Bar tries to improve image of FL lawyers

TALLAHASSEE, FL: The Florida Bar has hired RBB Public Relations to drive a $750,000 campaign aimed at improving the image of the legal profession in the state.

TALLAHASSEE, FL: The Florida Bar has hired RBB Public Relations to drive a $750,000 campaign aimed at improving the image of the legal profession in the state.

The Florida Bar, a 70,000-member organization, is the state's legal regulatory body. Tod Aronovitz, who became president of the Bar this year, decided it was time to restore respect for the legal system, and launched an agency search.

According to the American Bar Association, the legal profession is held in lower esteem than almost every institution, except for the media.

RBB pitched to various Bar committees before finally presenting its Dignity in Law plan to the executive committee and all members of the Florida Supreme Court.

"The Bar has an excellent internal PR department, but they have their hands full with legislative issues, explained Christine Barney, RBB's CEO. "They also wanted to have a distinct effort so they could measure it."

RBB began a heavy media relations push by conducting a survey of 180 reporters to learn their attitudes toward covering the sector. Previously, members of the Bar talked almost exclusively to legal reporters, but RBB wanted to raise the profile across other beats.

The survey found that 56% of those surveyed had never visited the Bar's website, and that most reporters struggled to cover stories involving pro bono work and community issues.

Would-be consumers of legal services were also surveyed, revealing that out of 71% who had been involved in legal matters in the past year, less than half consulted with attorneys.

Barney said the agency will focus on tactics that have served other industries well, including customer testimonials and generating awareness of the industry's community outreach.

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