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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    April 01, 2002

    Inside the Bar

    The Bar is launching a long-term effort to educate the public about the value lawyers bring to their clients and communities.

    George Brown

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 75, No. 4, April 2002


    The Bar is launching a long-term effort to educate the public about the value lawyers bring to their clients and communities.

    by George C. Brown,
    State Bar executive director

    George BrownNEARLY EVERY TIME THE STATE BAR CONDUCTS a membership survey, the programs that the majority of Wisconsin attorneys find valuable are CLE seminars and books, the Wisconsin Lawyer, and ethics opinions and the ethics hotline. Through the enormous efforts of volunteers statewide and a hardworking staff, the Bar fulfills these needs for education, information, and advice. One program request that members rank among the highest on their wish list is a Bar effort to help improve the image of the profession.

    In the past, the Bar has been content with the old public relations adage of "doing good things and telling people about them." That approach was fine before people were bombarded daily by thousands of messages and before other professional organizations began to use sophisticated research and advertising dollars to improve their image in order to compete better in the marketplace.

    Among the various professions, the accountants often are singled out for remaking their image from that of bean counters to trusted business advisers. It didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen for free. Beginning more than a decade ago, the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) spent $20 million to research their image and to develop a message platform and an advertising campaign. Recently, AICPA has spent another $20 million over four years to advertise accountants' remade image in only five publications: The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, and Barron's. As the communications professional who told me this exclaimed, "Talk about market penetration!"

    Your State Bar is working to change its past approach, not through a large-scale ad campaign, but with a focused, coordinated communications effort. Beginning with the Annual Convention in May, the State Bar will roll out a new effort to educate the public about the value of lawyers, based on extensive research with members of the profession and the public. This represents a change in focus for the association from one of how the State Bar works to help you, the member, to a focus on how lawyers help the public through providing expert advice, solving problems, and performing service to the community. (Please see the article, "Branding the Profession," elsewhere in this issue.)

    The State Bar already supports your ability to provide expert advice and solve problems through the numerous State Bar CLE seminars and books and through the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine. You also are afforded the opportunity to provide community service through the various Law-related Education programs like high school mock trial and through the Lawyer Hotline Program and many other public service programs.

    Thus the old adage is transformed from "doing good things and telling people about them" to telling people about the good things you do in a way that can be heard above the thousands of other messages people receive every day.

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