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Litigation Communications

Let Litigation Lead The Blame Game

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Let Litigation Lead The Blame Game

It is easy to point fingers and to shift the focus of the core of any issue by finding others to blame. In dealing with a crises, such as the Flint Water Crises, the time and attention by those directly involved should be focused on resolving the problems and making sure the needs of those negatively affected by the situation, both short term and long term, are taken care of.

Instead of finger pointing, the state must focus on the people first and let the litigation determine who was at fault.  

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A lawyer should also become Business Advisor

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A lawyer should also become Business Advisor

In today’s economy, lawyers need to provide their clients with more than just legal services.  They can position clients to avoid litigation, minimize risk and protect their reputation, by blending law, policy, politics and strategic communications to provide clients an integrated approach to resolving or avoiding legal problems.

Equipping attorneys with the wherewithal to communicate with the public will provide law firms with new channels to cross-sell services and maintain core clients by expanding into new areas to complement a variety of practice groups.  Crisis and media management represents not just an ancillary service that lawyers can provide their clients but also represents a critical component of a successful legal strategy.

In addition, companies today face increased challenges from regulatory and legislative authorities.  And attorneys need to become more aware of how they can use the legislative and regulatory process to improve their client’s position.

But many lawyers are uncomfortable offering their clients counsel in approaching the media or talking with legislators.  But when the damage is done publicly the legal outcome becomes irrelevant.

If lawyers are uncomfortable in stepping out of the box and expand their practice then they need to develop the relationships to wrap a team around their clients to proactively work together in the best interests of their clients.

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Trial by media

When the stakes are high in litigation – use the media to win your case

In law, public opinion matters so turn those key messages into a winning litigation strategy -- Lawyers are prevented from using the media as a tool to influence a judge or jury.  But litigation is a threat not only to a corporation’s bottom line but also to its reputation.  Winning in the court of public opinion can often times be more important than winning legal battles. In approaching litigation of high profile cases, lawyers should look at the big picture and beyond the facts and case law in representing clients.  Lawyers should counsel their clients to conduct a thorough assessment of the potential impact litigation will have on the company’s image, reputation, customer relations, investor relations and future business of that particular company.

Through a strategic and targeted communications plan, a company can protect its image, avoid any investor drop-off and continue to keep its customers.   As a result, a comprehensive legal strategy should also include a strategic communications campaign (find legal word for campaign) that works on a parallel track to litigation. While lawyers are preparing for trial, your pr counsel can manage the public environment surrounding the legal action. A strategic communications campaign can also help avoid litigation in the first place and become a holistic approach to avoiding litigation.  Through an on-going litigation strategy key stakeholders will have all the information they need to make informed decisions.

Quick tips:

  • Set the tone immediately you get wind of something
  • Conduct a vulnerability assessment
  • Communicate with employees and other key figures
  • Develop key messages and engage the media
  • Line up supporters and maintain momentum

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Preserving attorney-client privilege in retaining PR counsel

Work product generated from a public relations agency may or may not be protected under attorney-client privilege.  Recently, a judge in New York (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York) ordered documents given to Calvin Klein's (CK) PR firm by CK's lawyers that contained information related to a lawsuit with a licensee.

The PR firm was retained to manage the media and manage the message during the litigation to protect the CK label from negative publicity surrounding the trademark litigation.

Despite this ruling, there are steps you can take to make sure you are protected.  Steps such as:

  • Have your legal counsel retain the firm
  • Have communications from your PR counsel directed to your legal counsel
  • Label all communications “Attorney-Client Privileged”
  • Retain a media savvy lawyer to assist in the messaging in and out of court.

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The sands have shifted in the practice of law

Gone are the days when clients were only concerned about the legal ramifications of a lawsuit or legal quagmire.  Today, clients are often also concerned with how they are judged in the public eye and perceived by their customers, vendors and by their own families.

