Gus: The media has taken an increasing interest in high-profile disputes over this time. It used to be back in the day that Court reporters would attend court and you would read about developments in the morning papers. That is still the case, but the news cycle has changed dramatically – and reporting of the Courtroom has evolved along with it. We have immediate and sometimes live updates via rolling news, broadcast and social media. Litigation PR professionals have to juggle all of these balls to keep a constant finger on the pulse of how proceedings are playing out with the public and adapt their strategies accordingly.
Liam: Definitely. Across the board, the active, “listening” part of monitoring corporate reputation has had to be become much more agile to meet the ways in which technology has transformed how we communicate. This is only heightened during a high-profile dispute, particularly from a defendant perspective -when the feedback loop kicks into overdrive, particularly if the case taps into an emotive issue within wider civil society.
Gus: The litigation landscape has evolved massively too. Back in 2011, we commissioned research into the litigation funding which, at the time, was just arriving onto the scene. Now litigation funding is firmly established as an important fixture of the dispute resolution landscape. Funded cases, as well as their funders, are of interest to news desks – and regularly monitored, and scrutinised, by reporters.
Liam: Litigation funders have clearly played a big role in expanding the litigation market, particularly in the number of participants and stakeholders. Two of the biggest group actions in the last year, Lloyd v Google and the Post Office case, have received financial backing from third-party funders. When making investment decision, funders increasingly look not just at the legal case or prospect of success, but also the reputational impact too.
Gus: The rise of class actions, and ‘book building‘, is without one of the most significant recent developments. In the UK, consumer redress legislation has also had a big impact on the role and importance of litigation PR. “Opt-in” cases require a class to be built, and PR clearly has an obvious role here. In “opt-out” cases, you have to communicate with a class that may not even know it has a valid claim – as well as keep them updated at each and every stage. Again, PR and communications, utilising technology, is absolutely fundamental.
Liam: From a defendant perspective too, there are some really important strategic considerations at the outset – and underpin the importance of seeking advice from litigation PR advisors at the earliest possible stage. Even victory in the Courtroom can have lasting implications if wider perceptions are not addressed with the appropriate care and sensitivity. Win the battle, lose the war…
Gus: Companies and individuals involved in litigation are having to become much more attuned to the need to manage their reputations before, during and after a dispute. It involves a much larger group of stakeholders, too, not just the media. I think we have reached a watershed moment in the dispute resolution community, where there is now a much greater appreciation of the need for litigation PR and recognition of the role that it plays.