Attorney Jack Bacevice joined the Cleveland firm Mansour Gavin after years as an Assistant Director of Law for the city of Cleveland. He’s handled numerous high-profile cases and is very familiar with practicing in the court of law while the court of public opinion intently watches. We’ll periodically feature a Q&A with Jack and Hennes Communications Managing Partner Thom Fladung on the art and craft of litigating in the harsh glare of the public spotlight.
Q. You’ve litigated a number of very high-profile trials that attracted news coverage. What have you found are the most effective approaches for working with reporters covering one of your trials?
A. Honesty and patience. It is important to share with the media what is appropriate, but inevitably you are bound to keep your litigation strategy and client communications confidential. There are times in a conversation with a reporter that it is obvious you are holding back, but if you explain why, it’s been my experience that the media is understanding. As a practitioner, it’s important to remember that the reporter does not have the same understanding of the legal system and process. It is best to patiently explain the legal system, process and nuances to the reporter and answer any questions that help with understanding the legal context of the specific aspect of the litigation you are discussing. Reporters want to understand what they are reporting on, and I have found it helpful to your message to ensure the context is understood by reporters. They appreciate it as well.
Q. Have you gone off the record or conducted background conversations with reporters? If so, how did that work, and did you work with the reporter on ground rules?
A. Yes, I have. I am clear up front about anything that must remain off the record and the reporter respects that. If the conversation is meant to be background on one of my cases, I will try to point to a document in the case record that reporters can use as a collateral on-the-record source for their reporting. My ground rules are simple: If I am off the record, you cannot quote or report what I am telling you, but if I am giving you a collateral source for the same information, feel free to report on it and cite the suggested source.
Q. Since reporters have to work at the speed of the internet, that’s led to live tweeting of trials, live blog posts during trials, etc. What do you think of that and do you think it should affect how an attorney works with reporters?
Live tweeting and posting are difficult from a practitioner’s perspective. I can give my client’s position, but not until after something is already public knowledge. I think the prevalence of live reporting makes the effort to discuss background matters with reporters all the more important. When you are explaining the legal process and background to reporters, remember it is not only for the story they are covering but to provide them with a better understanding of the legal system, which will educate them and improve their future content as well.
To reach Jack Bacevice and Mansour Gavin, call 216-523-1500 or email [email protected]. Reach Thom Fladung at 216-321-7774 or [email protected]. Got a question you’d like them to take on? Email it to [email protected]