To me, law firm PR seems like one of the most challenging and interesting specialties one can pursue in the field of public relations. For example, an in-house consultant may be responsible for communicating the details of sensitive legal matters to the press. The press and public may be anxious to hear details of certain cases; while thats good for the client is some cases, dealing with the media can be a minefield, since misinterpretations blown into front-page headlines can be devastating to a case. However, an in-house PR consultant may also forge relationships with certain reporters that allow them to share certain things off the record, things they think ultimately will work in the clients favor. A PR practitioner in this context is also responsible for communicating, in plain and compelling language, the details of complex legal situations. That takes a specialized skill set, one that a law firm PR professional is uniquely qualified to provide.
In terms of doing law firm PR with the goal of promoting the law firm, positioning is key. Especially in a city like New York, teeming with top-tier legal professionals, using public relations to establish ones practice as reputable, time-tested and bent on success is worth its weight in gold. Good PR can help a law firm be selective in the cases it chooses to take on. Properly executed law firm PR can also protect from a firms reputation if it loses a high-profile case, or encounters other challenges inherent to the legal profession. Good law firm PR is also useful for attracting those high-profile cases by establishing the firms credibility and record of success. If the client and PR consultant agree on a thought leadership approach, legal professionals can be positioned as experts in their fields to maximize their appeal to potential clients and employees. This can be done by offering partners as sources for news stories, or scheduling them to speak at conferences.
Law firms looking to raise their profiles also have the option of pursuing a paid advertising campaign. However, firms considering that approach should also consider that the public is already bombarded with law firm advertisements. But, as the casual observer, who are you more likely to trust the lawyer whose face is on the park bench, or the lawyer quoted in your morning paper? If the goal is establishing credibility, law firm PR is more likely than paid advertising to provide a solid return on investment.