In protecting a client’s reputation, “an attorney’s duties do not begin inside the courtroom door -- he or she cannot ignore the practical implications of a legal proceeding for the client.”[i]  An attorney should take reasonable steps to defend a client’s reputation.

This is particularly important in an environment where news is reported “24/7” and at times even delivered instantaneously to our cell phones.  Likewise, with sales of newspapers and magazines at all-time lows, the media is hungry for a story even if no story really exists. Therefore, lawyers must be more diligent in looking at the big picture in protecting their clients’ interests in the court of law as well as in the court of public opinion.

[i] Gentile v State Bar of Nevada (Kennedy opinion), 510 US 1030, 1043 (1991).

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When your reputation is on the line

High-profile litigation involves not just the defense of the legal claim but also the protection of the client’s public image.  The normal orientation of defense counsel is toward protecting information from disclosure, but where a case has aroused public or media interest, a narrow focus on preventing disclosure can have broad negative effects outside the scope of the litigation itself.  In cases of that type it is wise for defense counsel to retain public relations counsel to assist with the public relations aspects of the defense.  Public relations counsel can coordinate public relations efforts with defense counsel in a way that helps to protect the client’s public reputation without jeopardizing the attorney client privilege.

 

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Today’s legal strategies demand public relations

PR as part of the legal strategy - [Litigation Communications Part 4]

Today’s business environment demands an aggressive strategy to resolve issues legally while protecting one’s reputation publicly.  As a result, lawyers need to be more than legal counselors or advocates.  They need to be familiar enough with how perception is created within the public eye and how to use the media effectively to manage that perception.  Therefore, the potential impact any litigation will have on a client’s image, reputation, investor relations and future business must be considered in creating a legal strategy.

To protect a client’s legal interests and also to preserve the client’s reputation publicly in a high-profile case, defense counsel should consider engaging public relations counsel early in the process, so as to develop a complementary strategy and get advice on how to deal with the media and protect the client’s public relations interests.  In developing a broad defense strategy that embraces both legal and public relations concerns, lawyers need to look beyond the facts and include public relations concerns as a comprehensive defense.  Public relations counsel can assist defense counsel by managing the public relations issues while defense counsel focuses on the traditional elements of mounting a defense.  If both the legal and the public relations components are to succeed, it is essential that defense counsel and public relations counsel coordinate their efforts.

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Retaining public relations counsel

[Part 2 - Litigation Communications]

The attorney-client privilege is generally preserved in retaining public relations counsel during the course of litigation.  However, it helps when your public relations counsel also happens to be a licensed attorney.  In fact, public relations seems to be a popular alternative career for attorneys.  In any event, defense counsel should exercise care to ensure that any privilege is preserved.  It also is preferable that the public relations firm be retained by and report to defense counsel rather than the client.  This will help in mounting a coordinated defense and also help to preserve attorney-client privilege by ensuring that all communications pass through defense counsel.

Likewise, public relations counsel should include defense counsel in all stages of communication and consult closely with defense counsel in developing key messages to make sure it complements the legal strategy rather than puts it in jeopardy.  Defense counsel should be present during any conferences involving public relations counsel and the client.

Given the stakes in today’s litigation environment, defense counsel may find it helpful to develop a relationship with a public relations firm, so that it can be ready to assist on short notice if and when it is needed.  For example, some public relations firms are known for their expertise in crisis and reputation management while others focus more on soft promotions and publicist work.  Some public relations firms focus specifically on litigation communications practice, and even have attorneys and registered lobbyists on staff.

Many of the larger law firms have a chief marketing officer that they can rely upon for initial help or guidance, while others have already retained a public relations firm to assist with matters that are beyond the routine. In any event, defense counsel should look for a public relations firm that has relationships with the media, both local and national, on-line, in-print and on-the-air.

