Why Lawyers Should Care about the Public’s Perception of Their Clients (8/12/13)

This past spring I presented two continuing legal education (CLE) seminars focused on public relations disasters and lessons for lawyers.   Over the coming weeks, I will share excerpts from my written materials for those CLEs.

What’s in this for lawyers? For business lawyers, having a good understanding of the public relations impacts of a client’s business and legal matters can enable you to more effectively represent your clients’ interests.

While your focus is and will remain the legal aspects of their business challenges, being able to anticipate and appreciate the reputational risks and costs to their business will make you an indispensable advisor to your client.

Why do public relations matter? An entire business can be affected by negative perceptions about it. Negative public perceptions are like a tax – they cost the business in real dollars, good will and long-term success. They affect sales, employee relations, employee morale; they trigger greater government scrutiny and regulatory oversight; they create new legal risk; they shake the confidence of shareholders, investors and boards of directors.

Positive perceptions, on the other hand, bring in untold returns on investment—more customers, more sales, more high-quality employees, more investors.

A business lawyer’s work is focused on helping business be successful, whether it be defending a lawsuit, responding to a government subpoena, or closing a deal. Because public relations has such power in both its ability to propel business to success and bring business to its knees, the more the lawyer understands about the public relations risks and opportunities, the greater asset to the client the lawyer will be.

My next blog post, “Reputation Rules,” will cover the rules of reputation management. Come back soon!