Law firm successions happen all the time–some are planned for and others are not. Succession takes place when a named partner or executive director decides to retire, when a law firm is sold/acquired or merges with another, when a key stakeholder passes away, or in a variety of other circumstances. However, no matter the situation, there are key audiences who need to be communicated with strategically, efficiently, and effectively.
Planning succession communications should focus on all stakeholders. They include “internal audiences” such as partners, associates, management, staff, paralegals, and other stakeholders, as well as “external audiences” such as clients, referral sources, judges, strategic partners/vendors, media, affected communities and in some cases government and civic officials. It is paramount to consider timing of message dissemination and recognize the special interests of each group.
With regard to internal law firm audiences:
- Confidentially tell those on a need-to-know basis first while creating your communication plan (when possible).
- Create a platform to communicate key messages and dispel worries or myths.
- Proactively communicate in an effort to quell fears, anxieties and concerns inherent in a succession. If possible, and not in the instance when someone has died, highlight the benefits to the internal audience members.
- Deliver consistent and accurate messages on a frequent and long-term basis.
- Provide an internal forum for ongoing Q&A.
With regard to external audiences:
- Communicate directly with clients the way they are used to hearing from you.
- Proactively explain how the clients’ needs will continue to be met.
- Share the news succinctly and strategically, utilizing all of the available vehicles of information dissemination.
- Capitalize on the news value of the succession for targeted media coverage.
- Capitalize on online opportunities to share your story.
- Engage constituents in positive conversation surrounding the succession.
- Tell the story of the evolution of your business and when appropriate, how the succession will benefit each interested audience.
- Provide an external forum for ongoing Q&A.
The more proactively you plan, the more likely your law firm will thrive after the succession. In fact, if you’re considering any type of succession, check out Joel A. Rose’s article in The Legal Intelligencer on How to Approach a Law Firm Merger or Acquisition where he delves into the managerial strategic planning and execution process.
About the author: Gina F. Rubel, Esq., owns and operates Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., a legal marketing and public relations agency. An author, communications strategist and lawyer, Gina and her team have won numerous awards for media relations, web and graphic design, strategic planning, marketing, and leadership. A nationally sought after speaker, Gina also blogs for The Legal Intelligencer and The Huffington Post. You can follow her on Twitter @GinaRubel, call her at (215) 340-0480, or go to www.FuriaRubel.com.