In a landmark decision in the US, a federal court judge ruled last week that attorney-client privilege extends to conversations between PR firms and the lawyers of clients under investigation.
US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote: ‘In some circumstances, the advocacy of a client’s case in the public forum will be important to achieve a fair and just result in pending or threatened litigation.’
However, law firm Marriott Harrison litigation partner Franco Barone told PRWeek that whereas in the US many civil as well as criminal cases are heard before a jury, the UK’s restriction of jury trials to criminal cases means the privilege is unlikely to be extended to the UK.
‘The courts’ approach to PR here is that it would be “interfering” with court cases,’ Barone said.
Despite this, some industry figures this week expressed hopes for a similar change in the law as has occurred in the US, because of the professional status such a ruling would confer on PR counsel.
‘It confirms the legitimacy of PR professionals as an integral part in corporate comms advice given to companies at the highest level,’ said one industry source.