Earlier this month, The UK’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of Google in a landmark case. Richard Lloyd, a former director of Which? consumer group and class representative of campaign group Google You Owe Us, sued Google for collecting browsing data from iPhone users between 2011 and 2012. If Lloyd had won, Google would have had to pay out compensation to iPhone users of up to £750 each. The significance was huge in terms of what it meant for class actions in the UK.
Judgment day turned out to be pretty intense for law firms and their PR teams as they battled to secure coverage in the nationals and the technology and legal trade media, as well as ensuring that briefing notes to clients were swiftly despatched. It was interesting exercise for us to digest the press coverage that resulted and consider why certain firms had been quoted. What were they doing right? How had they managed to digest a complicated judgment quickly and turned around a point a view which helped journalists cover the story in a compelling way?
We thought it would be interesting and useful to turn these questions over to journalists, so we approached a few of our contacts who were kind enough to share the following insights about how they prepare for a major judgment, what makes a good comment and what doesn’t.
James Booth, Financial News:
“With any big decision or judgment I have to write the story pretty quickly, so I will tend to use the first two or three good and insightful comments that I receive. Pace is key, that’s the secret really.
Catherine Baksi, freelance journalist for The Times, Law Society Gazette and others:
“I read past stories on the case and email a few lawyers to see what they think the result might be and the impact and implications of it. When big decisions come out I am often inundated with comments of varying quality. For a news piece, the number of comments used will depend on the nature of the case, which way the judgment goes, and the impact it will have. However big the lawyers might think a judgment is, if the decision does not change the status quo, it is unlikely that it be regarded as a big news story.
For a news story, I would only need a maximum of about four comments, and two of them might be from the lawyers who acted for the parties. For a feature, I might use up to six. The best comments are written in clear, accessible language without legal jargon. They take the story on, stating its likely impact and consequences or flaws. Comments that merely rehearse the contents of the ruling or are littered with legal terms, without any analysis of it impact or flaws are unlikely to be used.”
Ben Rigby, freelance journalist:
“I prepare by looking at previous reported judgments, law firm briefings, past media coverage and opinions on LinkedIn. Usually I ask for three or four queries but sometimes it’s dozens in the case of Lloyd v Google. Short, on point comments, summarising effect of a judgment in context and client implications work best. Bland statements congratulating the team and the client are not helpful and taking the legal merit of a claim is infinitely preferable to spin. So in short: be quick, be interesting and don’t use jargon! Simple really.”