Client: legalzoom.com (Los Angeles)
PR Team: The MWW Group (Los Angeles)
Campaign: The Launch of legalzoom.com
Time Frame: January 2001-ongoing
Budget: Under dollars 75,000
Launching a Web site in today's economy would seem about as easy as
pushing an elephant uphill. But MWW decided to shoulder the PR pachyderm
for legalzoom.com, a consumer site that provides forms, instructions and
other services for people seeking to file for divorce, write a will or
accomplish other simple legal activities.
"We started the campaign when dot-coms were failing, and everyone was
talking about the decline of the industry as a whole," explains MWW
account supervisor Larry Barrios. But the continued reluctance of the
legal sector to make a big splash on the Web made legalzoom.com a viable
idea that could be easily communicated to consumers. "We saw this as
something the Internet was perfect for," says MWW SVP and general
manager Harvey Englander.
Rather than spend time courting jaundiced technology journalists,
Englander and Barrios headed straight to consumers through mainstream
The team hoped to avoid the quick death facing many Internet start-ups
by leveraging the star power of site co-founder and famed O.J. Simpson
lawyer Robert Shapiro, and by playing up the high rates lawyers charge.
"Our marketplace was consumers and small business people - stay-at-home
moms who open their own companies, young, married people, even people
getting civil divorces - not The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek or
the legal publications," says Englander.
Even with the obvious utility of the site, Barrios emphasized the need
to make a "big impact" to overcome growing cynicism toward
In mid-February, MWW announced the launch by creating a press kit that
included a false court summons and litigation folder personalized for
each of 150 consumer reporters at national print and broadcast outlets.
The summons ordered reporters to preview the site before its March 12
Biographies, corporate background and other items labeled as
depositions, briefs and evidence were also included. Top-tier reporters
received a judge's gavel with the legalzoom.com logo.
MWW staff set up interviews with Shapiro as tech reporters flocked to
the Internet World 2000 convention in Los Angeles. The agency invited 10
reporters to town for the convention and to attend a March 13 Lakers
game with Shapiro. One-on-one interviews were arranged at the
"It was much more guerrilla marketing of individually contacting
reporters instead of any kind of formal presence," says Englander.
Barrios claims 250 print hits, including The New York Times, the San
Francisco Chronicle and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Shapiro
appeared on the Early Today show, and legalzoom.com was named the Yahoo!
and USA Today site of the week.
Special campaign focus on a Los Angeles AP reporter resulted in two
national wire stories about the site, says Barrios. The Lakers game
spurred stories in Business 2.0, Investor's Business Daily and Fortune
Small Business, and on KCBS-TV and Fortune.com.
In addition to a smattering of tech coverage, the campaign achieved its
goal of mainstream consumer press coverage with hits on the Fox News
Channel, CNN, NBC, Bloomberg TV, Tech TV and PBS. And an additional 30
local television and radio stations nationwide picked up the story.
Though the agency declines to reveal the number of hits the site
averages, MWW claims traffic is now three times what it was prior to the
MWW plans to have high powered trust and estates lawyers draw up
documents for the site. "We want consumer reporters to say they know a
dollars 250 legal zoom will is as good as a will that a lawyer would
charge dollars 2,500 for," Barrios says.
Brian Lee, president of Legal Zoom, says he plans to stick with MWW and
will launch new immigration, landlord-tenant and small claims forms for