Keep it Light

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

When I think of the U.S. Supreme Court, a serious atmosphere comes to mind because they make decisions that affect our nation, policies, and even life and death. Here in Chicago, law firms also tend to be serious because if every detail is not covered, then the attorneys can lose a case and even affect their reputation for years to come. However, sometimes it’s good to step back and take a look at how attorneys approach their work and publicity efforts because there are times when being lighthearted can be effective.

I’m suggesting this because I saw a blog post that Jay Wexler, a law professor at Boston University, wrote on his website called “Supreme Court Humor.” Basically, it’s about a “study” that he did to see how many laughs each justice got in the courtroom. According to the graphic on his site, which came from The New York Times, Justice Antonin Scalia got the most laughs when Wexler conducted his study in 2005.

Who would think that the Supreme Court would be the subject of such research, followed by lots of media coverage about their humor? It’s an example of how doing something unique and beyond the usual boundaries of the legal profession can get you media attention. Of course, you don’t want to make it too contrived, but to augment your own practice. Some attorneys prefer to create interesting websites to promote their firm, such as Kottler & Kottler in Los Angeles, which has a cartoonish style. And speaking of cartoons, attorney Bob Kohn filed a cartoon amicus curiae in an Apple case, which is probably the only time such a brief has been submitted.

So the next time you’re assessing the image of your own practice or that of your law firm, think of ways you can lighten up to make you or your firm stand out. You can enhance your image by posting personal pictures of your vacation, pets or hobbies on your site or blog, or share information that’s outside the usual seriousness of the legal profession, such as the weirdest sculptures you’ve seen around Chicago. In the midst of a heavy workload, sometimes it makes sense to have a bit of fun.

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