Many lawyers, law professors, and judges have to talk to the press (print and online news writers and reporters) at some time in their careers. Sometimes reporters just want some background information, facts checked, or some legal procedural step clarified. But sometimes, the lawyer IS the story, or at least the only story the news-writer has access to.
What do you do and say if your client is a party to a news-worthy case? More to the point, what do you say if you’re a new lawyer and you’ve not yet been battle scarred by badly written, inaccurate, misspelled, and potentially harmful (to your client) news stories?
Aside from the fact that “the press” can be your friend and that we all like to READ news stories, what are some of those tried and true lessons our parents would have taught us if they held high-profile legal jobs:
1) First and foremost, for Oregon attorneys: Please speak to the OSB PLF for any advice they can provide, which can be a lot. (Law librarians refer lawyers to their PLF all the time – we love the PLF! Well, it’s law librarian-love, but that’s not such a bad thing, is it?)
2) Second: Talk to media-savvy colleagues for their stories and advice.
3) Third: Find a quiet moment and do some reading. These are just a few titles available from the ABA (and possibly your local law library). Other publishers have additional titles.
a) Free Press and the Illusion of Prejudice, by Thomas B. Kelley, ABA 2003
b) In the Court of Public Opinion: Winning Strategies for Litigation Communications, 2nd ed., by James F. Haggerty, ABA 2009
c) Lawyers and Reporters, by Robert L. Rothman, ABA 2000
d) Prosecuting and Defending Popular Public Figures, by Daniel Small, ABA 2003
e) Public Relations for Lawyers, by Elizabeth Lampert, Richard S. Levick, ABA 2004
f) Talking to the Press and Making Them Listen, by Skyler Bentsen and Daniel Scardino, ABA 2005
4) A few years ago (March 10, 2004, to be exact) the Washington County Bar Association held a CLE entitled: “What to do when the media up. Run? Hide? Or Grab the Mic! A look at the OregonPress/Broadcaster/Bar Guidelines, Reporters Shield Law and Access to Courts.” (Print copy available at the Washington County Law Library.)
5) “Making News: Talking with the Media,” by Mark J. Fucile, OSB Bulletin, July 2010, pp. 34-35