While legal technology developments would once have been dismissed as ‘boring’ by the legal press, it is now starting to gain traction as firms start embracing new technologies. For legal PRs this is a challenging situation: a story that might have been rejected because there wasn’t enough interest is now rejected because there is too much such news!
How do you ensure your legal technology news is making your firm stand out from the crowd and delivering the right message to the right audience?
It’s important to note there are two distinct areas up for discussion that relate to the relationship between technology and the law, both are intertwined, and one cannot be discussed without acknowledging the other.
LegalTech themes that will appeal to the trade press
First, there is a general theme about how technology can help shape and enhance the future of the profession and, second, there are stories about specific technologies firms are using and the products they have on offer.
Most likely your lawyers are interested in talking about the latest product it has made available to clients. While this is a worthwhile endeavour, it is unlikely the product has been tailored toward the lawyers who read legal trade press, and, to put it bluntly, these titles are largely uninterested in product launches. You would be better off focusing your efforts on B2B press specifically targeted at your market.
That said, increasingly there is news coming out of the profession of how firms are investing in technology to improve their operations. These are bold statements coming from larger firms talking about how tech is shaping the profession and develops as an industry, with partners looking to set trends.
Clifford Chance, for instance, has been bold in its commitment to technology and has been openly talking about it in the trade press.
Earlier this year Clifford Chance CIO Paul Greenwood told The Lawyer the firm was looking to recruit people who were technically-minded to bring new innovations to the firm. In September the firm made headlines again having recruited CEO Jeroen Plink to its Clifford Chance Applied Solutions business, which is separate to the LLP and home to the firm’s range of digital tools.
Of course, as the country’s second largest law firm, when Clifford Chance starts to build firm policy around the development and use of new technology it becomes big news.
Other firms, lower down the rankings with a lower profile, will no doubt have their own technology stories. Getting that noticed by the legal trade press may be a challenge, but it is not impossible.
PR's role in helping law firm partners building relationships with the media
Law firm partners need to be given the autonomy to build relationships with journalists, albeit one that is nurtured by the legal PR. If partners receive adequate media training in how to deal reporters, they should be trusted by firms to be able to speak independently about their chosen subject and able to start building profile as a thought leader.
Most decent legal reporters will want wide and varied contact books, after all only speaking to partners in the Magic Circle will give a skewed impression of the profession. If you are a PR looking after a small or medium sized-firm outside of London there is no reason why you shouldn’t attempt to build relations between your lawyers and legal reporters.
This should be a reciprocal relationship, although this should come with a warning that there are promises that reporters simply just cannot keep (quote changes for instance).
Reporters need to speak to lawyers who are able to provide context, who can, with authority, say, “this is important for the profession because…”. Partners at small and medium sized firms are well placed to provide such comment and are just as knowledgeable as their counterparts at larger firms.
In fact, lawyers at smaller firms could find themselves at an advantage when it comes to expert commentary because they are less confined by the stringent media policies enforced on some of the larger firms. While you don’t want partners to go off on a tangent and fail to deliver the right message, you do need to ensure that they provide an interesting soundbite that is suitable for publication.
It might sound simple to some seasoned PRs, but bland vanilla quotes are boring and unlikely to make the final cut. What reporters want is a quote that blends into a wider narrative – we all know that artificial intelligence is likely to change how the profession works, tell us why and, if you can, give some examples.
Getting your firm's legal tech noticed by the legal press
Positioning your firm as a hotbed of tech gurus will give you some credence when it comes to pitching stories about new products. Yet, as I have already said, it is unlikely to be picked up unless you are able to show why and how it will have implications for the wider profession.
No firm is immune from the technological revolution bearing down on society. We are living in a time of technical innovation, lawyers who can take a view and speak with confidence on the future of the profession are more in demand now than ever.