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The Challenges of Marketing Your White-Collar Practice

And some strategies that actually work.

If your firm includes a white-collar defense practice, you know very well that marketing your work to potential clients can pose unique challenges. Unlike most other areas of law, current and future white-collar defendants do not belong to a professional association or attend conferences together, where introductions might happen naturally. Touting your “wins”—cases in which your client didn’t go to jail—seems in poor taste. Even when you are involved in a high-profile case that’s getting lots of media attention, typically a prime opportunity for other kinds of lawyers to make hay, for legal and strategic reasons, you won’t be able to answer substantive questions that might build your reputation and lead to referrals. So how can a lawyer in this practice area build his or her business?

Don’t lose hope! The key to promoting your work is to think about how your knowledge and expertise is valuable to those beyond your potential clients themselves.

1. Your expertise makes you an asset for companies looking to do proactive internal investigations when they merely suspect something unethical or illegal might be going on. The information and counsel you’re able to provide will help the company take action before anyone gets in trouble. That makes you as their lawyer look like the good guy, and creates the perception that the company is responsibly self-monitoring, a PR win for them.
2. Your knowledge of the typical process in cases like these—what happens when the Feds come knocking, how they interact with witnesses or persons of interest, and what a person caught up in the situation should expect—makes you valuable to companies preparing for such a situation and looking to educate themselves and their staff. Journalists covering these cases also value that knowledge. There are local and industry-specific opportunities to become an expert source for reporters, and help the public better understand what’s unfolding.

As a defender of people accused of white collar crimes, you may be tempted to keep your work out of the limelight. But there are ways to frame your expertise as a positive and pro-active contribution to companies’ and the general public’s understanding of a sometimes opaque process, bringing more fairness to the table—and more business.