Why PR people should use the law more
The law must often seem like the complete opposite of the creative industries.
To outsiders, it looks pretty rigid, even unchanging. There’s seemingly little latitude given to those who are looking for even a small amount of flexibility. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and modern law is often far from black and white. It can even be ‘creative’. But still, in my experience, many people who work in the creative industries can be scared of the legal process, and very wary of lawyers.
To the untrained eye, when the law relates to people in PR, marketing or advertising, it is often due to supposed wrongdoing – libel, complicated contract issues or copyright infringement for example. But the law is also there just as much to protect creativity when it comes to these topics. A recent YouGov study found that the average UK SME faces eight legal issues a year, potentially losing a collective £13bn per year from neglecting legal issues, most commonly disputes, employee and contractor issues, supplier or customer issues and even contract terms. With these kinds of numbers at stake, being reticent to tackle legal issues comes at a potential high price.
Creative industries could benefit enormously from approaching the law as a benefit and a bonus. As well as helping their business by protecting it, making the lawyer a friend can actually be time effective too; think of all that free advice over lunch! Considering the cost implications of deferring legal issues, both professional and personal, it could even be critical that creative types shed their fear of tackling legal issues. The ancient idea that lawyers are continually on the clock, or the idea that just because contracts and terms and conditions can be detailed, all legal issues will be time consuming, should be shed and quickly. Another study recently found that people are more comfortable conducting business with a lawyer online – this kind of flexibility both avoids potential feelings of confrontation and saves time.
When it comes to legal professionals who know the creative industries intimately, a range of services can be provided from just one business – from contract, business merger or building lease issues, through to copyright, IP and social media issues. Tackling legal necessities doesn’t have to take massive numbers of hours from PROs or client teams, who would prefer to be spending their time on the big ideas or blowing clients away with results. It can be much more light-touch if you find the right legal partner who understands how that creative business operates. When it comes down to it, if these issues fester, business heads could find that the time they need to commit to these issues, instead of running their companies and servicing their clients, could become much more of a burden. Imagine if you are balancing your day to day, pitching for business, delivering client demands – and suddenly you have to drop all in a heartbeat, to tackle a series of lengthy legal meetings instead. It puts the stable running of your operation at risk, and leaves clients in the lurch.
Trust me, I am a lawyer... modern law has changed. It’s no longer dusty, confrontational or threatening and nor are its practitioners. We can keep pace with the fast thinking and creativity of the marketing and creative worlds. Equally, law is embracing technology to make itself more accessible to the time-poor. Communications and media businesses also need law partners who understand the demands on their time, and can deliver flexible services which can fit in around that. This support is out there, but to access it, creative businesses need to face their fears, and understand some of them are unfounded.
Written by Tessa Laws, partner at Acuity Law
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