Our new research on litigation PR launched last week reveals some interesting reasons as to why litigation PR is a useful tool in the overall litigation armoury. Comments range from “it’s a weapon that can be used both offensively and defensively…” to litigation PR being “a significant element of a litigation strategy.”
We also found that there is a strong consensus on the significant impact of disputes on reputation. 61% of the respondents agree that the impact of a dispute on reputation is always an important consideration when advising a client. And 40% said that intense and unwelcome media coverage of a case can cause parties to settle to avoid reputational fallout.
However, only 8% of the respondents to our survey always involve external PR consultants when advising clients on litigation strategies.
As Matthew Denney investment manager of AIM-listed LCM Finance, said in our report:
“Law firms and litigators don’t always take the media into quite as much importance as they do with the law. Obviously, law is the most important part, but there is a tool in a litigator tool kit which is PR. I don’t think it’s used as much as it could be.”
We believe there is a missed opportunity here for litigation lawyers to create deeper and better relationships with their clients around their businesses, the importance of reputation and how disputes should be considered within this wider framework of risk and reputation management.
In all the years I’ve advised lawyers on how to raise their profiles, I have heard many times about litigation being a distressed purchase. I have heard less about turning that into more of an ongoing conversation with the end client. If you look at the client’s dispute through the wider lens of managing risk and reputation, you can create longer term relationships with that client as a business partner and trusted advisor.
As an example, in one survey by Deloitte a few years ago, nine out of ten CEOs rated reputation risk as more important than any other types of strategic risk they faced. Lawyers who are mindful of this and seek to help their clients manage reputational risk around litigation have an opportunity to add value to those clients.
What price reputation?
One academic study a number of years ago estimated that a 5% improvement in the reputation of a London-listed company translated to a 2.2% rise in its share price. Such models are imprecise but clearly the reverse is also true – reputational damage causes major financial damage. Not every dispute requires litigation PR, but the ones that pose severe reputational risks absolutely do.
Satindar Dogra from Linklaters made this point in our report: “If it is a dispute which goes to the way in which you behave or treated people; whether you have been open and honest, if it goes to your reputation and your integrity, then the PR element becomes much more important”
Sure, litigation is expensive. Lawyers can be loathe to advise clients to add PR advice on top of legal advice. Ultimately the consideration for the client should be the value rather than the cost. A good lawyer these days should know when to bring in other advisers. Not least because in terms of influencing the outcome of a dispute, good litigation PR can lead to favourable settlement strategies and help to mitigate stakeholder distrust, and that needs to be weighed up against the cost of engaging litigation PR.
There are also numerous examples of where a case has been won in court but the battle for reputation lost. The long term financial impact of that in terms of lost revenue, clients, staff and opportunities may be hard to measure but can be vast.
Finally, litigation and the funding of it has evolved and continues to evolve. Within that evolution, litigation PR is becoming a more central consideration in the funding of cases. That needs to continue. And just as clients are expecting law firms to offer more creative pricing solutions, litigation PRs will be doing the same.