Michele DeStefano of University of Miami on why communications and law are becoming yin and yang professions

Chancery Lane Chats

18-05-2020 • 12 mins

A professional who ‘defies categorization’, Michele DeStefano is a highly ranked ‘Legal Rebel’ who researches and writes about the growing intersections between law, business, and legal innovation. As a professor at the University of Miami School of Law and Affiliated Faculty at Harvard Law School, Michele understands why communications and law are becoming like yin and yang professions in reputation management.

“It’s really important that communication outside the courtroom is managed, even more so than inside the courtroom given that so many cases never even make it to trial”, she explains.

Litigation or not, communications and legal expertise should be sought

In other words, reputation damage does not require a courtroom, lawyers or even a legal issue for share prices to take a long-lasting nosedive.

In her paper, ‘Advocacy in the Court of Public Opinion’ she suggests that corporate counsels’ typical media strategy of saying no more than “no comment” is “no longer a viable strategy”.

The multidisciplinary role of legal professionals

Over the past decade, Michele has witnessed not only a need for professional collaboration but also an expansion of the role of the lawyer. The modern-day lawyer is not simply being asked to provide legal advice for risk management, but she has also observed that lawyers are expected to provide business advice to ‘add to their client’s bottom line’.

“Lawyers need to do that, because if we don't help our clients understand what their company will be in the future, we can't help make sure that they're ready and compliant with all the different rules”, she explains.

And, so, what Michele has understood as an innovation lawyer is that when clients ask their lawyers to ‘innovate’ they are actually asking for a ‘service transformation in disguise’. Or, in other words, a change on how ‘lawyers service their clients’.

‘Proactive co-collaboration’

As this trend for collaboration between experts in law and experts in communications continues to develop, Michele suggests that law firms consider how to strategically evolve.

And to do that, she suggests ‘‘proactive co-collaboration’ as being the greatest tool for law firms to be able to keep up with the Joneses.

But what exactly is ‘proactive co-collaboration’?

Well, she describes it as an active willingness for law firms to engage with consultancies of different expertise in order to ‘provide clients with holistic advice and services’.

Collaborating in such a fashion, she predicts, will show which law firms are ‘smart’ and able to adapt to modern day expectations and risks, as well as those that are not.

Modern day collaboration as a three-legged race

Put simply, Michele, sees co-collaboration as different teams of expertise ‘running a three-legged race’ with their ankles tied together.

So, law firms have heard it from one of the world’s leading experts in legal innovation – future success will require reciprocal, balanced and co-dependent multidisciplinary teamwork.

Discussed in this podcast episode

  • An introduction to Michele DeStefano, a Legal Rebel and top legal innovator
  • Communication management
  • The expanding role of lawyers
  • Service transformation in disguise
  • ‘Proactive co-collaboration’
  • Law firm’s future success depends on a three-legged race