Posted by: johnocunningham | April 24, 2015

Do Law Firms Need Help Communicating?

According to Bloomberg BNA, Aric Press, the long-time publisher and editor-in-chief for American Lawyer Media, has opened a new chapter in his career and he is betting on the belief that law firms need and are willing to purchase a lot more help with their communications.

In particular, Press is reportedly aiming to help law firms to have more and better conversations with clients and journalists while improving the authenticity, accuracy and effectiveness of their branding efforts.

What is striking to me about this report is the following: Aric Press spent a long time covering all of the news affecting all of the biggest law firms in America, and he is firmly convinced that one of the things law firms need most is help with understanding press communications, client communications and go-to-market messaging. This is quite a statement when you consider that law firms are full of brilliant people trained in the art of legally parsing words and, at least in theory, communicating with juries and judges.

Some of Press’s career insights, as reported to Bloomberg, are particularly poignant to me and should be to law firms, including:

  • Law firms that are unprepared for a crisis just circle the wagons and start firing at reporters who call them about something they prefer not to talk about;
  • The future belongs to law firms who understand their clients, stay close to them, and obsess over where they are headed and what they need to get there;
  • Clients buy value and not billable hours, and law firms need to focus on understanding what clients value (and value is not just discounts);
  • Law firms too often have not aligned their actions with the promise of their brand;
  • In an age of intense competition, more lawyers should be “paranoid” in a good way, not taking client relationships for granted and working harder to nurture them, protect them and get more out of them.

In my own experience, I see among lawyers an extraordinarily wide range of sophistication levels in understanding and communicating with clients and the outside world in general. Some lawyers have already identified the major challenges facing them with respect to communication, and some have even pushed for plans and strategies to improve those communications. But others remain mired in the archaic notion that lawyers need to focus 100 percent exclusively on the study and practice of law without involvement in other disciplines, such as marketing, PR, finance, technology, or cyber-security, all of which can make or break their competitiveness.

The art of professional communication is a discipline in itself, and lawyers can greatly improve their standing in the marketplace, as well as their relations with clients, press people, employees and others by engaging professional assistance with important communications.

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