Blog Post

Black Letter Communications Blog

Expert pr advice for the legal sector

Covid-19 – Where are the law firms?

Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold there have been many examples of businesses in the spotlight for the way they have responded to the outbreak. My colleagues have written several blogs examining the good, the bad and the ugly and I am sure there will be more examples as organisations grapple with how to respond to an ever-changing situation.

Furthermore, the steep rise in media usage across many platforms is placing even greater focus on brands to get it right.

I know already that I have started drawing up mental lists of brands that I will and won’t use again when our lives return to whatever normal will look like. It’s also given rise to thoughts about what characterises a good brand. How can some brands get it so right and yet others so wrong?

The global media agency, Wavemaker really hit the nail on the head with its set of questions designed to help inform brands how to behave across the phases of coronavirus disruption. They say brands should ask, and then act accordingly, in line with the following:

  1. How has our ability to deliver what consumers need changed?
  2. How has consumer demand and desire for what we do changed?
  3. How acceptable is it for the brand to be present in the current climate?
  4. How credible is it for the brand to lean in on broader issues?


Working in legal PR I was particularly struck by question 3. There is very limited appetite for those law firms bringing claimant clinical negligence claims to be heard in the media right now when the NHS is facing its biggest challenge ever. It’s not that these cases won’t continue – and of course people who have been injured through no fault of their own deserve justice – but the thought of lawyers, or should I say ‘fat-cat ambulance chasing lawyers’ as the media like to call them, distracting the NHS from its core focus of saving lives right now goes beyond the pale.

Most law firms that I deal with have been alive to this and have adjusted their marketing and PR accordingly.

I have been disappointed, and genuinely surprised, by the behaviour of some law firms when it comes to making cuts particularly in how quickly some of them have jumped to take action. Of course, I don’t know the ins and outs of their balance sheets but thinking about it in terms of the three core steps a brand should take in an emergency, namely: Do everything you can to help, look after your people, and stay in business, I haven’t seen many law firms act accordingly.

The job losses and furloughing taking place across the sector is well documented in the legal media. However, one area yet to be a real focus is how law firms are responding towards the communities within which they work.

For many years city law firms have shouted very loudly about their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. They talk about ‘acting with integrity’, ‘doing the right thing’ and one even claims to ‘…challenge ourselves to bring original thinking to society’s biggest challenges’. But where are they now?

I researched the websites of ten of the biggest law firms when writing this blog to see how they have adapted their CSR programmes in response to coronavirus, arguably society’s biggest peace time challenge and I found one solitary donation towards PPE.

It might be that there are very great things going on behind the scenes that firms have been too busy to talk about, but based on past performance of actively seeking the limelight on such issues, I fear not.

Aside from financial contributions you would hope that law firms might be making significant donations to say food banks or hospitals or better still, deploying some of the great minds they house, the real specialists in their chosen areas to help.

I am sure there are many frontline organisations who could benefit from pro bono help right now. Wouldn’t it be refreshing for a law firm to simply put society first?