In preparing for litigation or creating a legal strategy to meet a clients objectives attorneys must consider the impact on their client’s businesses and reputations.  Reputations take years to create and only seconds to destroy.  Engaging public relations counsel early can create a comprehensive strategy that will help clients – and defense counsel -- succeed.

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Litigation Communications - An Introduction

First in a series --

When legal problems become PR problems it is vital to act quickly, decisively in order to establish credibility and protect your clients’ brand, reputation and business relationships. To meet the challenge demands of today’s economic and technological realities, attorneys must develop relationships with the media and PR professionals who can help them weigh the legal, PR, public policy risk and ramifications that legal questions raise.

For example, Orrick helps clients weigh their legal problems from a range of disciplines including PR and public policy.

Lawsuits today affect more than a company.  It affects share value, product reputation, brand reputation, individual reputation.  Therefore Litigation strategies must take into account the potential impact it will have on a company’s reputation.  Lawsuits no longer tried exclusively in the courtroom i.e. customers and shareholders now sit in judgment along with juries.

Litigation starts well before a case is ever filed.  New skills for next generation of lawyers. Media savvy attorneys begin with the pre-trial community and it ends long after a judge renders a verdict.

Today’s legal market demands a broad range of business solutions lawyers can provide their clients and a strategic communications plan can prove to be an extremely helpful tool your firm can provide. For example, in today’s 24/7 media culture, companies lack access and lack control to the media who cover their industry and to the people that talk about them on-line.

Elements to a legal problem:

  1. Public concerns
  2. Issues management
  3. Preemptive legislation
  4. Litigation communication
  5. Relationship management

Today’s communications plans must be objective, flexible and discrete.  Great campaigns are strategic, have a well-defined goal, are targeted and provide results that stand-out.  Each business problem should be approached with a public relations, backed by solid research to build the strategy, sprinkle it with a heavy dose of creativity and efficient use of funding

In today’s competitive market, there is a great demand for high level, experienced communications executives who demonstrate the ability to reason; analyze and solve business problems to help retain clients, develop new business and help their business stand out from their competitors.

Companies today are facing increasing challenges from regulatory and legislative authorities.  Likewise, high profile white collar defendants now draw the same intense media coverage as drunken movie stars and athletes who are accused of steroid use.  Like movie stars and athletes, business executives in trouble aren’t just calling their lawyer.  They are hiring public relations firms in hopes of salvaging their name and saving their corporate reputation.

Defending clients in the public arena differs tremendously from a court of law.  For example, the rules of evidence do not apply.  And in the public’s eye, we are presumed guilty while innocent when justice is blind.  Therefore, when the damage is done publicly the legal outcome becomes irrelevant.

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Protecting Your Client's Reputation

Should lawyers represent their client’s outside the courtroom, they have to become comfortable in talking freely about their client’s case without jeopardizing legal outcomes. Lawyers in general are trained to be reticent, answer only the questions asked and to give no more information than is necessary. In the face of the media and those who rely on it, however, expansive information and open communication can serve the client better than creating an appearance that the client has something to hide and, worse is hiding behind a lawyer. Public relations counsel can employ strategies to build, preserve, and protect client reputation, while reinforcing their client’s legal strategy. In the public eye, we may be presumed guilty if we respond to a reporter’s question with “no comment.” To avoid this presumption of guilt, it is important to develop a message and answer questions, or appear to, while staying on that message. In today’s economy, lawyers need to provide their clients with more than just legal services. By learning how the media operates, lawyers can best serve their clients, by blending law, policy, politics and strategic communications to provide an integrated approach to addressing or better yet resolving legal problems.

For more information, please contact, Daniel Cherrin at dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com or 517.377.0865.

