Communication Is Crucial w/ Janet Falk 400
Categories: Podcast

In today’s episode, Jim and Tyson chat with communications specialist, Janet Falk! They dive into the importance of communication. If you’ve been thinking about how communication could be helpful to improving your practice,  check out this week’s episode.

Janet Falk is a Communications professional with more than 30 years of experience in-house and at public relations agencies. She advises attorneys at small law firms and with a solo practice on Media Relations and Marketing Communications to: attract new clients, remain top of mind with prior clients, keep in touch with referral sources, help recruit associates, generate a news story about litigation that puts pressure on opposing counsel and achieve business goals.

Janet leads workshops on these topics and advises on media relations, website, LinkedIn profile, articles in non-legal industry trade publications, and client newsletters, among other areas. She has published articles on Media Relations and Marketing in The New York Law Journal, The New Jersey Law Journal, and Marketing the Law Firm and is a frequent speaker on webinars and podcasts about Public Relations and Legal Marketing. 

Speak with her for a complimentary Strategic Communication Session (30-minute consultation) to assess your Communications activity and online presence. She guarantees TWO IDEAS.


2:15 octagonal peg

6:15 why should anyone care

11:29 you’re not saying no comment

16:09 broadcasting industry publications

20:04 into the media too much

24:32 promoting everything that you do online


Jim’s Hack: When you talk about coaching, it’s an investment, not a cost. I challenge you to have a growth mindset. 

Janet’s Tip: Check out some of my e-books on topics such as networking, LinkedIn, and how you can be the one reporters call. You can access them here. If you’d like to keep in touch for more tips, subscribe to my newsletter.

Tyson’s Tip: Check out the TED Masterclass App. It offers a lot of great information. It’s about speaking, specifically the TED style of speaking.

Watch the podcast here.

Join the Guild:

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Transcript: Communication Is Crucial with Janet Falk 

Jim:                  Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.

Tyson:             And I’m Tyson Mutrux. What’s up, Jimmy?

Jim:                  Oh, Tyson, you know, we just got off the phone. We’ve had, between the two of us, lots of people leaving, lots of people coming, just lots of interesting things. It’s never a dull moment owning a law firm. That’s for sure.

Tyson:             Yeah, and that’s part of growing law firms, right? That’s just part of it. Like the coming, the going. It’s just part of it. Whenever you’re scaling a law firm, that’s part of it. And some of it’s growing pains, some of it’s to improve your firm, too. So, it’s a part of having a law firm, a growing law firm.

Jim:                  Well, do you want to go ahead and introduce our guest?

Tyson:             I do. I’m actually really excited to introduce Janet Falk. She’s a communications professional with more than 30 years of experience at in‑house and at public relations agencies. She advises attorneys at small law firms and with a solo practice, on media relations and marketing communications to attract new clients, remain top of mind with prior clients, keep in touch with referral sources, help recruit associates and generate new stories about litigation that puts pressure on opposing counsel, among other things. I’m not going to read the whole bio.

Janet, thank you so much for joining us.

Janet:              It’s my pleasure. I’m excited to meet you both and talk to your audience.

Jim:                  Janet, we always like to begin by having our guests sort of walk through how they went on on their own, how they started their company, and sort of, even though you’re in PR and we’re obviously lawyers, there’s always lessons to be learned about that transition. So, do you want to tell a little bit about sort of where you came from and then how you got to where you are now?

Janet:              Sure.

So, Jim and Tyson, if you took a look at my website, you’ll see that my logo is a little bit different. It’s the letter F for my name Falk and it’s imbedded in an octagon because I’m not a round peg. I’m not a square peg. I’m an octagonal peg. I have a diversified background that includes higher education, Wall Street, nonprofit, and law.

Now, working in the communications field, from time to time, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there are some bumps along the road – the market takes a tumble, and people cut their budgets, and communications is often one of the first places that they cut which is kind of foolish because I’m sure you both agree that, if you don’t invest in your own business and in your own practice, who do you think is going to do it for you? No one.

