Practice/Industry Group Overview
For clients involved in any high-profile industry, or in a legal matter that may come to the attention of the public, there can be fall-out that reaches well beyond the legal framework. With the 24/7 news cycle, matters that could have escaped public attention in the past are now fodder for a ravenous news machine. In the Internet/social media age, anything and everything can be picked up and quickly circulated around the globe. The resulting media coverage can reach audiences critical to the client's business—shareholders, investors or customers—and can have a profound effect on both the legal and business outcomes. This turn of events can impact:
- Brand reputations
- Share values
- Settlement opportunities
- Verdicts / damages
It has become essential for companies with a (potentially) high-profile legal matter to take steps to manage their message.
At Duane Morris, we have strategic communications professionals who are lawyers with decades of experience and incorporate this skill into the effort of the overall legal team, striving to minimize the potential negative impact of media coverage, maximize the protection of the client's brand and position the client most favorably with its key constituencies. Our interdisciplinary experience enables us to analyze and resolve contradictory issues that often arise between legal representation and public relations teams, as well as to devise strategic messaging and proactive responses that assist the legal effort while addressing concerns of internal and external constituencies.
Some of the firm's highly skilled and experienced professionals have spent decades utilizing approaches that range from strategic media planning and proactive editorial services to community outreach and grassroots campaigns to help clients create, strengthen or preserve public opinion favorable for reaching institutional or corporate goals.
We can assist clients involved in a wide range of transactions to develop persuasive cases before key audiences – customers, investors, the news media, public officials and special-interest groups – and then reach out quickly and effectively to those audiences through a range of communications activities. We provide strategic communications counsel and hands-on support to companies regarding mergers and acquisitions, refinancings, friendly and unfriendly takeover transactions, leveraged buyouts, IPOs, secondary stock offerings, proxy contests and disclosure activities.
All businesses in the 21st century are vulnerable to public crisis, whether issues emanate from regulators, hackers, aggressive nongovernmental organizations or shifting world events. Whatever the source, when an urgent situation hits, the financial, reputational or regulatory stakes are usually high. The Duane Morris team possesses the experience and know-how to manage the message, get ahead of an issue and help change minds when it matters most. Our comprehensive crisis communications approach includes creation of a rapid-response team, development of point-by-point rebuttals of inaccurate or slanted media reports and broad-based information distribution strategies. We work to proactively position the client with various outside forces—the media, the public, key decision makers, constituencies, the segment of the market and the community—to provide a blanket of proactive coverage. Our crisis communications services can also work in tandem with the client's existing media and communications team.
While the specifics of recalls differ, overarching communications strategies can help calm nervous consumers, satisfy wary regulators and quiet the media watchdogs throughout the lifecycle of most recalls. Product recall messages represent an essential communications tool in these situations. Their function is threefold: to provide information of a practical nature regarding the recalled product; to describe the operational process of recalling it; and to defend the reputation of the affected product, maker and seller. While lawyers are navigating the company through legal compliance, a simultaneous and coordinated communications plan can be used to reach a broad audience, with its goals being:
- Brand protection
- Consumer protection
- Corporate standing
- Relationships with regulatory agencies
- Business recovery
- Reinforcing relationship with customers
As a result of greater public interest and media scrutiny, legal disputes increasingly are being litigated as vigorously in the court of public opinion as they are in the courtroom. Litigation can draw unwelcome and intense media and Internet attention, adversely affect investor perceptions, hurt employee morale, and sully the personal reputations and credibility of all mentioned. It can also negatively influence other stakeholders, such as business partners, advertisers, interest groups and government entities—not to mention impact the jury pool or opportunities for settlement. The Duane Morris team can develop communications strategies that help shape the public and private dialogue before and during litigation, both inside and outside the courtroom.
Having communications and legal strategies developed by members of the same team often can provide many benefits, such as:
- A communications plan that is developed and executed in furtherance of legal strategy that is not at odds with legal counsel's advice and goals;
- Joint legal / communications team that brings a heightened understanding of legal underpinnings and considerations to communications decisions;
- Conversations regarding communications strategy may be protected under the attorney-client privilege;
- Experienced advisors can be called upon at earliest possible stage;
- No need to go through the time-consuming process of finding and vetting an outside public relations firm; and
- Potential savings for clients not having to retain separate consultants.