|Face it, lawyers have a language all their own. And translation becomes ever more necessary. Given the litigation explosion in our society, coupled with a savvy media that often drives verdicts, it has never been more important for lawyers to communicate effectively with the public -- and the press -- which shapes public perceptions -- than it is today.
Litigation is about telling a persuasive story to a judge and a jury. And litigation communication is about making sure the client’s story is heard, is understood, and is remembered by key audiences outside the courtroom.
Litigation communication is about using the techniques of modern political communication to help clients and their lawyers achieve a variety of goals.
First, to avoid litigation. Companies can sometimes inoculate themselves against potential litigation by building positives that make outrageous allegations unbelievable, builds "political" capital, and/or raises the trial lawyers’ cost of doing business.
Second, to win litigation. If there are at least two sides to every story, litigation is about convincing people to embrace your side. Litigation communication is about finding ways to better communicate to the public the story that lawyers may one day be telling to a judge or jury. It is about proving the appeal of your case before you get to court in order to convince plaintiffs to settle on more favorable terms. Litigation communication is about getting key audiences rooting for your side to win.
Third, to protect reputation. The highest cost of litigation to a company is often in the court of public opinion, not in the courtroom. Regardless of the outcome of any litigation, the company wants to emerge with its reputation intact. Litigation communication is designed to manage the public environment to make litigation less damaging to the company, and to ensure that the company’s messages are heard, no matter what the verdict.
Companies and lawyers facing litigation must not turn their back on advocacy outside the courtroom. Studies show that when a lawsuit is announced, roughly 40 percent of the public assumes the company is guilty. When lawyers respond to journalists’ questions with "no comment" that number increases by 50 percent. That means that 6 in 10 are predisposed to assume guilt, before the lawyers make their case in court.
Pre-trial publicity is the plaintiff lawyers’ most effective weapon. Litigation communication helps balance the scales and gives the company more than a fighting chance to survive.