Compile and Keep on Computer a Comprehensive Mailing List

By Trey Ryder

Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for Lawyers. He designs dignified marketing programs for lawyers and law firms in the United States, Canada and other English-speaking countries. Trey works from his offices in Payson, Arizona and Juneau, Alaska. To read more of Trey’s articles, visit the Lawyer Marketing Advisor at

Your most important business asset is your mailing list. It’s your own personal area of influence. It should include your current clients, past clients, referral sources, prospects and media contacts. Whether your list contains 20 names — or 2,000 names — these people are the core around which you build a successful, prosperous firm. As you attract an ongoing flow of new inquiries, keep  all of your prospects’ names and addresses on your mailing list.

The critical element in your marketing program is your ability to add names of prospective clients to your mailing list. You want to attract names at whatever rate will bring you the number of new clients you want. How long you leave prospects on your mailing list will depend on how long your prospects need to make their decision and at what point the list becomes unmanageable.

Here are five steps to making your mailing list the key element in your marketing program:

STEP #1: Create a database that contains at least four primary groups: (1) past and present clients, (2) prospective clients, (3) referral sources, and (4) media contacts.

STEP #2: Add names to your list from (1) new inquiries that come from your marketing efforts, (2) prospects added by referral from outside sources and people already on your mailing list, (3) desirable prospects you add because you’d like to win them as new clients, and (4) publication editors and broadcast producers at media outlets that reach your target audiences.

If you have corporate clients you’d like to represent, go ahead and add their names to your mailing list. Then you can send them your newsletter, invite key personnel to seminars, offer to present a seminar in-house, and so forth. The same holds true for sources of referrals.

In my CLE seminars, I’ve found that many lawyers don’t think it’s ethical to add names to their list without the prospect’s permission. But the bar counsel that I’ve heard address this subject say it’s fine. (This can vary from state to state, so be sure to check with your local bar counsel.)

As I understand ethics rules, most state bar associations forbid direct contact of a person known to need legal services, such as the accident victim whose name you get from the police report. But a person “known to need legal services” is different from people “who might at some future time need legal services”.

STEP #3: Categorize and code names on your mailing list so you can bring up names by category. For example, you may want to send a mailing to referral sources. You might write a news release to mail to editors and producers. You might want to mail something only to prospects. And so forth. Also, you might break down your clients by the dollar amount of fees they have paid (or might pay), date of most recent services, type of services you rendered, date the name was added to your list, and the prospect’s value based on whatever criteria you set.

STEP #4: Leave names on your mailing until (1) they have had a reasonable amount of time to make a decision to hire your services, (2) their priority is so low that they do not justify space on your mailing list, (3) you think they are no longer likely to benefit your practice with direct business or referrals, or (4) your list grows so large that it becomes unmanageable.

STEP #5: Mail to your list of clients and prospects displaying Address Service Requested on the envelope, or any of three other available captions depending on the category of service you want. (The old Address Correction Requested is no longer used.) The post office will forward the mail, return the mail, notify you of the address change, or take whatever action you have chosen. Check with the mailing requirements office at your post office for the latest details about this service.

Note: Do not use these specialized captions on mailing lists that you rent. If you do, you could pay a fortune for bad addresses on a list that isn’t yours. Confine these specialized and valuable services to your own in-house mailing list.

Your database of names is critical to your success. Whether you send newsletters through the post office — or Alerts by e-mail, as I do — you can attract new clients and expand your database with ongoing communications that are relevant to your target audience’s needs.