“We will litigate in the court of law, not in the press.”
“My attorney will manage the media.”
Myopic remarks similar to these have contributed to the destruction of otherwise salvageable reputations, allowed tainted information to seep into jury pools and ushered companies out of business.
When a defendant fails to respond to a plaintiff attorney’s media manipulation during the onset of litigation, one-sided and imbalanced news coverage is certain to follow, casting the business under a dark cloud of suspicion throughout the entire process.
Although a defendant company may have the facts, the law and ultimately the court on its side, negative news coverage can decimate stock values, send customers scrambling and altogether cripple the business regardless of the eventual outcome.
It has been said that one who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. In today’s 24-hour news cycle and social media society, it should also be said that a client whose counsel refuses to allow media engagement has a fool for a lawyer.
Moreover, it is totally unethical for an attorney to do nothing while opposing counsel holds press conferences, conducts interviews and churns out media advisories that tarnish the defendant’s image and shape public opinion to the plaintiff’s advantage.
Defendants are initially disadvantaged in press coverage because it is the plaintiff’s allegations that typically generate the headline and the story’s lead. And in today’s society in which those “evil” paycheck-producing, job-creating, tax-base-strengthening entities known as businesses are immediately suspect, the disadvantage is compounded.
But by proactively responding to and managing the media from the beginning of the process, a defendant has a far greater chance of mitigating sensationalism, adding insight to the overall situation and helping the press and the public understand complex legal issues. Proactive press participation could furthermore impact how the story is written and ultimately influence the outcome of the case.