As the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, the Supreme Court is a powerful institution. Positioning yourself as a Supreme Court commentator will build and enhance your reputation with peers, clients and the media as someone who understands the most important legal disputes.
In 2009 I was a litigation reporter at The Lawyer responsible for covering the opening of the Supreme Court. Previously the UK’s top justices sat as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. The move from the House of Lords into a purpose-built court on Parliament Square was intended to emphasize the independence of the judiciary, increasing the transparency between Parliament and the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court transparency.. and turning it to your advantage
A decade on from its first hearing and the Supreme Court is more accessible than ever before and the drive for transparency is accelerating.
Last month (29 July) the court ruled that the public should be allowed access to all documents placed before it and referred to during a hearing – but only if applicants can show why they need them.
The decisions made by the Supreme Court make headlines – whether they concern the UK’s exit from the EU, the latest tranche of group litigation against MasterCard or IP disputes between major pharmas.
For busy journalists who must decipher judgments at speed to deliver the news as it happens, having a litigator on hand to explain the details of the case and consequences of the ruling is valuable... and presents a big opportunity for law firms looking to build their press contacts and coverage.
Briefing reporters at the court on the case & legal process
One of my most lively days in court was when the then-owners of Liverpool Football Club, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, tried to use an injunction to block the sale of the club to cover debts.
When I arrived in court that morning it was packed with sports reporters trying without success to decipher what the hell was going on.
The lawyers involved with the case were understandably busy, so it was an associate from a rival firm who took the opportunity to explain. No doubt he made some great contacts that day as reporters clamoured around him demanding answers about the legal process.
It was a huge missed opportunity for the firms involved, who should have had a partner or associate available, or at least a briefing page.
Court case commentary
For litigators who want to position themselves as thought-leaders, the Supreme Court presents one of the best opportunities to build your reputation for expertise.
Larger firms, such as Herbert Smith Freehills for instance, have lawyers writing blogs on judgments particularly to show clients and prospects that the firm is up to speed with the latest legal issues, and also because they generate media opportunities.
As a reporter I built a solid reputation for blogging on judgments, turning around comment at speed so The Lawyer could issue the weekly litigation email alert to more than 60,000 subscribers. While I had a firm grasp of commercial law, I have never been a trained lawyer and relied heavily on contacts and blogs to help me get the facts right.
With Supreme Court disputes that had already made their way through the High Court and Court of Appeal, I would track their progress and keep note of the best lawyers to contact when the time was right.
I would look to those who were easy to contact, offered up a quote that was slightly different from the rest and, in my case as I was writing for The Lawyer, I wanted someone highly regarded by the profession. Other publications are less fussy!
You don’t need to be sitting in a large London firm to be seen as a knowledgeable commentator. The easiest way to demonstrate your expertise is by using social media, either through posting blogs or regular comment posts.
Securing press coverage on court cases
In high-profile disputes journalists will be flooded with comment about the ruling. While this helped me form the base facts for articles while I was on The Lawyer, the many lawyers who sent in stock quotes would rarely be used in the article.
Given the fierce competition to appear as a commentator on cases there are lots of things successful commentators need to do, especially if you are not involved in the case or from a big brand firm.
For instance, don't wait until judgment day to release your comment, and instead comment on the case earlier on – ahead of the appeal being heard, for instance, or the first day of trial. Then continue to blog regularly about its progress and engage with your followers.
Even if your comment isn’t picked up immediately by the media, keep going as consistency brings results while "here today, gone tomorrow" pundits have much less impact.
As you will appreciate, on prominent cases there are lots of techniques needed to be one of the commentators rather than ending up on the cutting room floor.
That is where Kelso Consulting comes in, helping clients who want to build up reputations, relationships and coverage so they become the go-to commentator.
Legal blogging help
We understand that turning cases into must-read blogs can be time-consuming for lawyers, especially when demanding clients are competing for your time.
At Kelso we specialise in helping lawyers build their reputations by delivering informative and engaging content that is easily accessible and will get you noticed by referrers, clients, prospects and the national press.
Our team has a proven track record for spotting the trends and turning it into both great blogs and a strong media opportunity.
To find out more about how Kelso’s reputation-building services can help your law firm contact us here.