Sometimes it can take 500 years to repair your image after one bad step. Murdering his young nephews was not a good move for Richard III. Still Mr. Shakespeare has a lot to answer for. Revisionist reports now suggest the guy was a pretty good king. Nevertheless it took all the excitement around the excavation of his royal bones to show that your reputation is never beyond redemption.
Today’s Globe and Mail reported that the Ontario Bar Association, frustrated with the image lawyers enjoy as uber-billing clock-watchers and cynical manipulators, has launched a public relations campaign. They want to prove to the world that we should love them as “problem solvers, pillars of their communities and an indispensable cog in a healthy democracy.” Someone should tell them that it all starts with transparency and speaking the truth.
The whole undertaking presents public relations practitioners with an interesting paradox.
All too often lawyers are our enemy across the boardroom table. We are advocating for clients to do the right thing and practice good corporate citizenship, and they on the other hand, are generally arguing for stonewalling to avoid liability. I love that quote from Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods following the listeriosis outbreak: “Going through the crisis there are two advisers I’ve paid no attention to: the first are the lawyers, and the second are the accountants.”
So here we have it, poor public relations practitioners frequently branded as “spin doctors,” are being asked to come to the rescue of those legal rapscallions. Well this could take 500 years. But just think of the billings!