So, it was in the financial crisis of 2008, in December, that I was last employed. And so, I, again, as in the past, hung up my shingle and I decided to focus on law firms. Particularly, law firms that were smaller or solo practitioners. Larger firms that have a hundred or more employees would have a marketing professional on their staff but very small firms or solo practitioners don’t have the need for someone like myself to be around all the time. But when they do occasionally have an interesting case or they have an interesting point of view of what’s happening in the industry, or in the local market, then they need someone like me to set them forward. So, that is how I set up my practice and decided to focus on law firms.

Tyson:             So, tell me something, whenever you– the communications is crucial, right? It’s absolutely crucial, whether it’s with clients, whether it’s to juries, whether it’s to whomever. What are some of the things that you see us, lawyers, sticking our feet and our mouth on that we should really stop doing?

Janet:              Okay. There’s two things that I would mentioned. The first thing is that it’s not about you. It’s not about you, the attorney, and how great your law firm is, and all the great work that you’ve done for your clients which I admit is generally impressive. It’s about the other person. It’s about who is looking to retain you and use your services, or who is looking to refer you. So, you want to be phrasing your content, whether it’s on your website, or on your LinkedIn profile, or in your newsletter, and focus on the person who is about to read it and who wants to engage with you.

So, I deal with reporters all the time and I like to think about the five things that are important to a reporter. So, Tyson, you know what, the five W’s are, right?

Tyson:             Who, what, when, where, why. And then, there’s how.

Janet:              Exactly.

Tyson:             Okay, good. Good.

Janet:              Right, right.

Tyson:             I pass that test.

Janet:              Okay. So, you want to think about who. Who is it that you want to get in touch with you? You want to think about what. What is it that is on their mind and what problem do they have? But not only what problem do they have and what solution do you offer, but what do you want them to do next? Do you want them to call? Do you want them to click a link? Do you want them to visit your office? Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? So, who is it you want to reach? What is bothering them? And what is it that you want them to do?

Now, you come to when? When has this arisen? Is this something that’s time sensitive because there’s some sort of deadline, whether it’s from the law or from an industry mandate? Or is it something that’s perennial, right, that people always need to think about – filing their taxes or planning their estate?

Now you want to think about where? Where are they looking for information so that they will know to find you in that place?

And, finally, you come to why. And the why is really a little more complicated. I like to think of the why as Why should anyone care? Because Tyson, you and Jim, have ideas that will help someone else to save time, save money, and make more money because, working with you and your experience, they will be able to cut to the chase and get what it is that they need, whether it’s their green card, or whether it’s a settlement from the insurance company so that they can then move forward with their lives.

So, that’s what I think is a very important aspect is it’s not about yourself. It’s about you, the other person, and what that person should be concerned about, and what they should be doing next in order to get in touch with you. So, you want to be in those places, when they are going to be sensitive to that point. So that’s one thing that I noticed.

The second thing that I noticed people doing is talking to the press and avoiding them, and saying, “No comment.” Now, it’s not always in your client’s best interest for you to be saying “no comment,” because, what happens, some bystanders reading the news report and “an attorney for the person was not available for comment, a spokesperson for the company was not available for comment.” Immediately, they think, “Not a good sign. There’s something going on there.”

So, instead of “no comment,” I would encourage attorneys to instead respond to an inquiry from a reporter and respond to the questions, but you don’t have to exactly answer them. But it’s much better if you respond to the reporter say something that’s not particularly quotable. And at least, if you’re not in the story, then that’s helping your client, because you’re keeping a positive light on your client. You don’t want to be unavailable for comment because that’s not going to make your client come out favorably in that kind of situation.

So, those are two things that I would mention – think about who is on the other side, and what is it that they need to do, and what is that problem that you’re trying to help them resolve. And don’t say no comment because it’s not necessarily going to be helpful to your client.

