Recently, I’ve noticed attorneys in several high-profile cases end up with a camera in front of them and a reporter shoving a microphone into their face, asking them for a comment. Some of these lawyers are younger; others have been around long enough that I presume they know what they’re doing.
Until the lawyer gives a soundbite that could not possibly help their client, and seems calculated only to get the lawyer’s name out in the evening news.
In some matters, maybe the client wants a dog and pony show, and the resulting media circus might even help the client’s case. In criminal work, I’m not sure it helps all that often.
All lawyers want business. Most lawyers want more business. And free publicity in the news is something a lawyer can’t buy. But the lawyer’s desire to get media recognition may be directly opposed to the client’s interests in keeping a lid on it all, so we have potential competing interests — the lawyer’s ego and want for new business, and the client’s goals of getting a fair result in their case.
I’ve spoken with other younger attorneys about this issue, and some see it differently— Hell, clients aren’t going to come to see you if they don’t see you on TV right? Clients? There’ll always be another client. You need to get people taking about you and get your name out there!
To some degree, they’re right. Getting people talking about you is a great way to get new clients. I am unsure that I want people talking about me for me being on the news, and prefer they’d be telling their friends, colleagues, and family how well our firm represented them. I might have an antiquated view of how things work.
I recently turned down an opportunity to talk about a case to the media. It was tempting to give my soundbite and have my big fat head and my name on the TV, broadcast to the thousands who’d be watching the evening’s news — I couldn’t pay for publicity like that. Surely, it would surely have gotten people talking about our firm and likely we’d have gotten some client calls out of the deal as well.
Anything I said would have been merely for my benefit, and not my client’s. “I, Me, Mine,” aren’t in the rules of ethics. So I declined their offer.
Did I make the right decision? In this case, I think so. And for the same reasons I don’t blast every little update in our cases all over our website or twitter feed.
But I still wrestle with the idea — at what point does talking to the media cross the line from effectively advocating for a client, to self-promotion, to shameless self-promotion, to solely feeding the lawyer’s ego and need for recognition?
For now, I prefer to err on the side of “no comment.”