PR, Integrity and Standing Up for the Rule of Law

by JD Supra Perspectives
Contact

If 97 companies, most of them Silicon Valley leaders, can join a 9th Circuit brief and 160 companies can jointly speak publicly against a clearly discriminatory ban, why can’t their lawyers?

In the past week, Corporate America has stood up to President Donald Trump in a variety of ways, including a broad-based front opposing Trump’s sweeping ban on the entry of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Starbucks swiftly issued a public statement decrying the ban and pledged to hire 10,000 refugees.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from Trump’s economic advisory council and became a signatory to a letter condemning the ban after employees expressed outrage and riders launched a successful Twitter campaign to delete the Uber app, which 200,000 riders did.

More than 160 VCs, academics and biotech CEOs published an open joint letter to Trump expressing their “deep concern and opposition” to the travel ban.

More than 90 tech companies joined an amicus brief in Washington State’s challenge to the travel ban. That fast-tracked case has now been argued and is pending in the 9th Circuit. 

Following oral arguments, Trump slammed the panel, tweeting “Politics!” Later, he told the National Sheriffs’ Association, “If these judges wanted to - in my opinion - help the court in terms of respect for the court, they’d do what they should be doing. I mean, it’s so sad,”

Trump’s slams prompted SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch to call Trump’s comments regarding the judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

This silence on the sidelines is even more disturbing now, considering Trump’s firing of his acting attorney general and his criticism of the judiciary...

But as Susan Beck of The American Lawyer wrote in December 2016, law firms have been strangely silent.

This silence on the sidelines is even more disturbing now, considering Trump’s firing of his acting attorney general and his criticism of the judiciary, first before the election, in questioning a judge’s impartiality because he is of Mexican descent, and then ridiculing the federal judge who blocked his travel ban as a “so-called judge.”

In California, attorneys are charged with maintaining “the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers.” These words, from Business and Professions Code Section 6068, Duties of Attorney: 

(a) To support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state. 

(b) To maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers.

Yes, those are the first two requirements, placed at the beginning of the code to reflect their paramount importance.

Law firms have always been cautious making public statements on politics or controversial issues. Typically, they let their pro bono work speak for itself. Such pro bono work is laudable and much needed, but when the integrity of the judiciary is attacked, lawyers—and not just the ACLU—should come to its defense.

Law firms tend to be conservative when it comes to public relations and public statements. Some firms will take a stand regarding diversity, but few if any put their name on the line regarding other issues. (Ted Boutrous of Gibson Dunn, who pledged on Twitter to defend any woman sued by Trump for exercising her free speech rights, is a wondrous exception.)

"Every single CEO of any company of magnitude is thinking and feeling pressure and trying to decide what to do" to speak out about the ban, Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business told the Washington Post

If Corporate America can figure out how to do it, even in Super Bowl ads, certainly so can law firms.

What elements are required? These, for starters:

1. Strong cohesive management with a firm grasp and belief in its firm culture. Because these leaders are trusted by their colleagues, they have the ability to act quickly.

2. A highly skilled PR and communications team whose wisdom and experience is respected. Ideally, this team should include those with experience outside the legal industry.

3. A comprehensive plan for crisis communications, including how to speak to employees, clients, and the public.

4. A keen understanding of its client base and their clients’ needs and interests.

5. Strong client relationships that allow the firm to reach out quickly to general counsel to determine their level of sensitivity on a topic.

Look at it this way: If 97 companies, most of them Silicon Valley leaders, can join a 9th Circuit brief, and 160 companies can jointly speak publicly against a clearly discriminatory ban, why can’t their lawyers? Even general counsel are doing it. Accounting firms such as PwC have. Even Wall Street has managed to find words of concern. And if even JP Morgan can do it, why not law firms?

This is not the time to sit on the sidelines. Yes, some PR professionals have advised against joining the fray, or counseled their clients to proceed with extreme caution. But forward-thinking firms unafraid to take a stand can and should speak out, respectfully but unequivocally, when the rule of law and integrity of the judiciary are impugned. Trump’s ban aside, there is no shame in speaking truth to power to protect the “respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers.” A savvy PR team can guide any firm through this.

I would love to be proven wrong on this one, love to learn that Big Law has made powerful statements, both internally and externally. If you know of any such statements, please send them my way, and the mea culpa will be all mine. 

*

[Susan Kostal is an editor, writer, business development strategist and media coach with over 25 years experience on the beat and in the C-suite.  Susan's expertise includes legal industry trends, marketing, communications, and public relations.]

 

comments powered by Disqus

 

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives
Contact
more
less

JD Supra Perspectives on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.