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Speaking to the Media

Some lawyers find it flattering; others associate it with self-recognition; still others use it as an opportunity to profile their expertise or to leverage their client's cause or market share. Clearly, speaking to the media can be a useful tool.

But media contacts also can backfire. Statements made in interviews or press conferences are fraught with risks. LAWPRO has seen a number of claims and complaints by clients and third parties typically for breach of confidentiality, conflicts of interest, libel and slander, aggravated damages or even compromising a client's case in the course of speaking to the media. And if your comments in fact trigger a claim from an unhappy client, insurance coverage for such a claim may be denied on the grounds that the claim does not fall within the definition of "professional services."

If you do speak to the media, do so only after giving the matter a lot of thought. Beware this Danger Zone and keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Obtain your client's consent in advance if you are speaking about a particular client matter.
  2. If the matter is ongoing, do not discuss any confidential information or information about the strategy of your client's case or position.
  3. Avoid taking questions in the heat of the moment, before you have had a chance to think.
  4. Ask the reporter to provide you with a copy of the questions or discuss the reporter's objectives for the interview ahead of time. Emphasize that you are asking for this only because you want to come to the interview fully prepared with all the information the reporter seeks.
  5. Try to control the interview. Identify your key messages ahead of time and rehearse different ways to communicate this message. Look for an opportunity to work your key message into every answer that you provide. DO NOT SHOOT FROM THE HIP.
  6. Ensure that you understand the question or point. If you do not or the question is too broad, ask for clarification before responding.
  7. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. Offer to find the information needed and get back to the reporter with the answer. Do not be lured into guessing or speculating.
  8. When you do provide an answer, keep your remarks brief. Resist the temptation to expand your answer to fill dead air time.
  9. Ask to review a draft of the written article so that you can verify the facts and avoid having to seek a correction at a later date. Understand that if the reporter agrees to this request, you cannot expect to make any editorial changes (you cannot change quotes, the tone of the article, descriptions etc.).
  10. Leave your emotions outside of the interview. Be courteous but recognize the duties imposed by the Rules of Professional Conduct which you owe to your client, to opposing counsel and to courts and tribunals.

 

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