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Media Relations For Personal Injury Lawyers

Today I saw (via Overlawyered) a blog post by WhiteCoat where WC is critical of a poorly framed law firm press release.

He criticizes a press release issued by a medical malpractice law firm. It reads: “Prominent Beverly Hills Law Firm Awarded $16.5 Million Medical Malpractice Jury Verdict.” The basis for WC’s criticism is that it does not mention the client, thereby making it appear as if the award was made directly to the firm.

I don’t think he believes anyone would be misled. I think he is really pointing out that it smacks of arrogance to leave the client totally out of the equation. As he says, “Screw the client.”
I don’t really see any functional difference between that press release and one that says something like: “Renowned Neurosurgeon Ben Carson Successfully Separates Conjoined Twins.”

But I agree that it is a bad press release, and for the same reason as WC: It’s focused on the lawyers, not the client. As personal injury lawyers, we must constantly battle public perceptions that we are all greedy and arrogant and that our clients are all liars and fakers who are seeking “lottery justice.”

What this release should have said is something like: “Jury Awards 41 Year Old Man $16.5 Million Compensation For Medical Negligence Causing Permanent Paralysis.” It is more accurate, puts the award in context, and most importantly, shows that the money was given to compensate an innocent victim for a horrific injury that happened because somebody did something wrong.

At Miller & Zois, we keep this in mind whenever one of our cases gets media attention. It is always about the client. Because the case itself is always about the client.

Every media inquiry is a chance to show that big awards or groundbreaking precedents happen because deserving victims secured the justice the law demands, with our assistance. Making it about the law firm or particular lawyer plays into the hands of the enemy, namely those who foster the perception that out-of-control juries give away huge sums of other peoples’ money for every bump, bruise, or hangnail. Anybody who has ever stood before a jury in an injury case knows this isn’t true. It is stupid and counterproductive to act in a way that fosters that perception.

Is this one release a huge deal? No. Somebody’s PR people did a poor job. But cumulatively, this stuff matters. It’s a subtle difference of perception that all personal injury lawyers and law firms should keep in mind in terms of media relations.