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Lawyer Tips: How to prove your point with case studies
October 1, 2019

One of the points we always make during our media training courses for lawyers is that journalists love case studies.  Our tutors, who are all working reporters, will encourage their interviewees to include them when they’re out doing their day jobs.

 

Stories do two things. First, they illustrate an idea.  You can describe in abstract terms how an issue, a statute, a regulation or a piece of case law affects an organisation or a person but tell us a story and we can really see what you mean.  Think about how often you’ll use a phrase such as “For instance,” or “Just Imagine,” or “Say…” in your everyday life.  Telling stories is what human beings do.

 

We recently worked with a tax partner in a magic circle law firm who was preparing for a BBC interview.  We struggled initially to understand the point she was making (we’re not thick, you see, we’re just not tax lawyers).

 

It was only when she gave us the example of a large tech company and the tax implications for its business model that we understood the point that she was making.

 

Second, case studies prove your point.  You might say that you put the customer at the centre of everything you do but give us a case study and you’re more likely to convince us.  They frequently also have that all important human factor.

 

When they visit your website, for instance, journalists will almost certainly ignore your Mission or Vision statement. They’ll probably check out your ‘About Us’ pages and references to your team (we always like to know who’s behind a company) but what will be of particular interest are references to case studies.

 

People like to read case studies because unlike vague, unsubstantiated claims, they include specifics.  They paint a picture. They tell a story and we’re hardwired to engage with stories.

Start telling a journalist an anecdote or relating a case study and very often they’ll shut up and let you speak.  That means, of course, that you’re now in control of the interview.

 

Client case studies

Ideally, you’d be able to use a real-life example but we know that with the clients of law firms this isn’t always the case.  The question we’re often asked by law firm partners and other solicitors in our media training courses, though, is how you can include a client case study without upsetting the client by breaching confidentiality.

 

There are three ways in which you can do this.  First, you can choose an anonymous case study.  With our media training for lawyers we explain that this is a useful way in which they can talk about a client without revealing their identity and compromising confidentiality.  We usually advise them to make a few small changes to the less important facts of the story to disguise the client’s identity.  This might be the sector or the region that they work in.

 

Second, the safest option is to create a hypothetical case study.  “Say, you’re a company looking to…” or “Just imagine you’ve been made redundant and…” As we’ve mentioned above, we all use this form of storytelling during our everyday lives when we’re chatting to family and friends and it works just as well when you’re talking to a journalist.  The archetype or the hypothetical, complete with a few interesting human details, a little bit of natural picture painting, is a great way to explain even complex concepts simply and effectively and to draw in your audience.

 

Finally, you can cite a case study that is public because it’s already been reported in the media.  During our media training for lawyers we advise those who work for larger firms to check with their comms teams that the example that they’re talking about doesn’t refer to an organisation or a person that is a client in some other office of their firm.

 

Assuming that this isn’t the case, pointing to a story that’s already in the public arena and explaining how it illustrates the concept in question means that your audience is much more likely to understand your point.  Additionally, the media also like this way of introducing a case study because it’s topical – another plus point for us.

 

Even if it’s not possible to include an entire client case study, you can always mention some small anecdotes and details that are typical of the issue that you’re discussing.  Anything human, surprising and relevant to the audience in some way will help to paint a picture in their minds and engage them in what you’re saying.

 

If you would like more effective guidance on how to prepare for and manage journalists as a solicitor, check out our do’s and dont’s of dealing with reporters. Or, alternatively submit a contact form here with your query and we’ll get back to you.

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