Jim:                  To the first point, I got an email this morning. And she also posted this on our Facebook group. “I came across your video on YouTube and tears came to my eyes because everything you were talking about fits our case exactly and I’m so happy for lawyers like yourself that go all out for your clients.” I mean, that was just like exactly what you just said. And I don’t say it to toot my own horn. I say it to the point of, you know, giving content to what people are looking for and the answers to their questions. So, I love that point.

Janet:              Yeah. And I would encourage you, Jim, to take it one step further. And, you know, Tyson, maybe you as well, and that is you both have a lot of fantastic content on your websites. You have the FAQs. You have the blog. You had the videos. And that’s all fantastic. But I want to encourage you to do one more thing and that is give something away for free.

Make people get a download and you can make them give your email address, or not. That’s up to you, how you want to gate it. But when someone download something from your website, you never know where it’s going to travel. It can go to a family member. It can go to a supervisor. It can go to a neighbor. It can go to– you know, who knows.

But if you have something that has your branding on it. It has your email address, your phone, your website, and is valuable information, then they will be able to take that and share it with the next person. So, make it easy for them to have something that they can share.

Tyson:             So, I think it’s funny because, even in your bio, you offer, which I did not get to, a complimentary strategic communication session, a 30‑minute consultation, where you guarantee at least two ideas which I think is fantastic. So, if anybody wants that, you should reach out to Janet.

But the question I have is– so, I went over to my bookshelf. While you were talking, I grabbed this book. It’s by Frank Luntz. And so, it’s Words at Work. And we’ve talked about it on the podcast before. Do you get that specific with the wording? Like use this word, don’t use that word. Things like that?

Janet:              It’s hard to say, you know, without having a specific example in front of me but–

Tyson:             I’ll give you an example.

Janet:              Okay.

Tyson:             I don’t want to cut you off but like- so, let’s say, Jim takes on a new immigration client. And that immigration client, turns out committing a very heinous act against the country. Well, I’ll give you that.

So, now– yeah. So, it’s a terrible situation and Jim’s got– there’s cameras at Jim’s office and they want to talk to him. Go.

Janet:              Okay. So, I want to say a few things here. The first thing is that, “I understand there’s an investigation underway and we are cooperating with the authorities so that we can provide them with the necessary information. As more facts come to light, then we will continue to be in touch with you. Please make sure that we have your name, your phone number, your email address, and your cell phone number, so that we will be able to follow up as more information comes to light.”

So, there you have– you’re not saying “no comment,” right? But there you have saying, “We’re aware of the situation. We’re cooperating with the authorities. And we will continue the conversation. And then, basically, you cut it off. You just say, “That’s all the information we have for today. I’ll be in touch with you as things progress.”

Tyson:             I like that, Jim. How about that?

Jim:                  [inaudible 00:11:46] my clients without getting in any trouble but that’s very–

Tyson:             Never.

Jim:                  That’s very helpful. I mean, I’m a camera hog, so I would definitely not just say no comment, but that’s just a great template for what to say. So, thank you for that, Janet.

Janet:              No.

And here’s something else you might consider. Let’s say you’ve introduced yourself to reporters and they’re in touch with you, so you’ll have an ongoing conversation. And then, suddenly, you get a call from someone that you don’t know, right? And they say they’re from the local press, or from the industry press and so on. And you were not expecting this call. You don’t know what it is that they want to talk to you about. So, do you take the call or what do you do?

I would recommend that you take the call and you say, “I really would like to talk with you, but I have someone else in my office right now. Let me please get your name, and your phone number, and your email address. And could you please tell me exactly what you would like to discuss, in case I have to do a little checking with someone else, because I want to be more helpful to you. And I promise you, I will get back to you in a half an hour.”

Now, if you’re in a situation where the reporter is calling you and you’re caught off guard, you don’t want to be talking about something that you have no preparation for. So, instead, you stall in this way because there’s no story that’s so important that it cannot wait a half an hour. So, you find out exactly what it is that they’re calling about, because you think it’s about a certain situation but, it turns out, it’s about something very different.

