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    November 18, 2008  
Legal PR Tips;
Autism Walk


With billables more challenging to find for law firms, we thought we’d ask John Hellerman, of Hellerman Baretz Communications and marketing strategist for numerous AmLaw 200 firms, for some tips.


PR News’s just-crowned “Agency Executive of the Year,” showing his award and bubbly, offered advice:

  • The “Titanic” theory: If you’re pursuing a sound strategy, the worst reaction to the economic slide is to go off course. Some say the Titanic wouldn’t have sunk had it plowed through instead of trying to avoid the iceberg.

  • You know that blog you started? Position it in some way that gets more traffic than your firm’s website. For employment lawyers at Ford & Harrison, John helped create a blog centered on NBC’s The Office (called “That’s What She Said,” it estimates the litigation costs of each episode’s antics). Hosted on a popular employment law site not affiliated with the firm, it gets nearly 20,000 hits every Friday.

  • Produce branded content, like an authoritative annual survey or Patton Boggs’s Capital Thinking magazine. Even if a big contributor leaves, your branded expertise doesn’t walk out the door with them.

John also says more firms could be using PR as a recruitment tool in the war for lateral partners. Other things being equal, he says partners are more likely to head to the firm that promises to sit them down with the PR team and develop a marketing campaign around their practice. The cost of such a campaign—probably in the low five figures—is small compared to a multi-million-dollar book of business.

Pensions, Healthcare to Get Action


For a GOP look at the new administration, we checked in with John O’Neill, who left Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott’s office last December and landed at Venable. While John says the financial crisis has jumbled legislative priorities, health care is one issue less likely to get derailed. And now that Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) has released his health care reform proposal (just a week after the election), John tells us that competing proposals are likely to rush in.


John’s a University of Michigan football fan (presumably undergoing heavy therapy this season). The helmet was actually signed by former U of M coach Lloyd Carr to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), rubbing in a victory over the Hawkeyes. John was Sen. Grassley’s chief negotiator on the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the biggest pension law since ERISA in ’74. Pension plans “have gotten destroyed” in the meltdown, and John says Congress will look for ways to delay some of the funding and accounting requirements in the 2006 Act.

Team Danny!

No, “Team Danny” isn’t supporting some third presidential candidate you never heard of. The 50-strong group pictured here, headed by Linowes and Blocher partner Bob Dalrymple, walked the Mall in honor of his son Danny, age 16, who is autistic. It was all part of the DC Walk Now for Autism event, with over 600 teams generating more than $750,000 (no recount necessary) in contributions to Autism Speaks, which supports research into the cause, prevention, and treatments. Bob says he and his wife are committed to finding a “cause if not a cure”—but for now son Danny is leading a productive life as a high school junior.

John Ford is Bisnow’s Legal Editor. Story ideas to john@bisnow.com.

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