It’s a good time for celebrity lawyers. This year we’ve seen the return of Depp v Heard, Wagatha Christie, and now Twitter is opening legal proceedings against Elon Musk.
The interest in these situations has been huge because while slow and methodical live, modern legal cases play out like courtroom drama for viewers and readers alike on their screens and on the front of papers. When Depp and Heard first visited London for their libel trial in July 2020, Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at the firm Howard Kennedy, told the Financial Times that “Only a moron in a hurry would entertain the thought of having the break-up of their relationship picked over by two QCs and a judge, in full public view.”
Meanwhile, the advent of social media has only increased the spectacle for the court of public opinion. The search for the elusive truth is everywhere but the opinion of legal experts is needed to help shape it. Judges are looking for clarity in their courtroom but so are the public in theirs. When journalists tell the story of events that day, the insight of lawyers is needed to frame the narrative and provide that additional information.
Legal experts can play a hugely important role in helping to guide and shape the media’s voice on the important legal issues of the day; whether that is Wagatha Christie, or stories of injustice such as the ongoing Post Office Scandal. This demand for expert-led content presents a sizeable opportunity for law firms and their partners to build trust and establish authority.
In this article we analyse where these opportunities lie and how lawyers can contribute to the UK media.
Providing expert commentary
As we’ve seen, there is a high demand from journalists for commentary from legal professionals to help explain the legal and business stories of the day. These expert opinions not only help readers understand the often-nuanced legal implications in any given case, but they enable lawyers to position themselves as experts in their field.
Our campaign with Sparqa Legal to provide legal advice to small businesses became invaluable to journalists as the rules around furlough were quickly released by the government in response to Covid-19. Through the national, HR and broadcast press, we were able to establish the company as experts in the rapidly changing legal landscape. The company was able to provide essential legal advice during this time, making the law accessible and empowering troubled businesses to fulfil their own legal needs.
Competition within the legal sector is fierce and a prospective client’s level of trust in a particular law firm is often the most important factor when selecting a business to work with.
Establishing the authority of your firm and its partners through longer-form thought leadership content in targeted media publications is an excellent way to build this initial trust and should be a central tenet of any PR campaign.
This content can be utilised across a variety of channels beyond purely the press including Social Media and company websites. It provides an effective means of not only generating initial awareness but also helping build trust when prospects are researching your firm.
Do your Research
Third-party research is another effective method to generate stories that are of interest to trade, national and broadcast media. Working alongside independent research companies to survey specific audience groups can provide empirical analysis on industry trends or attitudes that are newsworthy and add value for key journalist contacts.
An effective PR Agency will be able to not only ask the right questions in order to generate headline-making news, they will also be able to analyse this data and understand where the stories are.
We successfully leveraged this tactic with contract management software company ContractWorks. The business assured us that their solution was successful because accidental contract renewal was such a widespread problem. We decided it was time to prove it.
We reached out to legal professionals who were responsible for handling their companies’ contracts and asked if their company had ever renewed an expensive contract by mistake.
The results were astonishing. Half of the hundreds of in-house lawyers we surveyed said their companies had missed automatic contract renewals, and calculated the average cost per contract to be almost £30,000. One in-house lawyer said their organisation had mistakenly renewed a contract worth over £250,000.
We secured coverage for this news in the Times (both online and in print) as well as extensively in the legal trade press.
Engage with claimants
Speaking in the media is one of the most straightforward ways to speak to your existing audience, but what do you do if the people you’re trying to reach aren’t looking for you? In 2018, a total of 1.2m vehicles in the UK were affected by Volkswagen’s Dieselgate emissions scandal. Your Lawyers represented 10,000 of the consumers affected, but many more claimants remained unaware of the class-action.
By calculating the total potential money owed as a result of the scandal – emphasising the billions yet be claimed against the automotive giant, we commenced a bespoke regional media relations strategy mapping potential claimants against the latest census data and estimating a potential individual claimant win of £8,500 per person.
We took this story to the press, achieving almost 70 pieces of coverage in total, generating over 7,500 click-throughs to the class-action sign-up page and ultimately driving x200 more client enquiries for the business.
You can click here to read more about the campaign.
Campaigning for change
As the world’s largest litigation finance company, Burford Capital are used to providing complex financial solutions for their clients. In 2019, while the law industry was celebrating 100 years of women in law, the gender pay gap was still a pressing issue in the industry. Burford Capital wanted to create change. They argued at the current rate, female lawyers wouldn’t approach equity for at least another generation.
Inspired by their work in litigation finance, the company launched ‘The Equity Project,’ a ground-breaking initiative designed to close the gender gap in law by providing economic incentives for change. Through a $50 million capital pool, that was earmarked for financing commercial litigation and arbitration matters led by women, they set out to change the economics of law.
The company’s unique expertise in financial solutions allowed us to provide fresh insight into the gender pay gap, and campaign in the media for social change in the industry.
Taking the lead
While many media opportunities are reactive and involve focusing on the current stories in the news cycle there is always an opportunity for legal firms to take the lead and try and tackle the problems themselves. Buckworths, for example, specialise in SME and start-up law. When the Government announced its support for British businesses during lockdown, it became clear many SMEs were exempt.
PHA suggested an integrated PR campaign to promote Buckworths’ solution to the issue and call for the Government to incentivise private investors to support businesses. This was achieved thorough publication of a whitepaper into the issues. We also drafted a letter to the Treasury, which was signed by 87 other businesses and reported in The Times and CityAM, giving the company a platform to take the lead on this pressing issue.
If you work at a law firm and would be interested in showcasing your firm’s expertise in the media, get in touch with our award-winning team today to discuss how we could help.