The rising importance of litigation PR

When partners and associates at the top law firms find themselves swamped litigating challenging cases, issues like media inquiries and online attacks may require the kind of extra attention a busy law firm doesn’t have time to address. That’s when specialized firms that handle litigation and legal PR can fill in the gaps. Litigation and reputational PR experts work in tandem with law firms to create comprehensive public relations strategies that serve client interests, including media relations services and online reputation repair. Even standard cases likely to deliver positive outcomes can produce long-term effects that prove devastating to the clients’ reputations.

The court system in the U.K. allows for journalists to report openly what has been said in court and any paperwork that has been filed at the start of legal action. Of course, in many circumstances this can leave those clients involved open to increased scrutiny into the details of their business interests or the deepest aspects of their personal lives. Increasingly we see proactive and positive strategic communications campaigns being put in place to work hand in hand with the legal strategy and deliver the best results for those going through the court system.

In the past week, the supreme court has ruled against Bloomberg News in a landmark privacy case that will make it harder for British media outlets to publish information about individuals subject to criminal investigations.

In 2016 Bloomberg named an American business executive at a large public company who was facing a criminal inquiry by a British regulator. The article was based on a confidential letter Bloomberg had obtained, which revealed that the businessman was being investigated in relation to claims his company had been involved in corruption and bribery in a foreign country.

The businessman – known in the legal proceedings as ZXC – decided to sue Bloomberg over the article, claiming that the media outlet had misused his private information as he had not been arrested or charged with any offence in relation to the corruption inquiry.

The Judge sided with the claimant and ruled that the damage to someone’s personal reputation as a result of the media publishing names and details of the case was fundamentally not legal. Managing the fallouts and ongoing details of these cases with the newspapers is now a must-have for those going through legal action; as soon as an article is published and out in the public domain, it is very hard to have amended or removed without a strategy implemented beforehand.

Noticeably disheartened and disappointed by the ruling, Bloomberg have released a statement saying that journalists are there to hold companies and individuals to account for their actions and to be able to shine a light on deadlines such as this. There is a delicate balance between the court system, law firms acting on behalf of their clients and journalists quite rightly uncovering public interest stories, and a gap has developed that needs to be navigated by those with the experience of all sides.

A strategic PR approach to legal proceedings and litigation is not a nice to have in 2022 but a necessity for those looking to engage with the UK courts.

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