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Business card sharks

A creative business card can be the ace up your sleeve.

By Michael Rappaport

Pick a card, any card. Chances are if it’s a lawyer’s business card it will be bland and boring — though a handful of cards do standout from the pack.

Why are lawyers’ business cards generally oh, so dreadfully dull? “Most corporate firms want to look ‘professional’ so they don’t really push the envelope too far. There has been a progression to bright, clean graphics, away from the dentist appointment card look in black-and-white. There is a justifiable fear that if they get too cute their image will slip,” explains Paul Kuttner, a principal at innovate! Inc., a legal marketing firm based in Toronto.

Luckily not all lawyers’ business cards are so lackluster. Kuttner adds, “You may find more gimmicky or creative cards among family/real estate/personal injury/criminal lawyers where they are extremely competitive for transactional business and want to make a strong first impression.”

Dare to be different

David Anber is a criminal defence lawyer from Ottawa with a card that will never get lost in the shuffle. His card is stainless steel with his name and contact information etched on and his final initial, an oversized “A” cut out. Anber’s card cost about $2.00 per card and he hands out about 500 cards each year.

“From a marketing perspective it’s worth every penny,” Anber says. “In two or three years from now, when a former client gets in trouble and needs a criminal lawyer, or if their friend or family member suddenly needs a criminal lawyer, I want to be the first person that pops into their mind. I hope that something like this takes place: ‘Honey, Jen got charged with a DUI do we know any criminal lawyers? Yeah, remember that guy with the metal card! Oh right, I think it’s in the kitchen drawer, I’ll pass it on to her’”.

You don’t have to spend a toonie per card to have a card that is a cut above. Online sites such as VistaPrint [www.VistaPrint.ca] allow users to choose from hundred of business card templates and personalize and print 250 cards with a full colour front and blank back for as little as $7.90 including processing and shipping in Canada.

Tap into the creativity of the World Wide Web. If you desire a more creative business card, you may post a project and payment award on CrowdSPRING [www.crowdspring.com]. Graphic designers on the site who are interested in your project and the award offered will submit ideas and you can choose the idea you like.

For lawyer with extensive publishing or lecturing experience, a CD business card — which can store slide presentations, journal articles and audio or video podcasts — can hold much more information than can be printed on a standard 3.5 X 2 inch business card. Media Button [www.mediabutton.com], a multimedia marketing firm based in Vancouver will produce 500 or more CD business cards for as little as 0.99 cents per card depending on the number of cards ordered.

Put a face to a name.

Jim Correila, a law practice advisor with The Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, noted that many real estate agents’ business cards now feature headshots. Correila advises putting your photo on your business card, with the caveat that the photo should be taken by a professional.

Personalize it. Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, regales listeners with the tale of Tulsa attorney Dan Morgan and a neat trick he has for personalizing his business card. Morgan printed sheets of transparent labels with his home phone number, mobile number and personal email address, which he can affix to the back of his cards.

Morgan hands out his special business card with his personal contact information to a few select clients or potential clients as a token of the closeness of their relationship. Use both sides. Vicki S. Porter, a former attorney from Denver, Colorado, modeled her business card after a baseball card, with her title, team and how to get in touch on the front and on the flipside, her educational background, including the year she joined the major leagues as well as her stats, such as the percentage of her practice devoted to various areas of law.

Card etiquette

If you want to be a business card shark, you have to be quick on the draw. You may only have a few minutes at an event or meeting to exchange cards. Correila has a billfold, which he keeps fully loaded with 16 business cards at all times. For easier access, you can keep business cards loose in a pants pocket.

Correila has collected over a thousand cards in the past five years. When Correila attends events and meetings he tries to engage his targets in conversation first, before slipping them his business card. “I try to establish a personal connection, talk about sports or family. Conversations always come around to business anyways,” Correila says.

In poker or blackjack marking cards might get you booted from the card table. If you’re lucky. But in the low stakes game of business card collecting it is often helpful to write notes on the back of cards, so that you can recall details about the card giver afterwards.

After you’ve received a card at a meeting or event, you can use a card scanner, such as CardScan, to drop the contact information directly into Microsoft Outlook’s contacts or a contact management program. Calloway recommends sending follow up letters with a note about the event or meeting to create a connection with your new contacts.