Crisis Public Relations

Can Your Law Firm’s Reputation Afford to Take a Hit?

In recent months, we have been witnesses to truly remarkable situations, including law firm leader indiscretions, legal malpractice claims, harassment and discrimination lawsuits, negative revenue reportscyber breaches and the departures of large practice groups. What is your law firm doing to proactively protect one of its most valuable assets – its reputation? 

In life and business, reputation is everything. It only takes one misstep to cause irreparable damage to a law firm and its attorneys. And for a large law firm, the question isn’t whether this crisis will occur but when it will occur. Life happens, mistakes happen, and crises happen. And when that moment arises, a law firm needs to truly understand the value of its reputation and why it should do nearly anything to preserve that reputation.

During the Legal Marketing Association’s 2019 national conference this month, I joined Gina Rubel of Furia Rubel Communications Inc.; John Byrne, chief marketing officer of Gould & Ratner LLP; and Jasmine Trillos-Decarie, chief client service officer of Stoel Rives LLP, to discuss how to prepare for a crisis — as well as the tactics that your business development, marketing and communications team can deploy to guide your firm’s leadership through a crisis.

Here are our key takeaways from that presentation:

  1. Develop an internal culture of reporting. Unless you can obtain speedy access to all the information that you need, your crisis management efforts will never succeed and the crisis will fester. This is rule #1 for a reason.
  • Build a strong relationship with the firm’s general counsel. Any crisis involves legal aspects as well as PR and communications issues. You need to work as a team with the firm’s legal representatives, and you should build that relationship well in advance of the crisis.
  • Communicate carefully with all parties. You should coordinate all your internal and external communications, stick to a consistent message and appoint a limited number of spokespeople for the firm.
  • Build a foundation of reporter relationships. Again, do this well in advance of the crisis. Your crisis messaging will be much better received by reporters and bloggers who know and trust you. This is time well spent.
  • Be prepared to bring in outside consultants. The best PR and communications consultants have been there before – many times – and can step right in as a member of your team. They are well worth the expense.