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Don't Dress Like a Mortician

That was the advice a memo from someone at Clifford Chance told the woman lawyers at the multi-national law firm in an effort to help them give better presentations. The advice was directed at the Clifford Chance women attorneys who make up a fraction of the 3,700 of their legal advisors.  The memo urges female lawyers to “practice hard words,” stop saying “like” and to button up, explaining “No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage” and “Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.” Other tips on the memo include:

  • “Like” You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You know,” “OK,” and “Like”
  • Don’t raise your pitch at the end of a statement if it’s not a question.
  • Lower the pitch — say “uh-huh” and match that pitch to how low you can go
  • Don’t qualify: “Kind of, sort of, just…”

Some of it is good advice that we need to be reminded every now and then but the rest -- Well I think there is better advice to give anyone giving a presentation. My advice,

  • Be yourself but professional.
  • Be natural but have fun.
  • Enjoy the moment, it's yours.

If you want other good presentation tips, Ragan.com posted 8 Things Never To Say During Your Presentation.

Following the release of the memo on the blog, Above the Law, a Clifford Chance representative said, “The original presentation and associated tips represented a personal perspective, shared with a group of colleagues, some just starting out in their careers.”  (See the rest of the memo here.)

If that is the case, then Clifford Chance should respond they way the memo was leaked and use social media to address the issue directly.  They should follow up with a blog post of their own and post it on their blog or website. I would not recommend they respond to concerns on Twitter or Facebook. If they do they will continue to contribute to the debate and if I were advising Clifford Chance, I would have them post a blog or statement and find opportunities to reinvest in the people of their firm to restore trust and their image, particularly women.

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When a Law Firm Fires The Governor's Wife

Tonight Lockhart/Gardner fired the Governor's wife. It was actually tonight's episode of The Good Wife, on CBS and in tonight's show, the partners found out that Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) was planning on leaving the law firm to start her own and take with her some of Lockhard/Gardner's largest clients, not to mention a number of associates and lead investigator. There is a lot to learn from watching a TV show. I get that every now and then from watching the Kardashians.  However, this one hits closer to home in terms of how I like to help clients, faced with high profile issues affecting their reputation -- as a lawyer, for a law firm and even for the Governor.

From an employer perspective....

  • Once information is learned about an employee that would warrant firing them. before acting based on emotion an employer should have all the facts, or at least enough to make a decision on high profile employment issues.
  • However, once the decision is made it must be communicated quickly and efficiently.  Today, Twitter is the best and quickest medium.
  • Before a tweet is sent, a firm or company should already have influential people following them - Work hard at pro-actively building upon your social network.
  • Invest in client relations. Today, law firms are too big, lawyers are too isolated and legal bills are too high. Business today is based on personal relationships, not on big law firm names. It is important to ensure your clients know that you are laser focused on their work -- So represent them as if they are your only client.
  • Work hard to communicate with your employees so these situations can be avoided in the future.

Good thing they had a public relations counselor waiting in the lobby to begin work on defending a major law firm against The Governor-elect's wife.

From the employee perspective...

  • Make sure you are also following the law as you prepare to leave your employer.
  • Be proactive in regards to getting everything in order, including notifying those that you can legally notify and what messages you are communicating in leaving.
  • Have a website ready to go, in addition to social media -- most likely Twitter and Facebook but also LinkedIn.
  • Know who the reporters are covering your industry and those of your clients, and make sure they know and trust you as a resource.

From the Governor's standpoint...

  • Be prepared with a statement but don't communicate it directly.
  • If confronted and asked in person stay on message.
  • Answer the questions directly and bridge to another issue.
  • Address the issue, don't avoid it.
  • Distance yourself from the business of others, particularly those that you are close to.
  • Ensure the public that this issue remains a separate issue outside of your work in the state and that you remain focused on the issues before you.

Regardless of which side you are on, make sure you have the necessary relationships with people to help you should you need it.  This includes lawyers, accountants, doctors and strategic public relations counsel. Trust is vital to the success in any business and we work hard to establish it. It is even harder to rebuild in the wake of crisis.  As we learned tonight, "politics leads, the law follows." Whatever comes your way, it is important to be prepared and know those that can help you should you need. it.

