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Even in a time when just about everyone is at least fairly comfortable with the Internet, not everyone understands what podcasts are — digital media files distributed over the Internet. Podcasts can play voices, music, and other sounds on portable media players and personal computers.
Since Fowler White lawyers frequently speak at seminars or other public functions, their words can easily be transmitted over the Internet via podcasts, and Thomas saw the opportunity immediately.
"When I joined the firm a year and a half ago, I was delighted to see the quantity and quality of newsletters the firm was producing, but I told the lawyers they were missing out on an important medium — podcasting," Thomas said.
Thomas saw a great opportunity to demonstrate what she meant about podcasts in April 2006, when Fowler White's employment group planned its annual seminar. Thomas decided to tape the presentations at the seminar and distribute them over the Internet via podcasts.
"That's what we did, and we got some very interesting and very positive responses," Thomas said. "People thought it was great. One woman said she listened to the podcasts while she was working out, and she said it was a much better use of her time because so many printed things that came to her simply never got read."
In the year and a half since that first experiment, Thomas's department has done a number of other podcasts, and the reaction has been very enthusiastic.
"We've distributed a number of podcasts in-house, and our people listen to them right at their desks," she said. "Some download the podcasts to their iPods. We've even distributed some of our in-house training programs via podcasts because not everyone can arrange their schedules to attend training seminars."
Thomas has worked for laws firms as a marketing person and as a chief operating officer for the past 20 years. She came to Fowler White from a law firm in New Orleans.
"I was chased out of there by Katrina," she said.
Thomas enjoys technology, and she is always looking for new ways to apply it to the marketing side of the legal business.
"I stay on top of emerging issues and how they can be used," she said. "We are always trying to get the maximum amount of exposure possible for the content that we generate. We started sending out weekly electronic newsletters, and we find those are good places to embed our podcasts — people can listen from wherever they happen to be."
Now, Thomas's department is working on a new firm website and on producing and distributing web TV.
"Of course, not every new technology is transferable to what we do here," she said. "But our client base is getting younger, and it is always difficult to keep up because they embrace new technology so quickly."
Some may not think of attorneys as being enthusiastic about constantly learning new distribution technologies, but Thomas said many of the Fowler White lawyers are surprisingly adaptable to new ways.
"I think it is like any other new thing," she said. "You do have some who are early adopters. Others may wait for others to go first, and there's always some who are slow to embrace new concepts.
"But today, things move quickly, and you have to be more of a risk-taker," she said.