Mass Ave PR | Founding Principal | Jennifer Wagner
You may have noticed that we write and tweet a fair amount about the similarities between law firms and public relations agencies — specifically the internally tiered business model that requires big retainers and hourly fees to pay for expensive overhead costs, partner salaries and a training academy for rookie flacks or attorneys to learn the ropes.
Many law firms were forced to see the light a few years ago when corporate clients, hit hard in the economic downturn, started reading their monthly bills and questioning the ROI on $700-an-hour legal advice. Some went to honest pricing models like the one we’ve adopted. Others cut back on entry-level attorneys, choosing instead to pick off lateral hires from other firms. Some just went bankrupt.
This story in the American Bar Association Journal highlights a firm that got ahead of that curve by establishing a new business model in the early 1990s. I’d encourage you to read the entire piece, but here are the two excerpts that most readily apply to the PR world:
Our structure drives significantly higher quality. It turns out that small teams of highly experienced trial lawyers get better results than large teams of rookies. (We began to notice that, at most conferences of large firms addressing today’s issues, the word “quality” is never heard. Instead the focus is on “getting average lawyer hours up,” setting required hour goals, “realization” of fees for hours, and the like.)
We have learned in the past 20 years that quality is not scalable in law. Quality depends on firm leadership having firsthand personal knowledge of the abilities of every lawyer in the firm. We do not think this is possible in a 1,500 (or even 200) lawyer firm, so we have stayed small in order to maximize quality. When we started in 1993, we felt we had a five-year window before our competition followed our innovation. We were wrong. Almost 20 years later, no other firm has followed.
Why is this? The social science of innovation provides the answer: Those who have been most successful in the old, outmoded paradigm are the last to understand and adopt a new paradigm. We have seen that this is particularly true in law: Lawyers excel at finding out what is “wrong” with someone else’s idea and are by nature not nearly as comfortable with championing innovation as they are in criticizing the ideas of others.
We have more confidence than ever in the strength of our business model and in the inability of competitors to follow us.
We have the same confidence in our business model: You can hire a churn-and-burn big agency and pay them to train their team of junior account executives, or you can hire us: PR practitioners with more than 25 years of combined experience who won’t bill you three hours (read: $500 or more at most agencies) to write a press release.
Moreover, you won’t wonder what it’s going to cost you when you walk into a meeting with us. We’ll listen to your needs, hand you our menu and point out some recommended services, but we leave the decision in your hands. Because you’re the one paying the bill.
Ultimately, the shift in business models is about re-empowering clients to make the best choices. Clients hire us because we’re experts in public relations and publicity who can help them create quality branding and messaging to achieve strategic outcomes.
We trust our clients to know their businesses just as well as we know ours — and we’d rather be helpful than soak someone for all they’re worth and walk away. After all, clients who feel like they got soaked don’t come back for seconds.
To learn more about our honest pricing public relations and publicity business model in Indianapolis or nationwide, click here to schedule your free consultation with Mass Ave Public Relations.
Learn more about Mass Ave Public Relations founding principal Jennifer Wagner.