So, now, in that half an hour of time, you are able to figure out what it is that they’re actually going after, how you’re going to respond. You’re able to come up with two or three talking points. You’re able to illustrate those talking points with some example, or some anecdote, or some other tip that I’ll talk about later, if we have time. And, now, you call the reporter back and you say, “You know, I’m so glad that we’re able to continue this conversation. I’m ready to answer your questions.”

So, you have teamed up with the reporter by saying, “Give me a half an hour and I will be able to investigate and check and get any more information because I want to be more helpful to you.” And that will be more helpful to your client as well because you’ll be fully informed about what it is that the topic of discussion might be.


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Jim:                  You’re listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. We’re speaking today with Janet Falk. She’s a PR expert who specializes in working with lawyers.

Let’s take the opposite situation now and I’ll use a hypothetical for Tyson. So, I was watching Better Call Saul the other day. And he was trying to get the reporters to do a story. And I remember he was just crossing off each phone number as no one was interested in the case that he had. So, let’s say Tyson is filing a big class action or big products case against GM or somebody, what tips do you have for lawyers in that situation where they’re the ones who want to generate the publicity?

Janet:              Okay. So, I’m going to give the example of a case that I worked on, because I love talking about this case. And it was a sexual harassment case brought by an employment attorney against a major company in the broadcasting industry. So, Tyson, will you accept these changes?

Tyson:             I will fully accept these changes.

Janet:              Okay.

So, what happened was, first, we got the client’s permission to contact the press because, you know, the client was going to be exposed, literally, and we wanted her to feel safe. And she said, “Okay.” Then, the next thing was, I contacted reporters at broadcasting industry publications, in advance, and I said, “My client is an attorney. He’s going to file a lawsuit in a few days. And it’s about a major player in your industry. My name is Janet Falk. Please be on the alert, because I will be sending you a press release with more details about this case.”

So, I raised the flag that there was something afoot. That was on a Friday afternoon. So, on Monday morning, the attorney files the case in the court, and we took a copy of the stamped complaint, and we had a link to it online so that reporters in the broadcasting industry, who might not be familiar with the docket system, would be able to access the complaint.

Then, we issued a press release. So, at nine o’clock, that case was filed. At 11 o’clock, we issued the press release. And then, I started making my follow‑up calls and I said, “Do you remember I told you about this case? Now, I can tell you. Now, these are the defendants. They’re the actors on a television show. They’re the show. They are the cable network. They are the production company. Oh, yes. And the parent company of that cable network, Viacom. Now, I think you’ve heard of them, right?”

So, because it was such a large company in the industry, the reporters were very interested. And at one o’clock, a story was filed on broadcasting and cable saying allegations of sexual harassment at Viacom, and it named the other actors on the show and the other defendants.

So, time passed, and at, five o’clock, the employment attorney, my client, calls me and he says, “Janet, I just got off the phone with defense counsel and we’re proceeding to settlement talks.” Now, you both have been practicing law for a long time. So, can you imagine filing a case in the morning and before you leave the office, the same afternoon, defense counsel says, “Let’s talk about a settlement.” Right? I’d say that was a pretty sweet setup.

And how did that phone call from defense counsel happen? It happened because sponsors, who advertised on the show and on the network, read the story. And they probably– this is speculation, they probably got in touch with Viacom and with the cable network and said, “We’re very unhappy to read about this news and we’re reconsidering our advertising budget.” And so, it seems to me, likely, that the senior forces at Viacom said to the associate general counsel, “Make this go away.” And that’s how that phone call happened.

So, my plan is, when you are filing litigation, you should prepare in advance to have a press release so that you can announce it and distribute it, whether it’s to the particular geography or to the particular industry. And then, you can follow up with the reporters, after the press release is distributed, to make sure that they’re interested in the case because you want to generate this pressure on opposing counsel. And that way, you won’t have to litigate your case and everything can be settled, let’s hope, happily for your client.

So, that’s how you can proactively include media strategy as part of your litigation strategy. What do you think?

