Crisis Preparation: The Important Work No One Wants to Do

November 4, 2019

Most law firm leaders have given at least some thought to how they would respond when blindsided by a damaging news story, lawsuit or other event that brings unwanted attention to their firm. Unfortunately, too many of them engage in that reflection at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat, then go back to sleep and forget all about it.

Planning for a crisis costs time and money, and to the more superstitious among us it may feel like tempting fate. But time and again, organizations that are able to weather the storm do so because they had a plan in place long before they even knew what sort of crisis would strike. You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare messaging, assemble a team, and draw up a plan of action that will save an enormous amount of precious time and give you a chance to get ahead of the story, whatever it is.

Read more about how to do that here. Some highlights of this excellent and comprehensive tutorial on crisis planning:

  • A plan helps you ensure that your firm is the most “credible and proactive news source” — which is no easy feat in this era of skepticism when it comes to institutions.

  • Many firms are preparing for data and privacy-related crises (with good reason), but they don’t always think about the other kinds of problems that might come up. Think carefully about the kinds of clients you serve and the personalities and habits of your senior leadership to uncover other potential threats.

  • Preapproved, nonspecific statements can help your team respond quickly to a story. You really can craft these ahead of time without knowing the details of the issue.

  • What will happen if journalists attempt to go around the dedicated spokesperson to get a quote? Your firm should have a clear policy in place for who can talk to the media.

  • Running through a comprehensive simulation might feel like overkill, but it’s the only way to test your plan before you need to use it in real time.

You would never want your attorneys to skip trial prep before going into the courtroom, or sleep on due diligence before heading in to a crucial negotiation. While you can’t know the details of the crisis you may someday face, you can plan your response and maximize the chance that your firm will stay one step ahead.