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More tips in protecting your reputation during a crisis

don’t say anything you couldn’t or wouldn’t say in court, and  just sick to the facts

For example:

  • The claim, offense or defense involved
  • Information contained in a public record
  • That an investigation of a matter is in progress
  • Undisputable facts

A litigation communications plan blends both legal expertise and media savvy, by helping to frame messages during the litigation to help preserve, protect and enhance the reputation of the parties. It also helps to monitor what others are saying about the case and the company and works to control the message, address concerns and build relationships to help the company emerge from the litigation with its reputation intact. An effective litigations communications strategy, works to enhance legal efforts by providing clarity on complex legal issues, before and after litigation. The goal of litigation communications is to guarantee that the client's public image is completely aligned with the legal team's efforts and strategy, while ensuring the company's message is understood outside the courtroom.

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Media Tips for Lawyers, Representing Clients In The Public Eye

article IMG_0344 Screenshot 11:27:12 12:03 AM 484359_10151114446092757_1756183311_n IMG_0839 Today’s legal market demands a broad range of business solutions lawyers can provide their clients. A strategic communications plan can prove to be an extremely helpful tool lawyers can provide their clients, in anticipation of or during litigation, or just an overall part of their legal strategy.

Every Company Is A Media Company

Today, every company with a website, blog or social media presence is a media company and anyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet, has the potential to damage a company’s reputation. However, at the same time with digital and mobile technology, companies have more opportunities to take their message directly to the consumer, to protect, enhance and elevate their reputation.

For companies such as Domino’s and The BBC, to celebrities and politicians such as Lance Armstrong and Elliott Spitzer, lawsuits today are no longer fought in the courtroom.  Cases are being tried in the media, with the potential to damage brands and reputations alike.

Clients Turn To Lawyers As Spokesperson

In general, a lawyer’s job is to represent their clients in a court of law, not in the media, and many are uncomfortable in talking to reporters.  However, client’s today are turning to their lawyers not just for legal support, but to help protect their reputation and often speak on their behalf.

“An attorney’s duties do not begin inside the courtroom door.  He or she cannot ignore the practical implications of a legal proceeding for the client. Just as an attorney may recommend a plea bargain or civil settlement to avoid the adversarial consequences of a possible loss after trial, so too an attorney may take reasonable steps to defend a client’s reputation and reduce the adverse consequences of an indictment, especially in the face of a prosecution deemed unjust or commenced with improper notices. A defense attorney may pursue lawful strategies to obtain dismissal of an indictment or reduction of charge, including an attempt to demonstrate in the court of public opinion that the client does not deserve to be tried.”

In today’s media saturated environment, where we can share pictures or Tweets from our phone instantaneously with the world, that may even end up on CNN or FOX News, many clients will turn to their lawyer for advice, counsel and a response.  So lawyers should have a basic understanding of interacting with the media, on line and off.

Balancing advocacy for clients and legal ethics

The Bar is concerned that attorneys often speak with authority and that whatever they say can help shape public opinion.  As a result, a good rule of thumb in talking to the press or in any public arena is to stick to discussing the facts or explaining the process. In making statements to the media during or in anticipation of trial, a lawyer, or their client’s spokesperson, should avoid making any statement that would "have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding."

In other words, “don’t say anything you couldn’t or wouldn’t say in court.” This includes speculations on a criminal defendant’s guilt or innocence, opinions on any participant’s credibility and character, conjecture on why a participant would not submit to examination, and, generally, any information that is not likely to be admissible – Just stick to the facts.  For example:

  • The claim, offense or defense involved
  • Information contained in a public record
  • That an investigation of a matter is in progress
  • The scheduling or result of any steps in litigation
  • Undisputable facts
  • A request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary of the investigation
  • A warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved.

