When a Lawyer’s Reputation Can be Damaged by Public Relations Consultants

This week, I had two meetings at a legal trade magazine where the reporter interviewed my clients from different law firms for two profile stories. I sat in the room quietly, listening as my clients shared their experiences as attorneys. I enjoy sitting in on these meetings because I often learn something new about my clients. I also make a point to keep my mouth shut and avoid trying to control the conversation. However, there’s a situation when meetings among a client, reporter and publicist can backfire in a big way.

The Seattle Times reported that a high-profile trial attorney, Anne Bremner, wants a court injunction to block the sheriff’s office from releasing investigative reports and video from her arrest two months ago on suspicion of drunken driving. The story goes on to say that the interview with the paper took place in the office a public relations specialist. The article also said:

Bremner is a well-known defense attorney who has often appeared on cable and national television stations to offer legal analysis. According to her website, she covered the Michael Jackson child-molestation trial in 2005 for CNN and has appeared on TruTV, “Good Morning America” and Fox News. Over the course of her 26-year career, she’s represented numerous police agencies, officers and sheriff’s deputies.

Clearly, Bremner is media-savvy. However, having this meeting in a publicist’s office was a strange move. If she’s as innocent as she says, why not meet the reporter at her offices or at a coffee shop? Why have a publicist in the room if you’re telling the truth about what happened? A publicist should not be seen or heard in these circumstances. Rather, a good prep session with the publicist and client before the meeting is the way to go.

It raises some suspicion that she needed to have the protection of a publicist and is trying not to allow the media to see her public records. This creates a “loop hole” for the media and citizen journalists to exploit, which opens up a new can of cats.