Innovative lawyers – what the Financial Times Special Report tells us about law firms and media coverage
May 14, 2021

Last week the Financial Times (FT) published a Special Report on Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers. As a specialist media training company for law firms, we were particularly interested to see what issues were covered, how they were covered and who got a mention.

“Innovative” is a great word for the media by the way – and worth including in your messages during your interviews with journalists. It suggests new and unusual, two things that are meat and drink for a reporter.  Just remember to back it up with a proof point or example.

Here are a couple of sentences from a piece in the report titled “Digital thinking spreads across Asia’s law firms” that also say a lot about what the media are looking for.

Back in 2014, we were told, “Australian law firms were innovating more than some of the most advanced firms in the UK. By contrast, managing partners at Japanese law firms were not convinced that being innovative was right for a traditional profession. Today, many Japanese firms perform well in the FT’s rankings of innovative law firms and are increasingly embracing a multidisciplinary, automated future.”

This is the kind of point that journalists love to hear from their interviewees – be they lawyers or anyone else. It’s talk about a change and signals a new trend. It also challenges perceptions – if you thought that Japanese law firms were behind the curve? Think again!

The piece then goes on to give examples of innovative Japanese firms. As we say during our media coaching courses for lawyers, examples or case studies are an essential element of any good interview. We offer advice on how to use case studies in a media interview that won’t embarrass clients or compromise confidentiality.

Let’s take another piece from the report. “Law firms chase a piece of the crypto action,” starts with an anecdote: “When Scott Thiel first tried to talk to colleagues and contacts about digital tokenisation almost three years ago, he says it was like “shouting into a hurricane”. This specific example is a typical way to open an article. It ticks the human box with a reference to a real person and Thiel’s metaphor is striking and memorable. Choosing language like this increases your chances of being not only quoted in the final piece but getting into the first few paragraphs, as is the case here.

This piece about cryptocurrencies is topical but also has a touch of trouble – is this just a bubble? Should lawyers really be getting involved? We know from our experience of providing media training for lawyers that they are risk averse. However, introducing a threat or a risk and then providing a solution is a great way of grabbing your audience’s attention and will certainly appeal to the journalist that you are talking to.

Talking of trouble, a third piece we’ve chosen at random has the headline: “Japan Inc braced for fresh hostile bids” with the standfirst: “With a powerful taboo no longer a reliable insulation, companies must turn to more inventive lines of defence.” This presses the “new” or “topical” button in our newsworthiness checklist as well as pointing up some trouble. It is also a trend, which is another element that journalists are always looking for. One example?  That’s great because it’s unusual but if we’ve got two or three examples that we can say it’s a trend.

The piece has commented on this trend from a number of sources. Comment and insight plus warnings and advice are typically what journalists are looking for from lawyers. Our media trainers are experienced working journalists and, as they’ll tell you, when they’re writing a piece or putting together a news package, they’ll contact a number of law firms with a request for a comment in the hope that at least two or three will reply.  Then, of those, they hope that one will provide a quote that they can use.

Developing that usable quote that will work for the journalist and for you, the lawyer, is a skill that we teach when we work with law firms’ in-house comms teams and PR consultancies. It’s worth learning as it brings rewards in the form of better media coverage.

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