Law firm media relations & communications

March 31, 2010

The directories debate: We’re asking the wrong question (part I)

Filed under: law firm,law firm communications — John Tuerck @ 8:16 pm

The ongoing debate over the merits of law-firm directories like the Chambers guides flared anew on the LawMarketing List Serv (subscription required), a well-regarded resource for legal marketing experts. Larry Bodine, the founder of the list serv, expresses his unequivocal disdain for directories in general and Chambers in particular. In support, Bodine cites a recent Times of London article reporting on the finding of a recent survey that “only three percent [of general counsel in companies that hire firms] said that they have been influenced significantly by information in the directories.”

“Now law firm marketers can toss the vaunted Chambers directory on the heap with the soggy yellow pages dumped on their driveways, Superlawyers, Avvo and the 950 other surveys and rankings of law firms,” Bodine writes in a message posted to his list serv. “Statistically significant evidence proves that all of them generate little to no new business for law firms.” [Emphasis in original, as lawyers would say.]

Not every legal-marketing expert in the debate takes Larry’s view; some contend that a Chambers ranking can validate the decision by counsel to hire a firm, while others believe it can serve as a tiebreaker in, say, a competitive RFP with other, equally qualified firms. The general consensus, however, is that the substantial cost in time, money and effort that firms invest outweighs any benefit from a directory ranking.

I side with Larry and the others but wonder if we’re asking the right question. It’s fine that legal-marketing experts generally agree that directories like Chambers tend not to influence hiring decisions by general counsel. But the consensus view matters little if law-firm dynamics prevent or impede in-house marketing experts from stepping back and raising the issue with firm leadership of whether the benefits of participating in the directory process outweigh the costs.

The real question, then, is how in-house marketing experts can have a say in whether their firms should participate in the directory process. That question goes to the heart of the dynamics of the relationship between the law-firm partnership and professional staff, and addressing it here would result in a post longer than a Tolstoy novel. I’ll explore the answer in part II.

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March 29, 2010

And now, for something completely different — or not?

Filed under: law firm media relations — John Tuerck @ 8:36 pm

As many pundits have observed, the fierce debate over health-care reform reflects the larger question of the proper scope of government in in economic matters. A clever take on that question is this YouTube video, “Fear the Boom and Bust — a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem.” The video, an innovative blend of style and substance, has garnered more than one million views.

So what does this have to do with law-firm media relations? The decades-old debate between Keynesian theory and the free-market approach of Friedrich von Hayek is important, yet esoteric. Nevertheless, the producers of the YouTube video linked above have found a creative way to frame the debate. In a similar vein, media-savvy lawyers are adept at translating complex legal concepts for a lay audience. That’s not to suggest that lawyers should be posting rap videos to YouTube, but the message is clear: If they can cut through the legal jargon and tell their story in a clear, engaging way, the audience will pay attention.

March 26, 2010

Legal ‘speed dating,’ or why not all publicity is good publicity

Filed under: Media coverage — John Tuerck @ 3:49 pm

Toyota’s purported problem with the sudden acceleration of several of its models has been a PR debacle for the company. To some extent, this is a self-inflicted wound, as the Japanese automaker was slow to respond to the building crisis and only grudgingly addressed the issue months after it surfaced.

At the same time, the lawyers lining up to represent prospective plaintiffs in litigation against the company hardly bathed themselves in glory in today’s Wall Street Journal. In “Lawyers Play Speed-Date in Toyota Suit Tussle,” writer Dionne Searcey paints an unflattering portrait of plaintiffs’ lawyers jockeying before a panel of federal judges in San Diego for the sake of consolidating the various suits in their preferred venue — all to put themselves in the best position to reap the anticipated attorneys’ fees generated by the complex litigation. A Los Angeles lawyer cited in the story compared the scene to the “floor of the New York Stock Exchange.”

Toyota has only recently righted the ship in the PR battle to repair its tarnished image. Stories of fee-seeking plaintiffs’ lawyers bellying up to the bar will only help the beleaguered automaker, which goes to show that for lawyers involved in high-profile  litigation, silence can be golden.

March 24, 2010

The health care law: A PR bonanza for lawyers?

Filed under: Media coverage — John Tuerck @ 9:35 am

Setting aside the merits of the new health care regime, there’s no debating the opportunity to obtain terrific visibility for many lawyers and law firms. It’s not just attorneys advising health care providers and hospitals who have an unprecedented occasion to showcase their expertise. Also benefiting are attorneys who practice in other areas affected by the bill — e.g., employee benefits, labor, ERISA, and insurance, among many others. Take just one example: As the Heritage Foundation explains, under one new rule in the House reconciliation bill, “companies with 50 or more workers that do not offer a ‘qualified’ health plan or pay 60 percent of health insurance premiums would face an annual tax penalty of $2,000 per full-time worker.” Given the broad reach of the new rule, there is a vast audience — companies and employees alike — with an immediate interest in exactly how the new rule works, and how it affects them. That’s just one opportunity, and with 153 pages in the House reconciliation bill, there are dozens of others for lawyers and law firms looking for a bit of visibility.

March 15, 2010

Apple v. Google

Filed under: Media coverage — John Tuerck @ 8:45 pm

The impending battle of tech titans, as covered in Sunday’s New York Times, offers an ideal opportunity to garner visibility for IP practices at leading law firms. As described in the article, erstwhile business partners Google and Apple are edging towards open conflict over cellphones. Why is this an opportunity for IP practitioners? Because the battle will be on the patent front, and the reporters covering it will need help in translating the action for readers. The Times and the Wall Street Journal drive coverage by other media, and Sunday’s article is the opening salvo in what promises to be a promising opportunity for PR pros at law firms.

March 12, 2010

Creating Powerful Credentialing Activities Through Proactive PR

Filed under: Published articles — John Tuerck @ 3:08 pm

It’s not difficult to promote a headline-making victory at trial or a high-profile IPO. More challenging and rewarding is the practice of helping reporters write the next story. In an article published in the February 2010 edition of Strategies, the journal of the Legal Marketing Association, I offer suggestions on how PR professionals can spot the next story and help their attorney-clients obtain a valuable business-development credential in the process. To read the article, please click the following link: Creating Powerful Credentialing Activities Through Proactive PR

Cutting through the clutter

Filed under: Posts — John Tuerck @ 10:36 am

Lawyers address complex issues, but the aim of this blog is to present simple and straightforward tips on how they can help their firms cut through the clutter of today’s media and distinguish themselves in an ultra-competitive marketplace.

A recovering lawyer and former journalist, I’ve held in-house positions in the marketing departments at two Am Law 100 firms — Hunton & Williams and Ropes & Gray. I draw on that experience when advising clients on a variety of marketing and communications initiatives, from media plans for practice groups to crises and issue management and the publication of attorney-authored articles. I also provide strategic direction on legal directories such as Chambers, improvements to client alerts and other electronic communications, and the drafting and editing of written content.

Please contact me at jtuerck@gmail.com or 781-801-7381.

– John

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