When I talk to colleagues or clients about the need for specialized litigation communication, their first question is usually, 'Why?'
When I talk to colleagues or clients about the need for specialized
litigation communication, their first question is usually, 'Why?'
Any search engine provides a quick answer: just type in the word
'lawsuit' and look at the results. In the month before my search, USA
Today published 100 stories containing the word 'lawsuit.' The AP ran
357 such stories in the previous two weeks.
Lawsuits against corporate America are proliferating, and they are
fought on two fronts: in court and in the headlines. Companies need
expert assistance to ensure that the general public, not just judges and
juries, hears and understands their side of the story. This is why
high-stakes lawsuits don't fit neatly into the traditional practice of
In recent years, corporations have learned about the need for crisis
management to cope with accidents, disasters or other unpleasant events
that come without warning. Lawsuits, especially those filed for maximum
publicity, can be a disaster of their own; but damage from a public
drama can be deeper and longer lasting.
One key challenge is that lawsuits sometimes feature emotional or
eloquent plaintiffs - and lawyers who are happy to parade their cases on
prime time. Part of the skill involved in litigation communication is
persuading the public that even when a lawsuit involves 'ordinary'
people as plaintiffs, a multimillion-dollar verdict is not necessarily
fair or desirable.
Another challenge is that lawsuits are run by lawyers. Corporate counsel
frequently lack the time, inclination or expertise to issue statements,
hold press conferences and rebut inflammatory public statements by
opposing counsel. When in doubt, company lawyers tend to say 'no
comment' - a response the public overwhelmingly interprets as
The fact is that a legal defense and a public relations defense are not
the same thing. A courtroom defense often focuses on small details - of
law, of evidence, of admissibility - while a PR defense must emphasize
the big picture: the integrity of a company's people, products and
Bridging the gap requires a new breed of experienced PR professional,
frequently lawyers themselves, who understand the litigation
American corporations face an unprecedented onslaught of lawsuits - and
of adverse publicity that plaintiff lawyers have become so adept at
stirring up. Litigation communication experts are uniquely qualified to
help a company's counsel and PR professionals deal with today's legal