Over the last few months, media stories about salaries for newly qualified lawyers have been grabbing the legal media headlines even more than usual. As the specialist providers of media training for law firms, we wanted to explore how the media has covered this issue and to look at how various firms have responded.
Before we do that, we thought it might be interesting to look at why in particular this issue is so newsworthy. At the start of our media training courses for lawyers, we explain to participants what it is that makes a media story and what journalists are looking for when they come to interview lawyers.
What do journalists look for?
First, not surprisingly, money is always a story. People often ask our media trainers why, for instance, a certain type of news article will make reference to the value of the home of somebody quoted in it. The simple, crude answer is that this gives us an indication of who this person is, their status in society and their lifestyle. The situation with lawyers’ salaries is obviously not quite the same but the fact is that we can all relate to money and finding something that your audience can connect with and that is relevant to their needs and wishes is an essential ingredient of any good media story.
There’s also a trend here – one that is upwards in this case. Journalists love trends and stories that have momentum or “legs” as we put it. The fact that we’re seeing magic and silver circle law firms constantly upping their NQ salaries to attract talent in a seemingly unstoppable spiral provides a great ongoing story for the media. In our media coaching sessions for law firms, we recommend that interviewees talk about trends that they’re seeing in the market. This could be a reference to “Regulators are increasingly likely to…” or “More and more clients are now asking us about…”
Cost of living crisis support
There’s an added topicality here relating to the cost of living crisis and The Law Society Gazette had an interesting and positive story about Norton Rose Fulbright’s plans to increase salaries by as much as 10% for lower-paid workers in response to the cost of living crisis. The story goes on to talk about a decision to provide “sustained longer-term support” to staff being “in contrast to other firms to have made one-off payment.” This initiative also ticks the “unusual” box that journalists love.
Every media story on this issue is full of examples of the financial packages that individual law firms are offering their NQs. Examples, case studies and even little anecdotes are an essential part of any media interview and one that we recommend the lawyers in our Media Training sessions. We provide advice on how to do this without compromising client confidentiality.
How should the comms team or press office of a law firm handle enquiries about pay for NQ and others? There are times when you might want to make the news and create the kind of punchy sound bite that will appeal to a journalist and inspire them to include it in the article in order to grab the attention of readers. This will get you coverage in the media above that of the competition.
Stop drawing attention to an issue
However, there are other occasions when, to be honest, and we can hardly believe we’re saying this as journalists, you just want to sound a bit dull. We advise law firms on crisis situations communications and help their comms teams with difficult issues such as pay gender gap. In these situations, you should sound sincere and believable but also slightly boring so that you don’t ratchet the story up the news agenda.
Another way of handling these issues is to broaden them out and put them into context. In other words, as a spokesperson for a law firm – or any other organisation – you might want to use a phrase such as “This is an issue that is facing everybody in the sector…” or “Like all other leaders in our industry we are very much aware that…”
It’s also interesting to note which of the vast array of legal publications have taken the most interest in this issue. According to our cursory trawl through Google News – yes, that is the kind of research a lot of journalists will do before they speak to you – Legal Cheek seems to have the most coverage. This is only natural when you think of its target audience and their concerns. Other legal media might be more focused on case outcomes, judicial decisions – all the kind of issues that would be a focus of attention and of interest to the audiences.
Media Training London
In our media training courses for lawyers, we emphasise the importance of focusing on the audience. For example, if you’re talking to The Law Society Gazette, Infrastructure Investor, the Financial Times or the Manchester Evening News your messages, your examples and case studies as well as your language and approach will be very different. Whether you’re talking about NQ salaries or any other subject it’s essential to bear this in mind.
Our media training courses for lawyers can help you handle media interviews and enquiries about NQ’s salaries, new hires, difficult situations, major deals you’ve worked on, new office openings, thought leadership and any other issue.