The megafirm as boutique: PR lessons legal giants can learn from the little guys

December 22, 2017

As large law firms continue to consolidate, they face increasing difficulty engaging the media proactively or responding to expert source requests. Their conflicts profile is so broad that it often prevents comment on all but the most benign issues. Conversely, boutique firms can punch above their weight in the press because they have fewer clients and more concentrated objectives.

But there’s more to it than just being small, nimble and comparatively conflict-free. Boutiques are better than larger firms when it comes to their focus on specific audiences. Larger firms often believe the world is their audience, while boutiques tend to identify specific markets, companies or even individuals, and tailor their messaging and tactics accordingly.

One of the biggest mistakes we see some large firms make is to spread their media engagement across the entire firm, resulting in mile-wide, inch-deep results, and less residual value from one-off media interactions. But applying the tactics and techniques that work for boutiques to small groups within big firms can yield similar results: more effective brand elevation and more meaningful relationships with the media. The trick is for larger firms to think in terms of dozens of focused conversations rather than one over-arching conversation.

That’s not to say it’s easy. The internal politics of large law firms can be Byzantine and fierce, which can undermine the execution of an effective long-term media strategy. But with the right combination of attributes and approaches, megafirms can employ boutique-like tactics to great effect.

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