The Leader Column

At The Lawyer, we hold these truths to be self-evident: if you want to generate a response that clogs up your inbox for days, write about lap dancing or PR.
The Lawyer's associate editor Mat Swallow recently sparked a huge debate when he wrote in Grapevine, part of The Lawyer News Weekly email. Mat's rant was occasioned by a round table last week, organised by a PR agency and about the role of… er… PR in law firms. It was a pleasant, if slightly predictable, couple of hours. Journalists bitched about the ninnies who follow up useless press releases with a call asking if we've received said useless release. Meanwhile, the PR people told us all to take no for an answer occasionally.
Actually, the most interesting thing to come out of it was Hammond Suddards Edge's extraordinary revelation that its entire media strategy is now focused on television. Splendid! This from the firm that thought those Saatchi ads were a good idea. No doubt Parkinson is lining up Chris Jones this very minute. Or maybe Hammonds is concentrating on the graveyard slot of local news bulletins – because frankly, boys, that's the only telly you're likely to get. And that's if you're lucky.
The best PRs are the ones who really know their firm and understand the pressure points. They are not pushovers, but they have enough internal clout to get things moving and they know what makes a good story. It is entirely counter-intuitive for a journalist to commend them, but even grubby hacks recognise the professionals who are good at their jobs – even though we do get narked with them most weeks.
There are other good communications people in the market apart from the following, but this is The Lawyer newsdesk's roll of honour. So take a bow Chris Hinze of Andersen Legal (and what a task he has on his hands right now); Tom Rose of Herbert Smith; Iain Rodger of Allen & Overy; Barry Jackson of Clifford Chance (although he is about to move on); Martin Richards of Simmons & Simmons; Alex Charlwood of Theodore Goddard; Juliet Sychrava of Norton Rose; Bob Bion of Halliwell Landau; and Liz Whitaker of Wragge & Co. Let's just hope that this grudging praise from journalists doesn't blight their careers.
Finally, I should reveal that one of our own is crossing over to the dark side. Ironically enough, Fiona Callister is leaving journalism for PR. In what is a bit of a career change, she is going to become senior media officer at the aid agency Cafod. We – and you – will miss her.