I recently received a copy of a letter from American Bar Association (ABA) Executive Director Henry F. White which proposes yet another (and a "new") campaign to combat the poor public image of lawyers. Apparently, this letter was sent to executive directors of bar associations throughout the nation.
Under Mr. White's proposal bar leaders would all agree on a particular topic each month and then bar associations all over the country would feed the media news and information on that topic or aspect of the law. As I understand it, the ABA would provide the raw copy which would be forwarded to individual bars for their own tailoring.
As some of us who are specialists in law-related PR know, real improvement in the public image of lawyers can only begin in individual law offices and law firms through the actions of lawyers themselves -- in how they treat their clients, how they do their work and what they give back to the community.
A former Director of the ABA Division of Bar Services, Alan Kurland, once said: "Public relations is doing good things and then telling people about them."
If lawyers are doing good things (and they are) then the challenge is to "tell people about them." That's what bar PR professionals do. That's their job.
But the profession seems to feel stalked by this nagging sense of a poor public image.
Personally, this problem is so vast and so ongoing that I have long felt that only a national, sustained, paid institutional advertising campaign (radio, TV, Internet, maybe print) can even begin to make a dent. Big national associations (but ones that are still smaller than the ABA) have launched such campaigns with a good deal of success.
Anything less than this seems inadequate.
Perhaps some of you have other ideas but I seriously doubt that "a topic of the month" approach will make much of a dent at all.