When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Do PR

Today’s Daily Journal reports that new State Bar Executive Director Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker,  the “leader of the embattled State Bar is considering contracting with a public relations firm to help the agency draw a greater focus to its public protection efforts and better address inquiries about the challenges it faces.”

Ms. Parker is far too savvy to think that hiring a PR firm will fix the image problem that the State Bar of California has.  She is, right?  Right?

Far too often is seems that the hiring of a PR firm is a another signpost of an individual or organizational reputational death spiral,  a move born of  desperation that might break the fall, but seldon prevents it.   The State Bar has struggled with an image problem for at least the last thirty years.and it all stems from its unique status as a regulator run by the regulated,  the old “fox in the hen house” theme that we have heard rep eated 10,000 times, most recently in highly refined form by Ed Howard of the Center for Public Interest Law.

fox-guarding-the-hen-house

If you only knew me, you would love me.

I have been hearing some variation on the “if you only knew about all the good things we do” argument concerning the State Bar for what seems like 30 years.   It is part of the bubble that lawyers, both individually and collectively as the Bar, live in.   We can’t understand why the public, the Legislature, the Governor, sometimes the Supreme Court doesn’t trust us, no matter how hard we try.   We know that we are  good, that we do good work for society, that we run a discipline system that in fact does a good job at policing misconduct.  So we can’t wrap our heads around the fundemental distrust of lawyers and the lawyer’s organization, the State Bar of California, fueled in part by a structure that give the most powerful profession a unique privilege.

PR won’t fix that.  Only changing the structure will.  The State Bar does need to tell its story but that story needs to re-written.

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