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Making a Mess of Your Law Firm

While law firms are considered a “conservative” professional service business, they seldom always represent conservative issues or at best, neutral ones. The law, like anything else, is politically charged. Think “liberal” ACLU attorneys versus “conservative” ADF lawyers. Which brings me to Katherine Franke’s article at The Huffington Post titled, “King & Spalding’s Self-Made Mess.”

Ms. Franke did an excellent job of showcasing how one law firm managed to offend both the “left” and the “right” with one statement after it decided not to support the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA. Ms. Franke explains how this has become a public relations nightmare for King & Spalding’s reputation.

Here are my thoughts about when a law firm finds itself walking a very thin line among clients with divergent viewpoints:

  • Review the mission and values of the law firm. Can a law firm that represents evangelical Christians also defend the free speech rights of an atheist? Depends. If the firm values that the US Constitution protects the rights of the faithful and faithless, then it can serve both clients. If the partners believe that they have a call from God to defend Christianity, then serving conflicting clients will create…conflicts.
  • Plan for damage control. I remember a case where a public relations agency that represented Planned Parenthood also represented a major Catholic archdiocese. Talk about a battle between pro-abortion and pro-life organizations. If this was a law firm representing both, then you have to work through various scenarios. Find a way to keep both clients, or decide which client you would rather keep and do what is necessary to break off from the second client. (I wish I could explain how to do this in a blog post.)
  • Be transparent with your current clients. Before a law firm takes on a potentially “hot-button” new client, consider having a conversation with the clients who love your work and are advocates for your firm. Decide on which partners can talk to which clients and clue them in to the type of client you are considering that is likely to raise concern about certain groups. It’s a great way to show mutual trust, and you might learn something in the process like how your current clients value your going to the mat when it’s justified.

I know this particular matter with DOMA has opened many cans of worms. However, it’s a great lesson for other law firms to learn from when it comes to potential liabilities with your client mix.

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Something Smells at Pew Research Center

Here comes some news about news sources and how they are related to the trendiest news source, Twitter. According to an article published by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “Twitter
appears at this point to play a relatively small role in sharing of links to news sources.”
I think Twitter in and of itself has been the link to certain breaking news stories, not a “forwarding service” for online news associated with traditional brands or even popular online outlets like the Huffington Post.

Here are some thoughts when you look at the mix of media outlets:

  • Hello, Twitter is a News Brand: Sure, any traditional news outlets can put links to their stories on Twitter with the hopes that they’ll get some new readers. However, if I care about what the Drudge Report says or The Smoking Gun, I’ll be checking out their breaking news directly. So, I think the numbers in the Pew Center’s article don’t show anything beyond the obvious. 
  • Size Matters:  The Pew Report states, “Twitter’s user base is far smaller than such sources as Google or Facebook.” In my mind, this point of their research is a non-starter. Twitter has 175 million accounts, Facebook has 600 million. And when did you see the founder of Twitter on the cover of Time magazine? Besides, that’s what Google does; it is a search engine to point people to the news that they are searching for. Where’s the exciting research here, Mr. Pew?
  • The Core of Apples and Oranges Comparison: Or better yet, comparing beverages like Coca Cola with Fuel. One is a traditional drink that continues to work its way through new marketing channels, the other is a newer kid on the block that wants to break in. By the way, the Twitter account for Fuel only has 228 followers and, as of my post, has not posted a Tweet since last November (maybe they need to take their own medicine and get a jolt to update their Twitter account).

Look, social media is still the Wild West. If you don’t believe me, check out http://www.namechk.com/ to see the 159 places where you can register your user name besides LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.