"Lawyers need public relations people because we're trained in the court of public opinion while, they're trained in the court of law," Furia Rubel Communications founder and CEO Gina Rubel tells Doug Simon.
"The function of public relations for lawyers," she says is to "really help them to understand how, whether it's a law firm, how their company is perceived in the court of public opinion, or if it happens to be an individual attorney, how they're perceived, or how messages are perceived as it relates to the type of work they do."
Rubel, who has worked as a litigator, compares the distinction between corporate and consumer-facing attorneys to the PR divide between B2B and B2C communications.
For corporate law firms, she says, lawyers "become what's called the general counsel or outside counsel." That means that lawyers assist "with all of the different things that they don't handle inside the corporation," which can cover such divergent categories as litigation, tax law or intellectual property issues.
For "law firms that provide services to individuals or families," there is a similarly broad range of subjects covered, from criminal defense and personal injury to adoptions, trusts and estates. "All of those things have a very different way of communicating the services and the audience is different," she tells Simon.
While in some cases, lawyers need to keep stories out of the media, Rubel says that more often, communicating with the public is a good idea. "It’s really important to put out client stories if you had a big win, or a big success, or a Supreme Court decision that was favorable to your client."
Employee-related issues also take on a different emphasis for law firms, since the employees themselves are often lawyers. Rubel says that such conflicts are "very rare actually" in the legal world. "Part of it is because they are law firms, they protect themselves pretty carefully, and when somebody exits a firm, all of those things are addressed in advance typically."
She also discusses how to communicate the technicalities of legal issues to different audiences. "If we're speaking to a general public, the language has to be such that the general public can understand it. So, you can't speak in legalese, which a lot of it is actually Latin, and you have to provide the language and examples the same way all of us PR practitioners do, examples that resonate with the listener."
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