A primer on PR
Good public relations begins with a good relationship between attorney and client. That's where the real PR is done - in local law offices and courtrooms. Nothing is more influential than what one neighbor or office worker tells another about an experience with a lawyer. If bad attorney-client relations are a problem in your area, you may need to start with an internal education program.
Remember that a lot of the bad image of lawyers is based on fear; clients are afraid it will cost too much (be straightforward in talking about this subject), that the lawyer will speak "legalese" and the client will feel stupid (speak in plain English) and that the client will be left alone with the problem (return those phone calls).
A FIRST STEP
Keep an eye on your local newspaper. When a new reporter comes on board (the new reporter is often put in charge of covering police, next comes the courts and legal community), call her up, offer your help, take her to lunch, send her materials. This may be that reporter's first job and she will be anxious to do a good job and become knowledgeable in this area. Take the reporter to the courthouse and introduce her to the clerks and judges. If she doesn't know much about courts, offer to send "The Reporter's Guide to Colorado Courts." (Call us and we'll send you one). Give the reporter a list of attorneys she can call day or night to help with background on a story.
The reporter wants to write a story that will impress both her peers and the community she is covering with its accuracy, clarity and insight. Helping new reporters will pay off in a better understanding and therefore a better story.
Once a reporter has used you, you become a "source," and probably will be called regularly, if you continue to provide helpful, clear explanations on legal issues. A reporter usually has his/her first job at a smaller paper and often moves after two or three years. That means there's lots of turnover and you have to keep educating the new reporters. Please don't give up – they need your help!
As a bar leader, you obviously have a lot to do. To help you, think about forming a public relations committee or at least coercing one person into accepting this responsibility. If you get more than one person interested, these responsibilities could be assigned:
- writing your bar association newsletter
- sending in routine announcements (new officers, etc.) to the media
- being in charge of Law Day or coordinating community activities
- writing a column for the local paper