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PR firm to boost lawyers' image

TIRED OF being the butt of endless dinner party jokes, the nation's solicitors have hired a team of spin doctors to get rid of their "fat cat" public image.

The Law Society, stung by government criticism of the legal aid earnings of top lawyers, has employed a London PR firm, Biss Lancaster, to persuade the public that solicitors are not greedy money-grabbers but champions of justice. Women's magazines, tabloid newspapers and daytime television programmes will be targeted.

A spokesman for the Law Society, David McNeill, said theprofession was dogged by myths that lawyers increased acrimony in marital break- ups and other disputes as they sought to maximise their profits. He said: "These myths have existed since Shakespeare's time but they allow governments to get away with lawyer-bashing when they want to do things like cut legal aid. It's time to fight back."

During the recent debate on the future of the legal aid system, the Government was critical of lawyers' earnings, even "naming and shaming" those who made the most money from criminal legal aid cases. The Law Society called in PR consultants after a members' survey earlier this year revealed that solicitors believed they were held in low esteem.

Mr McNeill said: "The profession felt that its reputation was under pressure." He said the society's new president, Michael Matthews, recognised the need to improve the profession's image as part of a major reform programme.

Biss Lancaster will advise the society until next summer. Graham Lancaster, the PR company's chairman, said he aimed to make the Law Society "more effective in reacting to news" and "more focused in its messages". He will also seek to raise the profile of lawyers by making the public aware of the existence of legal activity in "almost all areas of British life".