Media Tips in a High-Profile Case

How an Attorney Can Successfully Work With the Press

Media Tips in a High-Profile Case
Gregory G. Rizio

Gregory G. Rizio

November 15, 2019 09:00 AM

As an attorney—particularly a litigator—there is a great likelihood that you’ll eventually come across an opportunity to interact with the media at some point during your career. The first time it occurs will be a huge moment of pride as you consider the potential boon it could have for your legal career. It is true that publicity—when done well—can boost a client’s case, your firms’ credibility and recognition which then ostensibly can lead to new clients. However, that same publicity—when done poorly—can also have devastating effects on your clients' case, your firm’s credibility, and your career.

Easy Press Announcements to Consider

Firm announcements such as expansion (in terms of staff, or new offices) or that a firm attorney has received a particularly notable award, can help to reaffirm the idea that your firm is thriving, and thereby in demand. These types of branding announcements can only help in terms of firm recognition.

Additionally, experienced attorneys will sometimes use press outlets to champion up and coming stars in their firm. This tactic highlights that your entire law firm is powerful and effective. The method is relatively easy in that a partner or lead attorney on a case can re-route the media request to an up and coming firm attorney for response. I would not recommend this strategy on a bigger case with high stakes

Another safe and easy press announcement is a press release dealing with the advancement of the social goods your firm believes in and/or consumer safety you are trying to advance. Whether your discussions with reporters focus on a toy drive your firm is sponsoring for children, raising money for medical research, or highlights a consumer safety issue, media exposure allows you to invite the public to join you in charitable work, or provide valuable safety tips to keep your community safer.

Potential Pitfalls When Working With The Press

One must always remember that agreeing to work with the media isn’t without potential pitfalls. Any attorney on the receiving end of unfavorable publicity can attest to the horrors of bad press. One must always be conscious that quotes given to a reporter can easily be taken out of context, or shortened for space, which can lead to misinterpretation. Moreover, thanks to the internet, any quote you provide to a reporter can live online, forever. The same goes for written statements and/or press releases, which are subject to being shortened for space.

Other potential downsides of working with the media, include the possibility of giving a less than ideal reactive response to a question from a reporter, who perhaps catches you on your way out of a difficult day in court. Something as simple as refusing to answer questions from a reporter can result in the reporter printing that you “refused to answer,” questions, which can be interpreted negatively by your potential jurors and, thereby, hurt your client’s chances for a just result.

A word about social media is warranted here as well, as it’s become its own form of “press” over the last 10+ years. As a general rule, it is smart to refrain from using your professional profiles, and certainly your firm profile to make controversial political statements or weigh in on otherwise controversial topics. Likewise, refrain from commenting on any post that may be controversial, using your professional or firm profile. It’s just not worth the risk of alienating others.

Strategies for Maximizing Media Opportunities

To maximize the opportunities to benefit from media placements, preparation is key. Just as you wouldn’t go into a hearing or trial without a strategy, you should avoid interacting with the media without a strategy.

To increase the likelihood that you wind up with “good press,” treat a press conference like you would a closing argument. In other words, take time to develop key talking points ahead of time. Try to anticipate what questions you might receive and how you would answer it if asked about a case you’re working on, a ruling or verdict you receive (both in your favor and in favor of your opponent). Being proactive rather than reactive lessens the chance you’ll make an emotionally charged statement that you’ll later regret. To that end, when speaking with a reporter reiterate your main points frequently. That way, even if your statements are shortened, or taken out of context, your primary points don’t wind up on the proverbial cutting room floor.

In a similar vein, expect that anything you say is “on the record,” to prevent errors in judgment. Remember that journalists and reporters aim to “break news” wherever possible, and as such, you need to be on guard at all times. Over time, you might develop mutually respectful relationships with certain reporters and learn that you truly are able to speak “off the record” and trust that what you say won’t be published. However, until you establish such a relationship then err on the side of caution, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to have to defend.

Finally, a socially conscious attorney should always consider using publicity to help champion just causes. For example, as I am writing this, my partner is awaiting a potentially large employment arbitration award. During closing argument, opposing counsel for a large corporate bank attempted to bully the arbitrator into making a finding for their client. Our firm is already contemplating how to effectively use a press release or press conference to highlight the many pitfalls of the court’s recent trend of forcing matters into arbitrations instead of adjudicating cases through Seventh Amendments Constitutionally guaranteed jury trial.

In spite of the potential pitfalls, working with the press to garner publicity, educate your community, or to raise funds or awareness, is typically worth the effort. But it’s crucial to remember that getting good press won’t make you a good lawyer. On the contrary, being a good lawyer is what will generally secure good publicity, so your time is always best spent trying to be the best advocate that you can for those who need you.