Tyson:             I love it. And I’m so torn about what question I want to ask you next.

I’m going to ask you the second one I thought of but, if we have time, I’ll work it the other way.

So, I think that there could be a concern that, you know, there could be too much of you trying to get on TV. Is that a real thing or should you be trying to get in front of the media whenever you have an opportunity?

And what I mean by that is like this, that was a big case, right? On my smaller cases, should I also be trying to do the same thing because I will tell you, when it comes to smaller defendants, that would also be an extremely effective technique if I got them on in the newspaper, or on television, or on websites. But is there a point where it’s just too much, where you’re trying to get into the media too much?

Janet:              I think you have to go back to what I was saying before, Tyson, about who is it that’s going to care and be interested in this situation? I mean, in this case, we very narrowly targeted the broadcast industry, because we wanted other people in that industry to be aware of what was going on, because their response, by contacting the defendants, was going to make or break the case in those terms.

So, I think you have to think, “Is it in your client’s best interest to be in front of the media?” And also, it may not be that your client is the person who should be the spokesperson. It may be you that should be the spokesperson. You know not every client is prepared to deal with that kind of spotlight attention.

And as for whether it’s TV, or print, or radio, or online, you have to figure out, again, where is your audience looking for information? And then, make sure that you are present in those venues.

Jim:                  Janet, one of our members posted today– his name is Jason Carpenter. And he spends a little bit of money and he’s able to go on these local morning talk shows. Can you talk about that as a strategy for promoting yourself?

Janet:              I think that’s great if that’s where his focus is. If his focus is only in the local geographic area, and then they have identified him as the expert. Of course, as attorneys, were not allowed to be an expert but nonetheless. And he’s able to comment on what people need to be thinking about.

Remember something I said earlier. How does your insight help someone else to save time, save money, and make more money? So, if he is able to bring that insight to the community, then yes, he will be the one that they call.

I often say, reporters called the people they know. They don’t call someone they’ve never heard of. And who do you think prospective clients call? They call the person that they’ve heard of. They’re going to ask somebody else who might have worked with you or asked another attorney who might know a colleague that has an area of practice that they don’t handle. So, if you want to be seen, then being seen in the news is one way to make that happen.

Tyson:             All right. I’m going to try to sneak in my last question here.

So, let’s say that you are misquoted in the media, let’s say that they take your quote out of context, or let’s say that they say that they reached out to you and you said, “No comment,” but that didn’t really happen. So, let’s say that there’s some sort of discrepancy. How do you react to that?

Janet:              You go back to the reporter and you redress the reporter. And they will make that change, if they’re reputable. And, if you don’t get satisfaction, and you go to the editor, and you escalate. What happens, however, is that even when a correction is printed, nobody sees it. And they don’t always go back into the online version, right? Many times, in the online version, you can see a correction, “This was updated to reflect the correct spelling of the name, or the correct amount,” or something like that. But you have to do that as soon as possible because, once it’s in print, they’re only going to print a correction which no one’s going to see. And once it’s online, it’s already distributed. You have to get the correction into the online version.

Jim:                  Perfect.

Janet, how do people, if they want to work with you, how do they reach out? Where do they find you best?

Janet:              Okay. My website is JANETL, as law, And I work with attorneys in different locations. They don’t have to be in New York, which is where I’m situated now.

Tyson:             Excellent stuff.

And also, I want to make sure that people do reach out to you to take advantage of your offer. Does that offer still exists where they can reach out to you for– it basically seems like a consultation? Is that right?

Janet:              Yes, yes. I offer a complimentary strategic communications consultation. We’ll look at your digital presence. We’ll look at your website. We’ll look at your giveaway material, your newsletter, your LinkedIn profile, what contact you’ve had with the media and so on.

And can I mention also that I recently published an ebook. And the ebook, it’s called Create and Monitor Your Marketing RBI. It’s a baseball theme, runs batted in. And it talks about the five ways of getting business which are networking, speaking, writing, being active in the trade association of your target market, and promoting everything that you do online.

