Developing relationships with reporters and editors is a worthwhile goal for lawyers. Your purpose is obvious. By getting to know media contacts (general, business and legal), they are more likely to call you when they need a lawyer’s perspective; and there is no better way to be seen as an expert than by being quoted in a credible publication or interviewed on TV.

Reporters are always looking for good sources of information, particularly when they are covering a case or on deadline with the latest, hottest breaking news. They won’t think of calling you unless they know who you are. So, invite a reporter or editor to breakfast or lunch in order to get to know one another.

Start with your local media – broadcast (radio, TV) and print (daily, weekly or monthly newspapers and magazines). Find out what their hot buttons are, and offer to help them understand the legal implications of a story they are working on, even if you end up referring them occasionally to other lawyers on a particular topic. By developing a friendship with reporters and editors, your chances of being called are better when they need a legal angle on a story; especially when you get a reputation for getting back to them promptly, and respect the pressures they are under. Some reporters prefer lunch to breakfast, but you won’t know that until you call them.

Some tips and precautions include:

  • Return reporter’s call immediately, if not sooner;
  • Don’t assume anything you say is on background or "off the record", unless you and reporter agree in advance;
  • If you don’t have an immediate answer, tell them you will get back to them and do so ASAP (remember that deadline thing);
  • Ask when is their deadline (reporters for weeklies are more flexible than dailies);
  • Don’t reveal client confidences; and
  • Don’t talk about a client’s matter without their permission, even if it is a matter of public record (clients can get ornery about such things).