- First, when you need to respond to the media, you need to do it NOW, not later, so you need to have your checklist in advance.
- Second, we lawyers do talk to the media. My advice is to talk. When a reporter calls a lawyer, it is in the interest of the client to return the phone call. Generally lawyers tell their clients not to talk to the press, and the lawyers do not talk to the press themselves. That is wrong, because it is bad for the client if you as the lawyer do not say something. It’s better for your client if you as the lawyer call back, find out what the story is, and then give your side of the matter — otherwise your side won’t be in the story. Do not let your opponents frame the case to the public.
- Third, your client expects you to handle those media calls to you in a professional manner.
- Fourth, you will impress even battle-weary corporate executives if you take the lead in telling them what they should do in response to a phone call from a reporter about “our” case.
We have a quick, inexpensive, short list form you can use to educate you and your client for talking to newspaper and TV reporters. It’s a “must have”. It gives you a mentor’s advice in much less time than it would take you to think it out and dictate it, even if you were an expert media advisor yourself.
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I suggest you put a copy of this Media Handling Form in your trial notebook, anytime you have a case that is newsworthy, and anytime that you have a case going to trial. You will need it for your client’s public relations if a reporter contacts you or your client. The media is not there to determine the truth. The media is there to get something from you that they can use to sell newspapers or keep people watching the 6 pm news. Be friendly, but realize that reporters do not regard you as a friend.
Discuss handling of the press with any client before the client gets to the courtroom door. You do not want an unprepared client buttonholed in the corridor by a reporter when you are inside the judge’s chambers. Use this Media Handling Form. Think of the form as emotional insurance.
A note about ethics: A lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication — if the lawyer reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing a trial.
This means that if you are trying to influence the jury by what you are saying, don’t do it. There sometimes is a fine line between seeing that your client does not suffer in the press and influencing the jury, but you will need to not cross that line. Look for that line before you talk. Get How to Respond to the Media for only $7.