November / December 2003  Volume 29, Issue 8
ABA Law Pracice Management Magazine, November/December 2003 Issue
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Media: How Did They Do That?
Richard Levick
How does one lawyer in a crowded market grab the spotlight from the rest of the pack and become a favored resource for reporters? This bankruptcy guru became a media kingfish by mastering the basics.

William Rochelle has a lot of competition. Although he is one of New York’s leading bankruptcy lawyers, he is hardly New York’s only bankruptcy lawyer.

Yet Rochelle, a partner in the New York office of Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, is getting quoted more than 200 times a year in top publications and on the news wires. What elevated Rochelle to guru status were his basic media skills—what in baseball they call “the fundamentals.”

First, Rochelle has mastered the art of the sound bite. Reporters want the shortest explanations of the most difficult legal or business situations. Rochelle has no qualms about reducing his expertise to 10 words that any straphanger can understand.
And Rochelle speaks vividly. In commenting on one case, he quipped, “The cost of fixing all the problems is so huge that the creditors should declare victory and go home, like we did in Vietnam.” It was an unexpected-enough metaphor to land in two national publications.

Rochelle also makes reporters’ jobs easier by providing leads and story ideas. His online Fulbright Daily Bankruptcy News has news on bankruptcies around the world. If reporters are interested in any case, Rochelle is the natural lawyer to call for comment.

In addition, Rochelle understands that media appearances lead to more media appearances. By appearing often enough in the press—regardless of which media it is—he’s become a safe source reporters feel comfortable calling. He accepts virtually every appropriate opportunity and goes out of his way to accommodate deadlines.

Sound like common sense? Perhaps, but it’s one thing to know the rules and another to follow them. Bankruptcy lawyers don’t get quoted 200 times a year unless they do both.

Realistic Expectations
Patience is a concomitant media skill. Recently Bill Rochelle spent 45 minutes with a Wall Street Journal reporter, offering many comments that were not attributed. No matter. He was delighted with the one citation he did receive in such a major newspaper. No other practicing lawyer was quoted as an expert in the article—and Rochelle’s firm, Fulbright & Jaworski, was also mentioned. Reporters don’t always bother mentioning law firms when they quote lawyers. It’s something of a coup when they do.

—Richard Levick


In How Did They Do That? Richard Levick ( rlevick@levick.com) explores how law firms and their clients achieve groundbreaking media success. He is a lawyer and President of Levick Strategic Communications, which has directed media for top firms around the globe.