The Daily Mail recently reported that an international law firm in the UK has been hit with a claim over alleged ‘overcharging’ by a Kazakhstan mining conglomerate. Both are large entities are likely to be well versed in crisis communications. But that story got me wondering about small Russian companies, boutique law firms in particular. How do they plan their communications in relation to potential crises? Do they have formal crisis management protocols? And are they confident engaging in crisis communications?
To find out, I got in touch with a few Moscow-based boutique law firms, experts in their own fields. Most of them don’t have formal crisis management protocols, unlike larger law firms that would normally have these drafted long before any issue had started to loom over the horizon.
Kirill Belskiy, partner at a white collar defence and litigation boutique in Moscow, explains that small law firms do not need written protocols to manage a crisis. “Unlike larger companies, we do not need to write regulations to help us urgently react in a crisis. Because of their size, boutique firms can be more agile in addressing an issue”.
For many small Russian law firms, what appears to work best is understanding of relevant procedures and a focus on prevention. Olga Gracheva, managing director at MGAP, a Moscow law firm with an office in London, says: “We’ve developed a system of mechanisms to anticipate possible issues and we do our best to prevent them. This has served us very well as we haven’t had any significant issues.”
While it is true that smaller companies can often react to crisis situations more quickly, our advice is always to plan ahead wherever possible. In fact, our experience shows that communicating in crisis situations can become a genuine opportunity to strengthen relations with key stakeholders, if done properly. This usually involves having formal crisis management communications plans in place that address the risk profile of the organisation and the likely scenarios it could face, including scrutiny by the media. I do believe that smaller companies and boutique law firms could benefit from treating crises as opportunities to communicate their strong points, rather than just ‘fire-fighting’ or keeping quiet.