Public relations can be a credible and useful tool in any business’ marketing arsenal to enhance business development and hiring efforts, as well as industry profile. This doesn’t exclude law firms. Many attorneys perceive PR as an unnecessary expenditure requiring too significant a budget to warrant meaningful discussion. However, intelligent attorneys are more ready to recognize PR’s potential, though they require substantive, fact-based reasoning to back it up.
Well-designed public relations initiatives can assist law firms in maintaining or improving their images, further business development and even position specific attorneys as leaders in key markets. Attorneys and firms who are represented across media properties (print, TV, radio and digital) as quoted resources or subject matter experts are perceived as more credible. Additionally, once successfully presented and connected to the media, firms and attorneys are frequently sourced for expert commentary, ultimately leading to even greater credibility.
Most lawyers are acutely aware of the challenge of not only securing but keeping clients. Competition is cutthroat, making the need to rise above that competitive noise paramount. Public relations can serve as a distinctive tool for building and extending a firm’s reputation, practice area differentiation and expert thought-leadership. In addition, PR can also assist with:
Business development/increasing client revenue
Law firms are a business first, legal counselors second. To pay for paralegals, office staff, copy houses, supply stores and technology, a law firm must make money. To ensure a steady stream of clients, law firms regularly seek new business. By the same token, attorneys often research ways to increase billings and hourly rates. An optimal method of justifying this is to showcase your firm’s (or a specific attorney’s) expertise outside a courtroom. Being regularly quoted by the press as a subject matter expert, for example, can vastly improve profile and can serve as the basis for any rate or billing increase.
Improving hiring results
The most sought-after positions are the ones most challenging to obtain. Earning a reputation as a successful and high-profile firm will whet the appetite of the most hungry law school grads and even horizontal hires. If a firm wishes to attract the brightest legal minds, its reputation must be top-notch as a matter of public opinion. Public relations can assist in elevating a firm’s profile and can ensure participation in the most optimal events to procure greater mindshare.
In actuality, public relations and law share numerous similarities. Each class of professional spends significant amounts of time reading and listening, they “prepare” clients and they do a tremendous amount of writing. In addition, professionals from both disciplines are considered counselors and experts in matters that follow established rules and regulations. With several parallels, it stands to reason that a PR investment can become a law firm’s secret weapon.
An area of clear difference, for example, is the use of the phrase “no comment.”
Lawyers love this phrase, believing that by saying nothing, they protect their clients, their cases and themselves. A seasoned public relations professional, however, would typically recommend the opposite since from the media and “court of public opinion” perspective, “no comment” is tantamount to an admission of guilt. In lieu of “no comment,” PR practitioners would instead provide a well-crafted response that answers questions and protects the client and the firm.
Once a firm has determined that a relationship with a public relations firm or professional is worthwhile (a critical first step), it will soon learn that properly chosen PR support will not only deliver solid recommendations, but will also regularly educate firm members about how to successfully address everything from a media inquiry or online review of the firm to social media engagement and on-the-courthouse-steps press blitzes. To learn more about how public relations can support the legal industry, download Axia Public Relations’ free Maximizing your Public Relations e-book today.
Wendy Bulawa Agudelo has more than 15 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and non-profit public relations. In addition to serving on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force, Wendy enjoys cooking and rooting for her favorite New England sport teams.
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