When I was a pupil, much like now, I had a sideline career. In the evenings and at weekends I would go to the BBC and train as a radio reporter. I was tasked with finding interesting stories, interviewing the people involved then going to the studio to edit the raw material into neat packages that could be put on air.
In time I rose to becoming a sidekick to the main presenter on his show, then a producer.
At the time chambers offered me a tenancy the BBC offered me my own radio show plus some television work. I was unable to take up the latter offer because being a barrister is an all consuming gig.
However, I never lost interest in the media and after a break of a few years I began a freelance career alongside my busy law practice which continues to today.
I’ve written for the national press in the UK and for magazines around the world. I’ve been a television newsreader, movie show host and I created and edited a glossy women’s magazine which gained worldwide coverage as well as being featured in the Times, Daily Mail and on the BBC in Britain.
Now I blog, of course, but I also still contribute articles to online movie and legal sites as well as the print media.
It allows me to inhabit two different worlds which is great.
However, over the years I have found one glaring difference between the two. Courtesy.
Specifically the courtesy of replying to messages.
If I email a fellow lawyer or leave a telephone message, 9.99 times out of 10 I will get a reply. It’s a simple courtesy. It takes less than two minutes. A couple of lines and ping it’s done.
Heaven knows I’ve written enough about the pressures lawyers are under at any given time. Sometimes our work,literally, can change a client’s life forever. Yet, somehow, we find the time to call a colleague back or reply to their message.
In dealing with the media that courteous response can be rarer than a day when Twitter isn’t outraged about someone breathing in a racist, misogynistic way.
Two, three, five polite emails seeking an urgent response coupled with several increasingly frantic calls will all go ignored. It’s odd because for a profession that is all about communication, they do so little of it. Especially when they have every conceivable means of tool with which to do so.
Journalists are bad. It’s a wonder any of them get any stories anymore. Oh wait, few actually do. Most just copy and paste the misinformation someone else has published. It makes you think how brilliant the journalists of times past were considering they only had public pay phones to achieve so much with.
But nothing, nothing beats the sheer disinterested, non responsive PR girl. Yes, I said girl. The women and men are a different breed.
I wonder how many bosses know how badly served their brands are by these nincompoops.
You want to write something good about their product. You call the girl and spend 10 minutes explaining what you need. At the end, in her best automaton voice, she will say ‘can you put that in an email and I’ll get back to you.’
You will and she won’t.
Just to take one example, I made one of those calls to the PR girl of a major high street brand. She wanted me to ‘put it in writing.’
Two YEARS on I’m still waiting for a reply.
Sadly for the legal profession many sets of chambers are now replacing some clerks with similar grand sounding ‘PR and marketing teams’.
Through Lawyers Life I’ve dealt with some of them.
My fellow barrister, please stick with the old school clerks!