Less than a week after Election Day, two BigLaw firms were targeted by The Lincoln Project for the legal work they’re doing in connection with President Trump’s refusal to concede the recent election. The attacks on the firms, their employees and clients have been creative, strategic, hard-hitting and from the conversations we’ve had with attorneys at those two firms, painful. Within days, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, withdrew from the federal lawsuit it had filed while Cleveland-based Jones Day is continuing to represent the Republican Party in Pennsylvania but will not get involved in additional litigation this election, the New York Times reported.
Hennes Communications has experience helping organizations respond to, mitigate and recover from similar situations. There isn’t a single, simple solution, though both law firms were thrown into the Villain-Victim-Vindicator framework that we teach at all of our crisis management seminars and webinars.
Factors to be considered for a defense strategy include an objective and dispassionate analysis of the allegations of misbehavior; understanding the qualitative and quantitative depth and breadth of what our good friend, Dr. Peter Sandman, calls “outrage”; the beliefs and feelings of the organization’s employees, customers, clients and other stakeholders; and an analysis of the social media and legacy media outlets covering or perpetuating the situation. So, too, the organization’s corporate culture must be taken into consideration, as well as the upsides and downsides of a defense or retreat.
Since situations like this now break on social media, there is little time to formulate strategy and messaging. Clearly, the best practice is to bring in a qualified crisis management firm to do an objective “vulnerability audit” that can help anticipate and prepare for situations like this in advance, as well as other scenarios that can strike at a moment’s notice, doing great damage to corporate reputations in the Court of Public Opinion.
Bruce Hennes, CEO
Thom Fladung, managing partner
Shortly after this story broke, JD Supra, an online company that distributes news, commentary & analysis from lawyers & law firms, published an excellent article on this subject, “Lessons in Law Firm Reputation Management: How Firm Leaders Should Prepare for Public Scrutiny When Representing Political Clients,” written by Gina Rubel from Furia Rubel Communications, Inc. Does your firm do work for clients that might be considered controversial? Do you make contributions to candidates running for political office? Are you ready to be questioned about this? If so, you’ll find the article excerpted below with a link to the full piece, to be of great interest.
Two BigLaw firms have come under intense public scrutiny in the wake of the refusal of the Trump administration to acknowledge the results of the presidential election. The firms are attracting immense negative media and public attention, and their employees and clients are getting public pressure to respond.
The pressure has culminated in recent days with news that The Lincoln Project, a super PAC of Republican operatives, and other critics of the Trump administration have begun to focus on law firms aiding President Trump’s attempts to “undermine the integrity of the U.S. election system.” The Lincoln Project recently announced an advertising and public-shaming campaign targeting Jones Day, Porter Wright, and the firms’ clients. BigLaw firms have come under intense public scrutiny in the wake of the refusal of the Trump administration to acknowledge the results of the presidential election. The firms are attracting immense negative media and public attention, and their employees and clients are getting public pressure to respond.
GOP strategist and co-director of the USC Center for the Political Future Mike Murphy, tweeted: “This is a real reputation disaster for Jones Day; both with staff and with their #Fortune500 clients, especially those with consumer brands. Do they want to be associated with key lawyers in Trump effort to destroy faith in US elections? Face boycotts?”
For BigLaw, especially those that represent political administrations, now is the time to prepare for public attacks regarding who your firms represent and what your lawyers stand for.
For the rest of this excellent piece, click here.