So, there’s an order form on my website, on the homepage. People can take a look. And it’s very valuable information, just as what I’ve shared with you here,

Tyson:             Excellent stuff.

Okay. I’m going to sneak another one. Sorry to both of you. But I want to sneak this in. David Terry has a question in The Guild. He wants to know. He says, “I’ve done television news before where I’ve been interviewed but don’t really enjoy it. Plus, my wife says I have a face for radio which is funny. What is the effectiveness of radio? I know it’s not Good as television, but just curious of your thoughts about radio?

Janet:              Well, I would say television and radio are similar in this way. If you didn’t see it or hear it, it’s like it didn’t happen. So, you have to make sure that you capture that audio and then you repurpose it and redistribute it.

So, one thing that your colleague might consider is to capture the radio clip and then create a transcript so that it can be circulated as part of their newsletter. Or maybe they can take that idea and share it with an organization and say, “This is a hot topic. Let’s put together a panel. And I’ll bring someone else to get involved in the panel so you won’t have to organize anything. It’ll be myself and this referral source or myself and his former client, and we’re going to explore this topic.”

So, if you have done something that is available, whether it’s print, or TV, or radio, it’s not one and done. You have to find other ways to merchandise it and to share it because, if a person didn’t see it or hear it in that moment, it’s as if it didn’t exist at all. So, that’s what I would encourage your colleagues to do is to take the radio clips and find ways that they can be shared either digitally through audio, or transcripts, or to make an event around them.

Tyson:             That is excellent stuff.

All right. So, I will stop asking questions. I’ve just enjoyed myself too much today.

But I want to remind everyone to go to the Facebook group. Join us there, if you want to get a lot of great information on a daily basis. If you want a more high level conversation, join us in The Guild,

Remember to get your tickets to the conference,

And, while you’re listening to the rest of this episode, if you don’t mind leaving a five‑star review, we would greatly appreciate it.

Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week,

Jim:                  Someone who practices criminal defense law asked me the other day to recommend a mentor or someone who might be willing to coach them. I, of course, recommended our super successful friend Jay Ruane. This person came back to me and said that what I thought the fee would be was sort of outside, you know, their comfort level. And I just want to push back on that for everybody because, when you talk about coaching, sort of like when you talk about hiring, it’s an investment. It’s not a cost. You spend X amount of dollars so that you get Y amount back. And, hopefully, Y is a is an exponential number from X.

So, I really want to challenge people to think that through and have sort of that growth mindset and look at things more as an investment than a cost.

Tyson:             I love that. So, so true. Great advice, Jimmy.

Janet, we always ask our guests to give a tip or a hack of the week. It could be a podcast. It could be a video. It could be a book. It could be whatever. Do you have a tip or a hack for us?

Janet:              Yeah. In addition to the ebook that I mentioned, I have several other ebooks. One is about networking. And one is about LinkedIn. And one is about how you can be the one reporters call. So, take a look at the resources page, on my website, and you’ll be able to access these ebooks. And if you want to keep in touch with me for more tips. I have a monthly newsletter focused on tips for attorneys.

Tyson:             Excellent stuff.

And since we’ve been talking about communication today, my tip of the week is something I sent to Jim and Becca earlier this morning. It’s the TED masterclass app. There is a small fee for individuals. I think it’s $49. It’s a fairly small amount for what they offer in the app. It’s really cool.

And it’s about speaking. And they teach you kind of like the TED style of speaking. It’s a really interesting and it’s actually really cheap app. So, I highly recommend it. A lot of great information in there. So, check it out. It’s I know that it’s on the app store. I don’t know about on other devices.

So, Janet, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a lot of fun. I could ask you a thousand questions. So, thank you so much for joining us. We really, really appreciate it.

Janet:              It’s been a lot of fun for me, too. And I hope we’ll continue to be in touch.

Jim:                  Thanks, Janet.

Tyson:             Absolutely. Thanks, Janet. Bye.

Janet:              Bye.

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