A lawyer, however, may make statements that may be required to protect a client from substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client.  A statement should be limited to such information that is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

Crisis + Litigation Communications

The sands have shifted in the practice of law.  Gone are the days when clients were only concerned about the legal ramifications of a lawsuit or legal quagmire.  Today, clients are often also concerned with how they are judged in the public eye and perceived by their customers, vendors and by their own families.

A litigation communications plan, blends both legal expertise and media savvy, by helping to frame messages during the litigation to help preserve, protect and enhance the reputation of the parties. It also helps to monitor what others are saying about the case and the company and works to control the message, address concerns and build relationships to help the company emerge from the litigation with its reputation intact. An effective litigations communications strategy, works to enhance legal efforts by providing clarity on complex legal issues, before and after litigation. However, the process should start long before a matter goes to trial and even before the firs documents are filed. The goal of litigation communications is to guarantee that the client's public image is completely aligned with the legal team's efforts and strategy, while ensuring the company's message is understood outside the courtroom. As a result, communications experts should be retained early on in the process, to monitor the media, craft the messages for key audiences, respond where and when appropriate and otherwise be involved.

In retaining a public relations professional, it is important that you find someone who understands the interplay between the law and legal process on one side, and the media and public opinion on the other. Managing these complex communications in a timely and efficient manner can play a vital role in the cost-effective mitigation of a crisis or legal matter.

Tips for dealing with the Media

Despite certain rules imposed on lawyers, reporters, journalists and bloggers may contact you based on a case that you are working on or a client that you represent, or perhaps even the issue areas you work in everyday.  Alternatively, you may contact them, to help position your client in the public eye or to promote yourself as an expert on an issue that is receiving a lot of attention in the news.  Regardless of how a reporter comes to you, in dealing with the media it is important to understand what they want and how you can best work with them.

The media is interested in a story that others want to read, watch or listen to.  News is something that is:

  • Timely,
  • Relevant, and
  • Sometimes entertaining.

Reporters will most likely report on stories that are:

  • First
  • Trends
  • Unusual or unique
  • Involve celebrities, kids or dogs and
  • General human-interest stories.

When the reporter asks you if he or she can ask you a few questions, try to get a little more information from them. Find out what the reporter wants to know.  Depending on when they call, they are most likely on deadline and looking for a quick sound-bite.  If you need to, ask if you can call them back and think about what you want to say.  Then call them back in a timely manner.

Here are a few more tips in terms of working with the media:

Know why you want to talk to the media -- What do you hope to achieve in talking to the media?  Before you talk with a reporter, know what you want to accomplish, even if they catch you by surprise.

Know your audience -- Then understand who your audience is. This will help you craft the appropriate messages that resonate with the right audience.

Know what you want to say – Once you know why you want to approach the media, and who the audience is, know what you want to say.  Have a few key messages written out that you want to convey to the reporter and think of a few questions they may ask -- and be ready to respond.

Do your homework – Know what the reporter writes about and covers. Be familiar with their latest story and angle.  Go on their website, perhaps they have a blog or check them out on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.

What not to do with the Media:

Never say “No Comment” or “Because a lawsuit was filed we cannot comment on active litigation.” Instead say something more general and stick to your messages, or “I can’t tell you that now, but what I can tell you is..."

  • Don’t repeat a negative question or phrase
  • Stop using jargon or technical lingo
  • Try not to go “off the record”
  • Never lie
  • Don’t attack competitors or sell yourself

During the interview – Think of it as a debate not a conversation, unless you are talking to Stephen Colbert:

  • A reporter is using it to gather information or to find a story
  • Know your objectives and stick to your key message
  • If the reporter gets off message, bridge back to your key message
  • Answer only the question asked
  • Stick to your messages

Don’t hide anything you don’t want them to find later. When speaking to the media be concise and thorough and tell them everything that you can with in reason. You do not want them finding out information on their own and then confronting you when you are not prepared to answer their questions.

If you don’t know, don’t tell and don’t worry – Don’t panic if you are asked a question during an interview that you do not know the answer to. Be honest and tell them that you do not know the answer but that you would be happy to look into it and get back to them. Never attempt to make something up.

