Partners in the Press: Legal sector communications during COVID-19

Legal firms in the press – who were the winners and losers during the COVID-19 crisis?

In the space of just six months, the COVID-19 crisis has completely transformed the communications landscape. In the legal sector, like all other industries, top UK firms have been battling for their share of voice during the lockdown, and there have been clear winners and losers when it comes to media coverage.

This is one of the key findings of Flagship PR’s Partners in The Press – Legal sector communications during COVID-19 report, which looks into how top legal firms in the UK used media communication as a tool to make their brand stand out and build their reputation during the lockdown.

The study looks at how often legal firms secured media coverage during the lockdown and finds that there were three firms whose performance stood out during the lockdown. CMS, Pinsent Masons and Eversheds Sutherland led the way in terms of media exposure during this period, all securing more than twice as many pieces of coverage for their spokespeople as the mean amongst the top 20 firms.

Law firms lockdown

These firms were able to get their voice heard through connecting with a broad range of publications, and by striking a chord with the media agenda, leading to comments being reused across a variety of outlets.

On the other hand, there were a selection of firms who struggled to adapt to the crisis. Six firms (Allen & Overy, Clyde & Co, Slaughter and May, Simmons & Simmons, Bird & Bird and Womble Bond Dickinson) failed to secure more than ten pieces of coverage, demonstrating how disruptive the crisis has been for comms teams. On top of this, just one of the top five firms in the UK by revenue (Linklaters) made the top five in terms of coverage, showing that it’s not just a question of budget.

Law firm coverage YOY

The report also compares the lockdown period to the same period in 2019, to demonstrate how COVID-19 has impacted firms’ presence in the press. It finds that, although collectively law firms’ spokespeople improved their performance, generating 442 pieces of press coverage in 2020 compared to 417 in 2019, this rosy overall picture splinters when firms are looked at individually.

Whilst some firms doubled their spokespeople’s appearances, others witnessed major drop-offs; Ashurst, BCLP, CMS and Simmons & Simmons all saw increases of at least 100% in their partners’ media appearances, and five other firms improved their performance. On the other hand, ten firms went the other way, with Clyde & Co, Bird & Bird and Clifford Chance all dropping more than 40%.

A firm’s reputation in the press matters a great deal, especially at a time like this. Plainly – some firms were able to maintain this core reputation building strategy – and some firms were not. As businesses across all sectors continue to adapt to new developments, they are looking for expert opinion to help them navigate these unprecedented times. Therefore, those that build their reputation in the media, and make sure that the right people see them during this period of change, improve their odds of success coming out of the other side of this crisis.

You can read Flagship’s Partners in the Press report in full by clicking the image below, or if you would like to speak to us about any of the findings, please get in touch on 020 7680 7104 or email Mark Pinnes at mark.pinnes@flagshipconsulting.co.uk

Legal comms Covid-19