Interview with the Editor (Part 4 of 5)

Continuing excerpts from a Q-and-A session on the intersection between legal marketing & PR and the legal media. Today’s conversation centers on law firm size and cross-border issues.

Q. Did you only work with and quote BigLaw lawyers, or did you also talk with lawyers from smaller and mid-size firms? Did you speak just with Canadian firms, or were you open to quoting legal sources from the U.S.?

I wrote a blog post last October at Law21 about the difficulties small and mid-size firms experience in trying to get noticed by the media. The gist is that large firms can outgun their smaller rivals just by throwing a lot of money into the publicity machine and cranking it up, although there are cultural issues at work too. It’s kind of an institutional problem, and I wouldn’t expect the media to correct it independently: if a mid-size or smaller firm wants to get its rightful share of publicity, it needs to make media relations a disproportionate priority.

Luckily, there are cost-effective ways of doing this. Twitter is great, although nothing beats blogs. And in any event, a mid-size firm doesn’t need to out-publicize the Clifford Chances of the world — it just needs to shine in its specific market or in the industry areas it deems most significant to its business plan. Smart media relations are an underrated tool for mid-size firms looking for a competitive edge.

In terms of the nationality of firms the magazine interviewed, a lot depended on the story itself. Obviously, I had no interest in speaking with American firms about American law for a Canadian publication, but I was always interested in U.S. firms that were doing something interesting on the practice management or business-model side, because these are universal issues for lawyers. The same applied to U.K., Australian and other firms worldwide.

But even for all that, there were still important distinctions when you crossed the border. I remember receiving a fine article last fall written by lawyers at four different firms worldwide about surviving the recession. But since Canada escaped the worst of the recession, it didn’t make sense for National to run it. And you always needed to be alive to the potential for pushing nationalist buttons: lawyers in one country want to read about themselves, not lawyers in a foreign jurisdiction. It’s challenging to recognize and promote globalized ideas to readerships that are often more interested in home-grown fare.

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