Report shows benefits of openness in legal comms

WASHINGTON: A new report on legal communications verifies the wisdom of actively engaging the media in high-profile cases.

WASHINGTON: A new report on legal communications verifies the wisdom of actively engaging the media in high-profile cases.

Levick Strategic Communications' second annual "PR Return on Investment" report also details the volume and quality of coverage that law firms received in eight major US markets. It includes case studies on legal crisis communications, M&A moves, and efforts by firms to increase their visibility in the crowded New York market.

Larry Smith, Levick's director of strategy, said that PR is an increasingly vital element to law firms' success. "As they discover marketing, they realize that marketing in and of itself is a public function," he said. "You can't have a public function without public communications."

The report's most notable case study was an analysis of the media's coverage of Vinson & Elkins, a Houston firm that represented Enron. It found that openness, combined with a skilled spokesperson, correlated directly to more positive coverage. "What they found was that the more they participated, the less negative those [media] messages became," Smith said.

CARMA International, the media research firm that compiled the report's data, gave the law firm a 43 out of 100 "favorability rating" in its Enron coverage. "There was going to be negative press anyway. This was a bad news day," Smith admitted. But he said that increasing its spokesperson's exposure minimized the impact of what could have been a devastating blow to the firm's credibility.

Global mega-firm Jones Day was the most heavily covered law firm of the year, garnering more than 2,000 media placements. Smith said its strong internal PR program was gaining the firm greater visibility every year.

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