In 1995, I, like everyone else, sat glued to my television as I watched O.J. Simpson tried for the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. My network of choice was CNN and the legal analyst on whose words I hung was Greta Van Susteran. For what it’s worth, she must have done a good job because 18 years later, she’s still around as the host of her own program on Fox News. That’s not too shabby for someone who started out merely providing professional insight based upon her own experience and knowledge of the law.
A similar, though perhaps less dramatic story involves a family law client who contracted with us to generate publicity for a divorce case he was handling. It was a landmark case that delved into matters concerning secondhand smoke. As a result of our efforts, the case (and the firm) received considerable attention and was featured on numerous regional as well as national television networks.
That was good. But what happened next was even better.
As a result of the initial publicity generated, the attorney obtained another case – unrelated to family law, because the individuals involved felt that the attorney “seemed like the kind of lawyer who could help us.” For that case as well, we were able to get the attorney appearances on television and interviews in the newspapers.
Soon, this attorney was receiving requests to offer his insight on all kinds of family law matters, because as one media person put it, “When it comes to stories involving family law, you’re our go-to guy.” He was suddenly being asked for his thoughts on family cases he wasn’t even handling.
And then, when the New Jersey Nets’ Jayson Williams manslaughter trial began, area stations began calling our attorney client for his insight on the legal strategies imposed – even though he was not a criminal attorney.
The point here is not that every attorney should seek to become a media guru, but rather for lawyers to realize that opportunities for publicity abound and that they need not come from their own cases. Especially today, where the economic times require budget cutting (i.e., staff reductions), the media is constantly seeking out those who can provide professional insight on a host of legal matters. Often, gag orders prevent the lawyers actually handling a particular high profile case to speak with the media. This creates a void that the media must fill. And who better to fill it than lawyers experienced in that area of the law?
Attorneys and law firms seeking to generate some buzz about their practice would be wise to look beyond their own cases for free media opportunities. They should ask how their insight and experience relates to what’s happening in the news? It’s a great way to piggyback onto what might have been another attorney’s story.
So while someone else may be burning the midnight oil working on the case du jour, the smart lawyer is parlaying it into invaluable exposure for his own practice.