A Cautionary Note About Attorney-Client Privilege and PR
Many PR professionals operate under the assumption that when they contract directly with a law firm and not with the client, whatever they produce is considered attorney work product and therefore privileged. A recent piece in the O’Dwyer’s newsletter by Bill Huey of Strategic Communications, however, points out that court rulings on privilege for PR advice have come down on both sides of the issue and do not offer assurance that this work is always or even routinely protected. In some cases, only discussions of legal matters are shielded, and advice on PR matters, even when an attorney is present, is not.
This legal ambiguity should make law firms think carefully about who to contract for PR work. The large “full service” firms tend to model all their engagements on their work with mainstream industry clients and generally are not up to speed on the nuances of thorny gray areas such as attorney-client privilege and the professional guidelines that govern attorney advertising and trial publicity. A boutique firm that is dedicated solely to the legal industry (hint, hint) brings a far deeper understanding to helping our law firm clients manage and navigate these questions so that they may serve their clients well and communicate publicly about cases in effective and safe ways.