Attorneys Can Break Through a Crisis with Effective Communications

crisis-communicationAre you ready for a crisis? Even if you think you’ve done nothing controversial, serious allegations or a lawsuit leaked to the media can put you or on the defensive. It might not matter if you are innocent, the negative publicity along the way might ruin your reputation.

In one example, Lumber Liquidators went to court to respond to an investor class action lawsuit. The company said the plaintiffs’ complaint is based on negative publicity. Even if the company is correct, its name has been tarnished. Lumber Liquidators has had to deal with government investigations and more litigation after “60 Minutes” broadcast a story about its products. Increasing problems have forced the company to respond in the media, as well as the courtroom.

Even if you’re in the safe zone now, you should create a crisis communication plan including:

1 – Assessment. Look at your current cases and clients to see if there are any potential problems, and think about what could happen as a result of a crisis. Develop a “scenario” plan to assess how your case could become harmful or controversial.

2 – Team. Choose someone to be a dedicated spokesperson if a problem occurs. Your team can include your firm’s partner, a communications expert, outside counsel, and anyone who is close to the issues.

3 – Audience. Think about who would be affected or concerned about a crisis related to your firm or a client. Your audience is internal and external, and includes employees, government agencies, vendors and suppliers, clients, and the media.

4 – Website. A part of your website should have a section that is not public, which can go live during a crisis when you need to communicate with the public. Sections could include statements, links, special contact information, and relevant court documents.

5 – Media contacts. Have a list ready of business and legal media outlets, including “traditional” and digital ones (such as prominent bloggers or social media influencers) that have already covered your case, or will probably cover it. Relationships should be established before the crisis hits, so think of ways to productively communicate with journalists.

6 – Personal inventory. Not all crises are related to cases. They could just be about individuals in your firm, or your own life. Make sure that people’s social media accounts and blog posts are free of any embarrassing, divisive, or controversial content.

Media is more fragmented than ever before, so be aware of the messages about you and your firm. By using Google Alerts and other monitoring tools, you can be ‘proactive in your messaging.