I am no PR expert, but I’ve been known to play one next to the water cooler.

In today’s age of viral social media, and our very own legal version of TMZ, can a law firm keep the lid on bad news? Have e-mail leaks about layoffs prompted law firms to set a new PR course?
At a prior firm, it became apparent, after a couple leaks, that any and all memos to the board, memos to staff, etc. had to be written with full awareness that they could, and most likely would, be leaked. Traps were set, and people got caught, but the news always got out.
And while a firm can lock down Internet access from the office desktop, the ability to check personal e-mail accounts and the means to fire-up your personal laptop using the firm’s Wi-Fi, those steps will not stop the leaking of documents, and might encourage more of it.
Speaking only from personal experience, I have found that the leakers of internal information are usually disgruntled employees who feel that the firm has wronged them, or their friends, in some personal way. Leaking sensitive information is their way of exacting control and revenge, all at the same time.
So, is transparency between the firm’s leadership and the staff the answer? Transparency between the firm and the media? According to the Levick Strategic Communications, the answer is yes:

Realistically, employers can’t expect to release information internally and keep it out of the news, says Dallas Lawrence of Levick Strategic Communications. He recommends that employers plan to release the same message to employees and the media simultaneously.

While transparency will never be a panacea, I have seen it quickly put out the gossip fires in the hallways. When employees are personally informed, by management, about changes to the firm’s dynamic — whether it is as drastic as firm wide layoffs, or as seemingly benign as changes to the firm’s holiday schedule — they are brought into the firm’s inner circle, and not on the outside looking in … wondering.

In this circumstance, I agree with Levick: law firms need to take control over their public image, their reputations and their news. A firm cannot sit back and allow Above the Law, Law Shucks or any other site to dictate their message. Some might call it “spin,” but I call it good PR. Get in front of the story and lead it.