Like any other business, law firms aren't immune from controversy. When reputational issues become serious, regulatory and legal implications are never far away. Since issues can translate into crises within minutes, stakes rise swiftly and you must be prepared to communicate.
Law firms are expected to uphold the rule of law, and your stakeholders and the media are constantly looking at you to do so. When law firms' actions are called into question, the potential for reputational damage is greater than in almost any other sector. Byfield ensures your issue is presented accurately – knowing what to say and when to say it is critical.
Led by Gus Sellitto, our Crisis and Issues PR practice will help you navigate crises while keeping a close eye on your stakeholders’ interests. We protect law firms when their reputations are under threat by dealing with risk across all their business functions. We help our clients steady the ship when partners are struck off or when mergers fail; we offer a calm voice amidst discrimination and sexual harassment claims, as well as during SRA and other regulatory investigations; and during data breaches, cyber threats, or terrorist incidents, we know what needs to be communicated. We guide our clients through every law firm crisis imaginable.
At Byfield, we believe that your reputation – the sum of the opinions that your stakeholders have of you – is the most valuable currency of all; and those opinions are in a state of complete flux when you encounter a reputational risk event. We also believe that planning for the worst is much, much better than hoping for the best. And the earlier we are involved, the better we are able to ensure that you are prepared to act rather than forced to react.
We carefully assess the different scenarios that may play out and ensure that you have the tools you need to manage your way through the problem.
We work to uncover the story behind the story and the human elements that underpin it. We bring a balanced perspective to bear on the most emotive of topics to ensure that your side of the story is portrayed fairly.
And, if push comes to shove, we work hand-in-glove with legal teams when defamation proceedings or injunctive relief are pursued.
When your reputation is on the line we provide shelter to help protect and rebuild it. Here are some examples of how we have done this.
Responding to an undercover investigative programme
The shock is palpable when you are approached by an investigative broadcast programme. We understand the distress that these programmes can cause; be it the fear of how you will be represented or the impact it will have on your business. We were contacted by a leading alternative treatment centre to handle their reputation in advance of such a programme appearing on a national broadcasting channel. We worked alongside a leading media lawyer to ensure that their side of the story was heard despite the biased approach of the programme makers.
Communicating a major redundancy programme
We go into business in order to create opportunities and jobs – so preparing for a situation where the reverse is likely to happen is a wrenching experience. The worst-case scenario is that your communications strategy backfires, resulting in ongoing questions about the long-term viability of your company. Byfield was called in to assist a manufacturing client that was entering a consultation period with jobs at risk of redundancy; and prepared a communications strategy to minimise reputational damage to the firm. The outcome was that all key stakeholders were reassured about the company’s long-term prospects.
Develop the narrative that will allow you to tell your side of the story effectively.
Understand how the dice may fall - and avoid the dangers of the Pyrrhic victory.
Getting the right content to the right people means the right story is told.
Press Office Function
Reputational risk is not business as usual - take the strain away from in-house teams.
Reputation Risk Audit
Only by understanding what the dangers are can you plan for them effectively.
Ensure that your story is aligned across multiple stakeholder groups.
Whatever the outcome, you will need to address the changed perceptions among your stakeholder groups.
Your story is only as good as the person that tells it - make sure this is done powerfully
Make sure that this important - but often overlooked - stakeholder group are fully in the loop.
Media glare is often a by-product of a high-profile reputational risk event - we'll help you prepare for the spotlight.
Utilise social media to communicate your position and to measure the pulse of public opinion.
“I knew my case was likely to attract publicity and wanted a trusted communications adviser on hand to tell my side of the story accurately. Byfield Consultancy was recommended to me by my legal team and I was highly impressed by their past experience, focus on the legal sector and media contacts. I was also impressed by how seamlessly Byfield worked with my lawyers and they became an important part of my team. I would highly recommend Byfield Consultancy for their expertise in litigation PR and reputation management.”
Peter Cruddas, Founder and Chief Executive of CMC Markets and former Conservative Party co-treasurer
Acting for Peter Cruddas in his landmark victory against Times Newspapers
We were instructed by Peter Cruddas, Founder and Chief Executive of CMC Markets and former Conservative Party co-treasurer, in his long-running libel litigation against Times Newspapers following the publication of highly damaging allegations in The Sunday Times.
We built a narrative that highlighted how the articles had damaged Mr Cruddas’ business and private life and the lack of support he had received from the Conservative Party. The case involved a number of related legal actions and we worked very closely with the legal team to prepare a media strategy for each which supported Mr Cruddas’ main claim against Times Newspapers.
Our strategy for Mr Cruddas winning his case was aggressive and focussed on restoring Mr Cruddas’ good name. We arranged interviews with all the main broadcasters, built coalitions with influential stakeholders on social media and applied significant pressure on David Cameron to publicly apologise to Mr Cruddas, which is the first thing the Prime Minister did on returning from his summer holiday.
Responding to an undercover investigative TV programme
We were contacted by a leading alternative treatment centre following the news that they were going to be the subject of an undercover investigative television programme, due to be broadcast a few weeks later. Our client was asked for a response to serious allegations about its alternative health treatments which had shown impressive results and was concerned that they would be represented in a negative light by the programme.
We deployed a rapid situation assessment and alerted the client to the possible scenarios and consequences that could arise from the broadcast. We worked hand- in-hand with the client’s legal team to create an effective media strategy that dovetailed with the legal strategy; then worked together in a pincer movement to pressure the programme from all angles to ensure that the coverage was fair and balanced.
Our advice and the detailed representations and statements we delivered to the programme makers greatly softened the nature of the broadcast. Certain allegations placed in the original recording were not included in the broadcast and much of the potential negative impact of the programme for the client was mitigated. Engaging Byfield meant that the client’s reputation did not suffer the significant reputational damage that would have been suffered if the original broadcast had gone ahead unchallenged.
Communicating a major redundancy consultation
Byfield was called in to assist a manufacturing client that, at the height of the recession, was suffering from the effect of foreign competition. An announcement was to be made that a division of the firm would be entering a 90 day consultation period with a possible risk of redundancies. While needing to reduce the size of the workforce, it was vitally important that the firm was still seen as being viable post restructuring.
Working closely with the management team and legal adviser, a range of key messages were crafted to take into account all stakeholders, including staff, trade unions, key customers and suppliers, the media and key political figures. Legacy issues were also prepared for, ensuring that the firm’s reputation would not suffer any future damage as a result of the consultation period. Rebuilding reputations is a process that requires continual effort.
The outcome was that the difficult steps taken by the firm were received with sympathy and seen as prudent in the economic climate at the time. The media and politicians were supportive, and trade unions were understanding of management’s decision in light of the challenging marketplace conditions at the time. Most importantly, confidence in the firm was restored and customers and the workforce were reassured about the future of the company.