Public Relations

The school is dropping in the U.S. News law school rankings. The school didn’t even make the Above the Law rankings. The school’s dean quit on them a few weeks before classes started. The new dean recently sued the people who built the school’s law library because it suffers from “water damage.” A student recently got arrested, accused of making racist, anti-Semitic, and threatening comments.

Does this sound like a law school with… issues? Does this law school need to rethink how it provides legal education?

Probably. But they are not going to do that. Instead, they’re going to get a new marketing campaign.

Come, let’s see how much lipstick they can find for this pig…

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Yes.

Now you can go back to work, or your Xbox, or continue reading. Whatever makes your precious self happy.

After I was solo for five years, I started Tannebaum Weiss — new office space, business cards, stationery, phone number, all the bells and whistles. I know in today’s world you may wonder, “Why didn’t you just get a new laptop?,” but back then, it was okay for lawyers to operate like professionals and interact with other human beings in office buildings.

I also hired a public relations firm. I wanted to get the word out about our practice and thought this was the best way. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter, and the media was still interested in reporting about things other than, well, what was on Facebook and Twitter. It was important to be at events where potential relationships could be started, as we couldn’t just hire some kid to tweet all day about how awesome we are. We wanted to establish the firm in the community and couldn’t do it with a Facebook Fan Page.

We retained the PR firm for one year. It was expensive. We couldn’t really afford it, but I thought it was important and that it would somehow pay for itself. Of course, this was also back in the day when investing in your law firm meant more than just finding an outlet at the local Starbucks and hoping it all worked out without having to invest a dime. It was a learning experience — from the initial interviews (we interviewed two firms) to the working relationship….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Joshua Stein gives some practical advice to lawyers on how to manage their relationship with the press.

Reporters can embarrass you. But they can also help you and your clients get your message and name out into the world, if that’s what you want.

When a reporter calls, any lawyer’s first instinct is to say “No comment.” That’s a really good first instinct, particularly for anyone except the most senior member of a legal team representing a client. For that senior lawyer, though, “no comment” might not always be the right answer at the end of the day.

Lawyers aren’t supposed to be founts of information, particularly about their client’s affairs — unless that’s what the client wants. All of that is a matter of legal ethics and client relations, and represents the first and most important element of any lawyer’s strategy in dealing with the press. It’s outside the scope of this article.

Once you get past that “gating issue,” you will sometimes want or need to talk with the press. Here are a few suggestions for how to do that….

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* In case you missed this yesterday during the Cravath bonus-mania-palooza, David Kappos, the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, announced that he’d be stepping down from his position in January 2013. [Blog of Legal Times]

* And speaking of bonuses, somebody’s not probably getting one this year, because here come the lawsuits: Hewlett-Packard just got slapped with a securities class action suit as a result of the company’s allegedly fraudulent Autonomy acquisition. [Reuters]

* Will Penn State’s former general counsel be able to testify against Gary Schultz and Tim Curley in post-Sandusky criminal proceedings? Considering she’s “a key witness,” she better be. [Corporate Counsel]

* Of course Vermont Law School is considering offering voluntary staff buyouts, the school has a freakin’ $3.3M budget shortfall. In other news, they’ll be upping LL.M. programs to make up the cash. [National Law Journal]

* Paul Ceglia, the man who claims he owns half of Facebook, has been indicted on federal wire and mail fraud charges. He’ll appear in court this Wednesday, but who knows if he’ll have a lawyer by then. [Bloomberg]

* Jay Jaffe, law firm public relations pioneer, RIP. [PRWeek]

He’s going to Disney World? No, not this veteran M&A lawyer….

Let’s say you graduated from a leading college, summa cum laude, and from an elite law school, also summa. You began your legal career as a transactional lawyer at one white-shoe law firm, where you made partner. You left that firm for investment banking, where you encountered significant success. Then you returned to the legal world, first as an M&A partner at one top firm, then at another. At your final firm, you served as global co-chair of the firm’s renowned mergers and acquisitions group, working on some of the biggest deals around the world.

Then, in your 70s, you decide to leave your firm and also the legal world. Where would you go next?

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It has been a few days since our last detailed story about the largest law firm bankruptcy in history. So let’s check in on the Chapter 11 proceedings of Dewey & LeBoeuf, currently pending in bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York.

There have been a few recent developments. For example, as we mentioned in Morning Docket, Dewey is being counseled in bankruptcy by some pretty pricey advisers.

How expensive are we talking?

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CHECK YOU public relations skills, bro.

Former Dewey and current Winston partner Adam Kaiser, in my opinion, needs lessons in public relations. I don’t even need to review with you who I am talking about. If you’re reading this on ATL, you already know Adam Kaiser. You also know what he is alleged to have done, and how he responded to a single comment posted on this site.

You and I know all of this information because of Adam Kaiser’s ill-timed attempts to quash the use of his name by an anonymous commenter. His poorly conceived, heat-of-the-moment demands that his name be removed from the site ultimately resulted in the reverse effect; everyone knows his name, and what he is alleged to have done. And his name, while removed from the single comment, has now been repeated over and over and over. Adam Kaiser.

The saying goes that any publicity is good publicity. I argue that unwanted publicity that could damage a career or a firm’s reputation is far from “good.” Even if Adam Kaiser thought he was doing the right thing by sticking up for himself against an anonymous comment, he effectively screwed the pooch.

What should he have done instead?

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