MWL Unique Project Promotes Women Attorneys in the News

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If you have something to say … say it … to the media.

It sounds daunting, even scary, but a new initiative is helping women attorneys find their voice in front of an audience.

“What do you do when you pick up the phone and it’s a reporter on the line? You can either panic or be ready to take advantage of the opportunity,” said Maureen Carlson, attorney at Jux Law in Minneapolis.

To help attorneys navigate what may seem like a media minefield, Minnesota Women Lawyers (MWL) has launched a unique project designed to connect women lawyers with journalists, helping lawyers advance their practices and giving journalists a reliable roster of legal experts they can turn to for depth and perspective. Now in its second year, the MWL Media Resource List is just that – a list of women lawyer members who are ready, willing, able and eager to share what they know within the parameters of their ethical obligations.

“Legal issues make compelling news stories,” said veteran journalist Trisha Volpe, an attorney in the Minneapolis office of Barnes and Thornburg. “Journalists are hungry to take their stories to another level. A legal expert’s voice helps distinguish their stories and can keep the audience interested, in a time when so much reporting is lacking insight.”

With the support of MWL, Carlson and Volpe developed the MWL Media Resource List initiative, which is designed to promote a more diverse and inclusive image of attorneys in the news media and across the general community.

“MWL is committed to fundamentally elevating the status of women in the legal profession, by enhancing the visibility and influence of its members and promoting women attorneys as leaders in the public arena,” said MWL President Connie Armstrong, associate general counsel at McGough Construction.

But it’s not just about putting your name on a list, hoping a reporter will call.

In the last two years, MWL has hosted a one-of-a-kind communications class that provides insight into how news organizations operate combined with high level media training for women attorneys interested in engaging with journalists. The class is led by Volpe and her husband Bob McNaney, senior vice president of crisis and critical issues at the communication firm of PadillaCRT.

“Lawyers are good communicators,” said McNaney who media trains global executives. “But lawyers can be great communicators in the media if they are properly trained. We teach lawyers what to do when a reporter calls, for example, how to strategically craft messages and how to tell their story and their client’s story.”

The training provides skills that go beyond media training – strategic communication skills that can be used for presentations, client meetings and in the board room. The class also takes an in-depth look at the unique ethical issues lawyers face when talking to journalists, helping lawyers stay on the right side of their professional responsibility obligations.

The Media Resource Project not only offers a valuable resource to journalists, but serves MWL’s members and its mission. MWL works to actively promote the project and build relationships with a wide range of news outlets across the state.

“MWL plans to continue growing the Media Resource Project by creating a deeper roster of lawyers and hosting additional training classes, helping women lawyers build on their strengths, develop key skills and become solid and reliable contacts for journalists,” said Carlson.

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