Yes, they started again. The legal offering of some of the well-known Big Four consulting firms is the highest visible sign that this branch is changing. Lawyering – although you probably don`t like to hear that – will be a business service. And after discussing what objectives you want to accomplish and the funds you need, you will pretty soon get to the “how to make a difference” on the market. Then it`s time to discuss strategy and tactics, and that`s all marketing and communications.
I will start with something you have probably never heard of, or if you have, you never had the time to take care of it: It`s the pyramid of public awareness.
It turns out that most issues, whether it`s soccer games, politics, or your law firm, can be plotted on a pyramid. At the very top there is the “1%.” They are the key decision makers. In politics that could be a President or Members of Parliament, in soccer it`s the players, referees or club owners. In your law firms it`s ... well the older partners, I guess.
Beneath the 1%, there are about 5% of key influencers. They have direct access or even influence on the key decision makers. In your soccer league that`s the sportswriter or the agents, in politics it`s a staffer or a lobbyist – and in your law firm? ... All the other equity partners – at least, I hope so!
The next level is about 15% of highly informed folks. In general that’s a daily newspaper reader, in soccer it`s the kind of fan who call players by their first name or their nickname.
In your law firm that’s pretty much every lawyer, perhaps not your intern, and for sure not your HR department – joking!
And below that, filling in the rest of the pyramid, is the other approximately 79% of us. It`s mass opinion, yellow paper readers. Probably not your typical client as long as you`re not into divorce law. If you are an exclusive law firm you can probably afford to write those folks off. But what if your client is stocklisted? So what if your fate, your future, and your fortune are in the hands of those 79%? Than you`d better be able to reach them.
Reality is much more complex: Could you imagine that there are issues, where you are part of this 79 % despite the fact that you would imagine yourself as a law firm Partner are within the top 6% bracket? Does this pyramid change when you try to fill in special interest issues? No the pyramid does not change. You`re just part of the 79% then. Did you know that one of the best-sold magazines in German speaking countries is about sampling post stamps?
So, how much do you know about that?
The theory of Rational Ignorance explains this. It says that people today are bombarded by information: news, advertising, entertainment, gossip, all coming at us faster and heavier than ever before in human history. One logical response to that sensory overload is to erect barriers. So we set up filters that keep information we don`t want, don`t need, or can`t use. We rationally choose to be ignorant about lots of things that others think are vitally important.
It`s important to keep in mind that ignorance and stupidity are not the same thing.
The challenge for you, who wants to communicate and sell the service of your law firm to a perhaps ignorant General Counsel or an even likelier ignorant C-level member, is to be able to convince them to engage your issue or topic. But that’s the issue of the comments to come.
Understand just how challenging that is, and why, is a very good first step!
Georg Baldauf, Founder of Greenberg Advisory, spent 15 years in communications, campaigning, and the media. In the past he worked as the PR Manager of international law firm Wolf Theiss. Previously he had led WPP's Ogilvy PR Team in Vienna and worked also on an EAME level, advising clients from different sectors, like finance, industry, and politics – campaigning in national elections. He is now focusing on litigation and finance PR. As a qualified communication specialist, he is also working towards finishing his legal degree.