Risk Update

Law Firm Reputation Risk Management — Best Practices from a Lawyer/Crisis Communications Expert

Interesting commentary and advice on law firm PR risk from a lawyer/crisis communications specialist: “Lessons in Law Firm Reputation Management: How Firm Leaders Should Prepare for Public Scrutiny When Representing Political Clients” —

  • “For BigLaw, especially those that represent political administrations, now is the time to prepare for public attacks regarding who your firms represent and what your lawyers stand for.”
  • “There have been situations where law firms have chosen not to represent clients in controversial matters due to the enormous backlash. In 2011, King & Spalding chose not to represent the U.S. House of Representatives as it sought to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) outlawing same-sex marriages. The firm determined that, due to its support for gay rights, it would not take on the case.”
  • “Many BigLaw and midsized law firms handle government matters and high-profile government individuals. Keeping this in mind, as well as each firm’s fiduciary duty to protect all employees’ and clients’ best interests, every firm should consider protocols to avoid getting on a boycott list.”
  • “To prepare for potential public scrutiny and reputation management, consider the following questions:
  1. “Is our firm a potential target for negative public scrutiny?
  2. Should anyone from the firm be a public voice in media while controversial lawsuits are ongoing?
  3. What is the internal impact if the firm is mentioned about its representation of XYZ client?
  4. What protocols, if any, should we put in place to review prospective clients – for example, political figures – for conflicts and cultural fit?
    • While law firms should not overly regulate their attorneys, it is in the best interest of every law firm and its clients to implement best practices and protocols for bringing on high-profile political clients. The protocols should include:
      • Conflict check
      • Financial competence check
      • Merit review of claims (Rule 11 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure)
      • Cultural fit with firm
      • Consequences for client base
  5. Should we revisit our firm’s media policy?
  6. What should we be monitoring during a public outcry (and how)?
  7. If clients question attorneys’ representation of other clients, how should the attorneys respond?
  8. Should attorneys be permitted to espouse their individual political beliefs on social media, especially during divisive times?”

For those interested in the nitty gritty details and recommendations for each numbered matter, and additional commentary on recent news, see the complete article.