Lawyers have been vilified for their professional choices since the Middle Ages; and the number of lawyer jokes has tripled since the 1960s. But, over fifty years later, lawyers are at a new low.
A 2013 study finds we’re a lot closer to fulfilling Shakespeare’s famous wish: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2)
At least, that’s what a recent article by legal blog Above the Law would have us believe,
Above the Law reminds readers that not only are lawyers the most depressed among professionals, they are also the most despised. Which one of the two came first, we may never know.
But, Above the Law does bring much needed attention to an excerpt from the latest Pew Research Center survey on professional public esteem:
“While there have been modest declines in public appreciation for several occupations, the order of the ratings is roughly the same as it was in 2009. Among the 10 occupations the survey asked respondents to rate, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. About one-in-five Americans (18%) say lawyers contribute a lot to society, while 43% say they make some contribution; fully a third (34%) say lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all.”
In 2009, one in four people agreed lawyers do “a lot” for society’s well being. Today, in 2013, we’ve lost a man. Now, only one and five can say the same thing.
Luckily, lawyers will still find advocates among their own kind. Staci Zaretsky, esquire, and author of the article “Lawyers: The Most Despised Profession in America,” points out:
“If you don’t think lawyers have contributed to society, take a look at the desegregated school you or your children attended. Go register for a concealed-carry permit in a state that once restricted their issuance. Attend a same-sex marriage and bask in the newlyweds’ joy. Burn a flag. Watch a film with a sex scene at the movies. Protest at the funeral of a soldier who gave his life for America.
Do you enjoy any of these things? If so, then reconsider your thoughts on the most despised profession in America.”
However, lawyers should consider doing more. More, that is, to relate to the public and reform the image of the legal profession. With little persuasion, people could be reminded of all the beneficial acts contributed to this country by lawyers.
After all, 25 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers—the results of which we all celebrated on the 4th of July.
Yes, teachers, doctors, and the clergy may get more positive face-time on television, but law firms can also orchestrate publicity for their acts of goodwill and charity. Whether it’s hiring a public relations professional or simply beefing up your firm’s website, it’s important to highlight those winning cases.
Reputation is important for gaining clients. PR enhances the image of your firm, but also reinforces what most Americans already know (deep, deep, deep down): that lawyers are looking to uphold rights and liberties of men and women, not restrict them.
In fact, brand loyalty is key in retaining clients. Create a brand people love, and business follows.
To increase your visibility and positive image, utilize social media. Participate in trending hash-tags on Twitter. Participate in hot legal debates and post answers to your clients’ most common questions. Include quirky and endearing profiles of your associates online. Personalize your practice.
Perhaps lawyers are misunderstood because they’re one of the few professions who still lacks a digital voice.
It may be too late to turnaround the image of lawyers as a whole, but it’s not too late to turnaround the image of your firm. And if, one by one, partners take control over their public image, it won’t take much for the health and well being of society (and your firm) to continue.
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