2016 Winners: Media Relations

First Place

Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP

2015 Marketplace Lending Survey

SummaryYHA | Richards Kibbe &Orbe

Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP (RK&O) does not spend much time following convention. Instead, they prefer to carve a path towards innovative new opportunities.

More than 25 years ago, the firm pioneered the now-common practice of trading in distressed bank loans, virtually creating the entire secondary market for this asset. RK&O was also one of the first firms to see opportunity in the peer-to-peer or marketplace lending space—a market that PwC expects to top $150 billion or more in the next decade. While finding that niche was relatively easy, establishing RK&O as a market leader required an innovative and thoughtful campaign.

Working with Hellerman Baretz Communications and the Wharton Fintech Club, RK&O established the first-ever Marketplace Lending Survey, which polled more than 300 institutional investors on their degree of awareness and interest in this new asset class.

The results of this survey were widely covered in the financial press, including The Wall Street Journal, American Banker, Barron’s, Business Insider and The Hedge Fund Law Report. A Bloomberg feature, “Firm Adopts Novel Marketing for Growing FinTech,” specifically called out the savvy manner in which the firm’s marketing effort had positioned it for success in the emerging area.

RK&O received more than 50 direct requests for more information about the survey and scheduled more than a dozen face-to-face client meetings to discuss business opportunities. As a direct result of the survey, the U.S. Department of Treasury also asked RK&O to participate in its first-ever, invitation-only, Marketplace Lending Forum.

Second Place

Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto

Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto: Success in Its DNA

SummaryYHA | Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto

The America Invents Act of 2011 created an entirely new set of proceedings for challenging the validity of a patent before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). It also created a feeding frenzy among patent attorneys for work before the PTAB.

Many commented on the new proceedings in the press, with several practitioners and other authorities painting a dark picture for patent owners. One former chief judge of the Federal Circuit predicted that the PTAB would become a “death squad” for patents.

Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto decided not to base its marketing campaign on sound bites. Instead, it realized that it could add value to the conversation by examining the actual results of every PTAB proceeding through 2014. Through that analysis, the firm could put the extreme and dire predictions being made about the PTAB to the test—and in the process, gain valuable insight into the new forum for existing and potential clients.

The firm differentiated itself by challenging the prevailing idea that the PTAB would be a disaster for patent owners after analyzing the hard data.

Fitzpatrick fostered dialogue with clients and prospects about the value of the PTAB, and identified the specific types of disputes in which that forum offers the greatest advantages for patent owners and challengers. The report allowed in-house counsel and other corporate stakeholders to come to informed conclusions about the PTAB.

After the report was issued, the number of PTAB cases handled by the firm increased 100%—from 20 to 40. These dramatic results exceeded the most optimistic hopes for the project.

In addition, the firm and its attorneys conducted 10 client and prospect presentations in which it discussed the report’s findings; secured five conference speaking engagements for one of its partners; and secured extensive ongoing coverage in legal and industry publications, including Corporate Counsel, Bloomberg News and Managing Intellectual Property.

The New York University School of Law also asked to use the survey results as part of its patent law curriculum, and the Practicing Law Institute will be using the data in its continuing education programs.

Honorable Mention

Motley Rice LLC

Taking on Takata in the Massive Airbage Recall

SummaryYHA | Motley Rice LLC

When news of major issues and injuries related to Takata airbags surfaced—airbags used in the majority of cars today—Motley Rice LLC realized the need to take a leadership role and help victims of the faulty airbags.

Motley Rice was able to raise increased awareness about the issue through attention-getting media relations and online and offline communication efforts to an estimated 140 million people while also helping to achieve an increased recall and earning the ability to represent 25 victims of this dangerous vehicle product recall.

To tackle the campaign, Motley Rice had limited budget and primarily pursued communications efforts using only its in-house team. The firm greatly contributed to raising awareness about the recall and the need for expanded recalls by telling its clients’ stories in media pitches and other communications.

Media results garnered an estimated 135 million impressions across numerous channels and features, including:

  • CBS Evening News lead feature story
  • A feature on CBS This Morning and online
  • A WSB-TV Atlanta feature segment that was also posted online
  • Approximately 67 additional articles (not including reprints and other online pickup of the Associated Press and other news service articles) in other major national, state and local publications, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, National Law Journal and The New York Times.

Motley Rice was also able to identify and now currently represent 25 additional victims affected by shrapnel or excessive force from a Takata airbag. The firm’s lead product defect attorney also earned a leadership role on the discovery committee for the multi-district litigation created for injury and economic loss claims.

By reaching out to NHTSA, media and others about the investigative testing as well as the real-life crashes their clients had experienced, Motley Rice contributed to the expansion of the recall in early April 2015 by demonstrating that cars not yet included in the recall had experienced airbag failures. Significantly, the firm was invited by consumer advocacy groups and senators to participate in and have their client, Angelina Sujata, speak at a major national press conference prior to a senate hearing.

Due to the extremely low costs incurred, Motley Rice anticipates a strong return on this initiative.