I’m often asked whether litigation counsel should serve as a media spokespeople when they are handling legal matters of public interest. As in most things, the answer is “It depends.” Here are a few key considerations:
- Is the key message about the legal proceedings, or about the business? If the former, perhaps counsel is a good choice. If the latter, go with someone else. Choosing a lawyer as a spokesperson reminds your audience that you’re involved in legal proceedings.
- Are you close to trial? If so, recall that lawyers are limited in their statements by Tex. Dis. R. Ethics 4.07 so as not to prejudice potential jury proceedings. The Supreme Court has indicated that the clients themselves are not so limited. Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Benton, 980 S.W.2d 425, 428-35 (Tex. 1998). And on a more practical note, your trial lawyer’s focus likely needs to be on the courtroom, not the media. But keep in mind there are some legal concepts that only a lawyer will be able to explain.
- Whose reputation are you trying to promote? Sometimes lawyers will advocate to be the spokesperson for self-marketing purposes. While there is nothing wrong with being associated with a big trial or deal, keep in mind your key messages and intended audiences so as to not confuse your goals with the goals of your lawyers. And keep in mind what kind of media profile your lawyer has, which is likely built around the representation of other clients who may or may not be similar to you.
- What is the long game? Do you intend to try to positively position your company’s profile with other stories either before or after trial? Perhaps maintaining a single spokesperson throughout the campaign is a good idea, and a lawyer might not be the best choice of spokesperson.