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After years of hard work as an associate, you’ve finally become a partner in your law firm. Your status has been significantly elevated. There’s just one little problem … If you are like most lawyers throughout the early days of associatehood, you were encouraged to focus on crucial legal skills. You were not trained in the softer side of the business — the client relationship side. Now, the landscape is broader and more challenging. Business development, marketing and, in particular, public relations are now integral requirements of being a successful partner. Are you up for the new responsibility? Consider the triad of business development, marketing and media relations to be critical to the practice of law and serving your clients. Be warned: you ignore marketing and media in building your reputation and practice, at your own peril. In this increasingly competitive environment, your ability to attract new business is essential, and is the new index by which your compensation will be determined. With law firms expanding internationally and merging domestically while branding their firms and key practice areas, how can you, as a neophyte partner, navigate the brave new world you have just entered? Where do you begin? INTERNAL SUPPORT First, recognize your competitors are likely in the same position. Most new partners are not sure how to establish themselves as marketing and media gurus. They have not had to ask themselves, “What is my firm’s message? How does my practice ‘go to market?’ What does media relations have to do with my specific legal or business expertise?” The fact that you are asking these questions can give you an important advantage. Second, realize you must take the initiative. Law firms and lawyers who aggressively market and sell their services will be among the winners in the industry shakeout that is taking place. Success will not come to those who rely solely on their talent as lawyers — there are simply too many good ones out there. If your firm doesn’t realize this, you need to champion the message. UNDERSTANDING YOUR ROLE To find out if your firm realizes the need for marketing and PR, ask two fundamental questions: “What specific things is my firm going to do to help me become a good partner? Is it a willing participant in my success?” If there is no support or interest in your development, your professional growth may be handicapped. Step One: Develop a clear understanding. Ask your practice leader for defined expectations in the areas of business development and marketing. Understand that the need to succeed in them begins at the earliest point in your partnership — and the firm should provide infrastructure and training to help you build your skills. Step Two: Ask for training. Just as you had to be educated and trained in the practice of law, you should not expect to be knowledgeable and skilled in business development and marketing without professional guidance and practice. Many firms include marketing, communications, sales, presentations and media training as part of its internal curriculum. Step Three: Get a mentor. Mentoring from senior rainmakers is an effective way to understand how clients come to the firm, what business and legal issues they have and how the client’s business has evolved. It is important that all new partners understand what their future role will be in managing and fostering relations with the clients they work for. POWER OF EXTERNAL MESSAGES Among the various marketing activities, none are more daunting, and none require more support for lawyers from their own firms, than public relations. After all, public relations are public. As such, it poses a unique challenge for many lawyers who are accustomed to playing a behind-the-scenes, confidential role. Yet, as other marketing initiatives come and go, PR remains a perennially effective tool in the business development arsenal. Lawyers are struggling in unprecedented numbers to differentiate themselves, in part by getting quoted in newspapers, magazines and on the wire services. As the role of lawyers expands from conference and courtrooms to truly public figures, media savoir-faire and recognition are becoming a “need to have,” not a “nice to have.” The power of the press to confer expert status on practitioners is a decisive factor in all markets, from Shanghai to St. Louis. For new inductees to the PR game, the top priority is attitude. Abandon any lingering hostility and distrust of the press. As part of this attitude, you must welcome the opportunity to participate, as you never have before, in the dynamic back-and-forth of lively public discourse. Here, too, law firms must communicate clear expectations, and provide training, in the do’s and don’ts that define significant success. While “media training” is something that most outside media consultants should provide, law firm communications departments can develop their own curriculum as well. APPROACHING INTERVIEWS For new partners, there is rich potential in internal training for external messaging. The spotlight on a new partner and his or her firm can create a lasting perception in the marketplace and help future firm leaders emerge. Most reporters conduct interviews in a similar manner, which provides you with the opportunity to create a general approach to working with them. This approach should incorporate the following rules for success as a guide, to be modified in dealing with each individual case. � No to “No Comment.” There are so many available sources that you typically only get one shot to build a relationship with a reporter. You must call the reporter before the deadline. Daily publications may need to get in touch with you within a matter of hours or, even more likely, minutes. Returning calls allows you to maintain relationships with reporters in order to create “top of mind” awareness. If you are not able to meet the deadline, you will not be quoted in the story, and it is unlikely that the reporter will call you again. You should know that “no comment” is not an acceptable response and that, to be considered a viable source for information, you should, at the very least, acknowledge the call and point the reporter in the right direction, or volunteer to go “on background.” Yesterday’s excuse, that legal speak cannot be translated for the general public, just does not wash anymore. � Know what the interview is about. It is important to know where the reporter is coming from and what he or she is looking for. Do your homework, especially if the interview pertains to a specific case, ruling, or recent legislation. Be prepared to offer the reporter facts and supporting examples to bolster the story. Generally, reporters will welcome any factual information, including statistics and citations that validate their focus. In-house staff (or an outside publicist) coordinating your press activities should be able to assist you with useful information about individual reporters, publications, and deadlines, as well as help you prepare for the interview. � Develop key messages. Once you know the subject of the interview, prepare three key message points that you want to convey. During the interview, find opportunities to get your points across without ignoring the reporter’s questions. Take the initiative; you are the expert. Ask yourself, “What is the issue? What is our involvement in the issue? Why is this important? And, what is the historical perspective?” And don’t forget the value of facts. Generally, reporters have an unceasing appetite for factual information, including statistics and citations that validate their focus. � Anticipate tough questions and prepare your answers. For the difficult interviews, develop a list of anticipated questions and responses prior to the interview. Think about how you will transition from answering these questions back to the key message points you want the reporter to incorporate into the story. � An interview is not a conversation. News interviews are exchanges of information. The media is your conduit to the public. Speak to the public, not to the reporter. Be friendly and confident, but remember that interviews are a means for reporters to conduct their business. Beware of the reporter who remains silent, or encourages you to ramble or dilute your original message. It is human nature to want to fill lulls with conversation. Don’t. If there is silence, you can ask, “Do you have any other questions?” or “Have I answered your question?” or you, too, can remain silent. � There is no such thing as “off the record.” An off-the-record comment may not be attributed to you, but that does not mean it won’t appear in the paper or be used to confirm information. If you don’t want something to appear in print, don’t say it. � Keep it simple. Nothing ruins an interview like long, complex explanations. If you want your message conveyed, be sure to say it simply. Reporters are looking for quotes. Practice answering questions in 20 seconds or less. Chances are, the reporters will use the first decent 20-second comment and skip much of the rest. � Tell the truth. Don’t lie and don’t guess. You are a spokesperson for the firm, not for yourself. If you do not know the firm’s position on a particular issue or an answer to a question, it is OK to tell that to the reporter. � Compelling language is powerful. Be quotable. One word or metaphor can quickly define your concept, establish you as a unique commentator, and make your concept compelling. The best way to drive home a complex point is through a simple analogy. � Follow up. When a story is well reported, let the reporter know with a phone call or letter to the editor. But don’t overdo it. If you are too complimentary, reporters may worry that the story wasn’t balanced enough. Newspapers will run corrections, but prefer not to. However, serious errors and misconceptions should be brought to the reporter’s attention. For a new partner, a press interview is doubly challenging because his or her whole firm will see the results in tomorrow’s newspaper. But as one way to jump-start a personal marketing plan, it is an invigorating exercise, and one that can produce direct bottom-line results. Are you ready to pick up the phone? David Geyer is chief marketing officer at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Elizabeth Lampert is executive vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based media consulting firm exclusively serving the legal profession.

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