One of the most challenging situations for clients is one that requires both legal representation and strategic communications advice. Attorneys want to win, no matter what it takes. And when they’re successful, you may not think it matters how they’ve won. But along the way to winning the case, the client’s reputation can receive such a negative impact that it can take years to recover … if it recovers at all. Balancing legal and reputational challenges is hard.
It’s easy to see how it happens. Your company/institution/organization has been accused of a criminal act, or has been sued for malpractice or discrimination, or a former employee claims unlawful dismissal, or a toxic work environment, or sexual harassment. Litigation is already in process or the threat exists.
In response, you’ve hired a preeminent attorney to defend your interests. She’s got her work cut out for her because part of opposing counsel’s strategy is to litigate the case through the media, making your company/institution/organization appear evil and your leadership team look like a bunch of malicious thugs.
Win the Case – And Keep Your Credibility
Your attorney’s primary focus is to protect your legal interests. To win the case, she’s ready to pull out all the stops to discredit the allegations. In court filings, she paints the accuser as the problem, dismissively detailing how bad they really are, insisting their true interest is simply to win a big settlement.
What your attorney may not consider is the reputational harm that can result when a reporter gets hold of the court filings. The story will quote the most outrageous, provocative, eye-popping defenses. Online petitions in favor of your accuser make the digital rounds. Then social media takes over, insisting you’ve actually done everything the accuser claimed, and the condemnation goes viral. In short order, your reputation takes a hit guaranteed to continue long after the legal dust settles.
After all, who wants to buy from, work for, or engage the services of an organization that’s “proven” to be insensitive, meanspirited, and tone deaf? You’ve won the legal case, but the reputation of your organization and its leadership are in tatters and its future is questionable.
Get Help Balancing Legal and Reputational Challenges
A good crisis communications consulting firm will work closely with your attorney to help strip unnecessarily provocative language from legal filings and help craft verbal and written statements to stakeholders and the media that will support the legal case and protect your organization’s reputation.
The operation was a success, starts the old chestnut, but the patient died. Even doctors laugh. The only one not laughing is the patient. You can win the lawsuit and lose your organization’s future. No joke.