How to make friends and influence people
29 November 1994
Here are a few tips for lawyers to use in their dealings with the media, tips which have had some measure of success.
Always act for controversial clients, preferably ones who have already alienated at least four firms and who come with a ready-made media following.
Wear a succession of garish ties to denote that you are singularly unstuffy.
Have a meaningless but memorable phrase to hand on every conceivable legal topic. Ensure that your home and mobile telephone numbers are known to all journalists - not just legal - and make it clear that you positively enjoy receiving phone calls in the middle of the night.
Say positive things about even the smallest, most obscure radio station or programme - often. Let it be known that no journey is too long. You will get to any studio at any time.
Waive all fees and let it be known that you are available. Train a team of reserves, so in the unlikely event of you being unavailable you can field another member of the team to ensure your firm at least gets a name check.
Keep a ready supply of props around to guarantee photo opportunities. Computer print outs, roses to give to jurors, mobile phones on which to connect your client to the White House, champagne to pop on court steps. That kind of thing.
Have a firm name that includes justice or defence.
Adopt a non-establishment stance on legal political issues, so that if the Law Society and all the legal establishment believe a Bill of Rights would be appropriate, you can attract attention by arguing the contrary.
Be ready with scurrilous gossip to entertain the hacks and leak it selectively. Practise formulating quotes while travelling to work and delivering them on a mobile while walking down Chancery Lane.
Be shamelessly charming to the Law Society's press office staff - sneak previews of the photo of Prince Charles in the buff and chocolates help. With considerable humility, admit that media training is essential and helped you. Even if you don't believe it.
Have a view on any topic - even those about which you know absolutely nothing. Be prepared to articulate that view at any time. Use the law creatively so when your client has a no-hope case you can at least demonstrate that you explored every conceivable avenue for him/her before admitting defeat. Blame the system vocally for any failures.
Attend every single party which journalists or broadcasters might be attending. Go armed with gossip. If your credibility is in danger of reaching its expiry date, arrange to join a Law Society panel, committee or platform.
Have an office innovatively decorated with modern art and artefacts to which journalists are warmly welcomed, perhaps with some suitable beverages. To add gravitas, get yourself on to some obscure regulatory bodies in order to demonstrate you have bottom.
If all else fails, build a tree house for your children and get that into the Sunday paper.
Sue Stapely is a solicitor and the Law Society's head of press and parliamentary affairs.
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