Protecting Reputation While Minimizing Risk: How and Why Lawyers and Communications Should Work Together

3 minute read | June.27.2023

Lawyers and communicators play important roles in protecting a business from reputational harm and legal liability. They serve an organization best when they work together and often can benefit from knowing more about each other’s role and responsibility. Here are three ways lawyers and communicators can collaborate to deliver coordinated solutions.

1. Develop Relationships

Lawyers and communicators should get to know one another, preferably in person. Each side needs to understand the other’s responsibilities and iron out differences of opinions as much as possible. Ideally, teams will conduct tabletop crisis simulations to identify potential hurdles and determine how to handle them.

Tip for Lawyers: Ask communicators about their priorities and challenges and how you can support them. Humble curiosity goes a long way. Collaborate on exercises that simulate how both sides will work together in a crisis.

Tip for Communicators: As you discuss the organization’s priorities and challenges, always remember that you are both stewards of risk and that the organization’s goals should be your North Star. This will make it less personal.

2. See Things from the Other Person’s Perspective

Mutual understanding and respect can go a long way. Remember that each side has important contributions to make.

Tip for Lawyers: Acknowledge that communicators often know a business and its stakeholders better than lawyers. They develop communications that reinforce an organization’s key messages and its mission, vision and values. They know the important partners and customers. Leveraging communicators’ expertise can help protect the business.

Tip for Communicators: Realize that you likely don’t know what is legally required or how precedents may inform a decision. Bring a humble spirit to the table. Listen to your legal colleagues, admit what you don’t know and ask questions born of genuine curiosity. You’ll gain valuable understanding and knowledge that fuels collaboration – and you and the legal team will gain the flexibility and creativity to solve for both reputational and legal risk.

3. Embrace Precision in Language

While communicators pride themselves in choosing the right words, they should collaborate with legal counterparts to understand how specific words and phrases may impact legal jeopardy. Cooperation produces language that’s accurate, understandable and legally bullet proof.

Tip for Lawyers: Consult communications colleagues to avoid ill-advised or tone-deaf communications.

Tip for Communicators:  Communicators often relish the search for just the right word – but they often don’t know if a certain word may carry legal meanings. Sometimes, you may need to give a little or sacrifice a cherished adjectives if it carries a certain legal connotation.

Keeping these insights in mind as you interact will increase your opportunity to build an understanding between the legal and communication disciplines. When done right, you can stand side by side and deliver winning legal and communication results that are complementary and help your organization succeed.

Want to Know More?

For Lawyers: Read Bridging the Communicator-Lawyer Divide: Tips for Partnering Successfully with PR in a Crisis

For Communicators: Read How Communicators Can Better Bridge the Attorney Gap