Founder and Senior Trial Attorney at Rizio|Lipinsky Law Firm, Greg Rizio is one of the most successful and influential personal injury lawyers in Southern California. Rizio secured the largest ever plaintiff’s verdict in Riverside County, at nearly $58 Million. It was the #1 verdict in the state, in 2014, and the 10th largest verdict nationally. Rizio is heavily involved in the legal industry associations. He is a former President of the San Bernardino/Riverside Chapter “American Board of Trial Advocates” (ABOTA) board. He is the past president of the Consumer Attorneys of the Inland Empire (CAOIE). He also serves on the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) Executive

Related Articles

Catastrophic Personal Injury

by Best Lawyers

Trial legend Frank Branson finds success mixing technology and new skills with vast courtroom experience.

Catastrophic Personal Injury

A Cohesive Team

by Best Lawyers

How Bentley & More LLP Combined Forces

A Cohesive Team

A Warrior for Clients

by Best Lawyers

Michael P. Lyons stands up.

Lyons Roaring Through Complex Disputes

Unlocking an Auto Product Safety Mystery

by Best Lawyers

After a rear-end collision left their two young children with severe head injuries, the Reavis family had many questions and no one to turn to for help.

Frank L. Branson Toyota Payout

Unwavering Dedication to Clients

by Best Lawyers

Trial attorneys Michael Lyons and Chris Simmons find motivation when the result means everything.

Trial Attorneys at Lyons & Simmons

Dan Sciano Renaissance Lawyer

by Justin Smulison

Tinsman & Sciano recently celebrated 50 years as greater San Antonio’s leading trial law firm for civil litigation and personal injury. Daniel J.T. Sciano obtained judgments for his clients in both Federal and State courthouses in 2021. A trial lawyer with many talents and diverse knowledge of the law.

Tinsman & Sciano Celebrates 50

Texas' Best Lawyers 2022

by Best Lawyers

Our Texas' Best Lawyers 2022 publication features top-ranked legal talent in Texas.

Texas' Best Lawyers 2022

We Are Women, We Are Fearless

by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Aim High and Fly

by Khalil Abdullah

From a silent victim of hometown segregation to Air Force captain and lawyer of consummate skill, Karen Evans exemplifies leadership—and vows always to help those who seek to follow her path.

Karen Evans' Leadership in the Airforce

Kelley|Uustal: A Firm Like No Other

by Kelley|Uustal

Florida firm Kelley|Uustal navigates the importance of client representation and the hard-fought personal injury battles that the firm has taken on over the years.

Catastrophic Injury and Wrongful Death Firm

New England's Best Lawyers 2022

by Best Lawyers

Our New England's Best Lawyers 2022 publication features top-ranked legal talent in New England.

New England's Best Lawyers 2022

Mind Matters: The Importance of Diagnosing TBIs in PI Cases

by Bobby Saadian

Many lawyers fail to identify and diagnose traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in personal injury disputes. But it can be critical to your case—and render any potential settlement or award far more advantageous for your client.

Representing Traumatic Brain Injury Clients

Crash Course

by Paige Cerulli

A bad car accident left me reeling, but my worst symptoms wouldn’t appear until two weeks after. If it weren’t for excellent legal representation, there’s no way I’d have made it through—or with anything close to the settlement I got.

Overlooked by EMTs After Car Crash

What Will a Car Accident Lawyer Actually Do for You?

by Jacob Oresky

A car accident lawyer provides many services while working on your injury case. Learn about the process for injury claims and the lawyer’s role in the process.

Car Accident Lawyer Services

How Being a Client Almost Made Me Quit Law School

by Paula Birch Billingsley

Suddenly becoming a personal injury client gave one law school student a new appreciation for clients’ needs and concerns. Here are some considerations even experienced lawyers ought to keep in mind.

Personal Injury Client Almost Quit Law School

Wax On, Wax Off

by Aria Gmitter

An unfortunate episode with a rogue body waxer left me itching like mad, in pain and wondering what sort of recourse I might have. A journey through the hairy underbelly of a sometimes dicey industry.

Legal Action After Waxing Salon Burns

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez

by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation

by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Belgium™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Belgium.

Black, yellow and red stripes

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect

by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

We Are Women, We Are Fearless

by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

U.K. Introduces Revisions to Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules

by Gregory Sirico

Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules in

Destiny Fulfilled

by Sara Collin

Was Angela Reddock-Wright destined to become a lawyer? It sure seems that way. Yet her path was circuitous. This accomplished employment attorney, turned mediator, arbitrator and ADR specialist nonpareil discusses her career, the role of attorneys in society, the new world of post-pandemic work and why new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the future.

Interview with Lawyer Angela Reddock-Wright

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some

by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom

by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?