Silence. When being interviewed, once you have made your point do not be intimidated by silence. Silence is not a bad thing during an interview, it’s a tactic used by reporters to get you to talk, in the hopes of getting you to say something that you shouldn’t have.

“Off the record” or “For background only” – As a general rule, if you don’t want it in print then don’t say it.  However, an ethical reporter will respect what you are trying to say and will work with to make sure what your saying is accurate. It helps to know the reporters covering the issues you are working on and have a good working relationship with them. It also helps to not be confrontational and to respect them for having a job to do and that you want to work with them in preparing their story.

Timing – Just as a lawyer sticks to deadlines prescribed by the court, reporters have deadlines to keep and times they need to either file stories or air them. You will develop better relationships with a reporter if you are sensitive to their deadlines.

Preparing for an ambush – If a reporter catches you by surprise, stop in your tracks, address the reporters questions (you can be vague if you want), then let them know that you have another commitment and that you will get back to them by their deadline.  If a reporter calls by phone  take their message, find out what they want and when their deadline is,  and get back to them in a timely manner.

Working with the media – It is about relationships.

Corrections -- Don’t be afraid to correct the reporter or ask them to revise their story to be accurate.

Monitor the media – Know what is being said about you, your clients, your firm and your industry.

Anything else? – This is always the last question in any interview, so be prepared to summarize your key messages; say anything that you forgot to say before; or clarify any statement that needs further explanation. s not deserve to be tried.”2

Social Media Tips

Social media is becoming more than a tool for us to stay in touch with our friends or family, it is becoming a new area to look out for our client’s interests and/or a new medium to promote our practice. It also is our opportunity to control the message and to clarify misinformation. However, interacting with those using social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or YouTube, is a little different than working with the traditional media.

Know the influentials –  There are millions of people using a variety of social media sites that it is important to know who the influential people are.  There are a number of social media sites that you can use to track the influentials.

Monitor the chatter – Once you know who to follow you should monitor the chatter. Listen to the tone of the comments and questions and participate where appropriate. A good way to monitor the media is to create Google Alerts, Twitter feeds or Facebook updates. Even if you don’t join the conversation, be aware of what people are saying about your company on different social media platforms.

Engage the community – Once you are able to gain an understanding of social media and how it works, go ahead and begin to engage the community. However, in using social media one’s credibility is gained through transparency, honesty, relevance and value.

Crisis Management

If a crisis ensues, you may not have the time to monitor social media sites and find the right time to engage people on line. Should that be the case, you should be more proactive, reserve the various domain names with your name, your companies name and variations thereof  so should something happen, you can go on line and communicate directly to the masses.

FOIA

The documents you file in court are public documents and subject to FOIA. Don’t be surprised if you see the language from your depositions, motions or others in an article or even on a graphic on television. So, if a reporter asks for a document, it will go along way if you just give it to them but feel free to redact sensitive or privileged information.

Hiring PR Counsel

Lawyers need to understand what is news and how to best communicate that news to the public.  If attorneys will not provide such services, then they should build strategic partnerships with public relations firms to help them. To meet the needs of today’s businesses, lawyers will need skilled advice regarding how to position their clients before the media, while legally protecting their clients.  Seeking PR counsel is an important aspect of any legal strategy. Even if the issue is a small matter, there is no way we can tell how public opinion can or will shape the outcome of a case. Therefore, in engaging public relations counsel:

  • Have the lawyer retain the PR firm as opposed to your client directly, to try to preserve attorney-client privilege.
  • The public relations counsel should consult with both the client and attorney at every step of the process.

Once a public relations firm is engaged, they will, depending on the strategy: help with messaging and identify the appropriate media to communicate those messages or even act as your client’s spokesperson. They also should monitor the media and find ways to enhance, protect and further your client’s reputation.

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