A Guide on Dealing with the Media

A Guide on Dealing with the Media

How to Win With the Media

Fake News. The term makes me cringe.  Not only because it’s generally said as a preemptive strike by people who want to distance themselves from any present or future unflattering stories, but because it often is just not true.

I’m not speaking about the National Enquirer or US Magazine, I can’t vouch for entertainment or celebrity news, but I can vouch for news reporters. I’ve been one since the late ‘70s and have worked in about nine newsrooms, some radio, mostly television, affiliates, owned stations and CNN.  Reporters work long, hard hours, often for very little pay.  Print reporters, who generally make less than broadcasters, make much less, work even harder and with less of the glory, in my opinion.

Journalism is a calling, one fewer and fewer young people are entering. Journalism schools are being overrun with public relations majors.  PR job hours are more normal and the pay is generally better.

But there may be times when your law firm needs to get out its story. You have a great case and want the public to understand. You may be looking for others who are harmed by a drug or a device, or may want to win your argument in the court of public opinion.

No consumer should have to wait the many years a mass tort takes to understand the dangers of a device or drug that your discovery has uncovered.

I’m thinking talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

Twenty years ago, physician and professor of environmental medicine and occupational health, Dr. Samuel Epstein, of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, told me never to use talcum baby powder genitally.  It is linked to cancer because of asbestos fibers found in the talc. The particles lodge near the ovaries, causing irritation and eventually cancer.

How many lives could have been saved had his warning received widespread attention decades ago?

Only today is the public hearing about this warning buried in the long-overdue litigation and the enormous jury verdicts for plaintiffs that have made the headlines. 

The public shouldn’t have to wait to get this important information!

The media is the way to get out the word. But how do you pitch a story without being taken for a ride?

Hopefully, you are a news consumer in your local area and from national outlets, radio, newspapers, broadcast.  There is always a friendly reporter in your area. 

Consumer “On Your Side” types are still a feature of every television newsroom.  Contact them or find someone who works a similar “beat” for a newspaper. Don’t leave out alternative papers. They too have readership and reach.

Have a meeting over coffee. Let them know you are well-meaning and that as a personal injury lawyer you too work “in the public interest,” just like holders of the public airwaves (broadcast).

The bottom line is this – whoever gets a story to a reporter first is the narrative that will likely prevail.   

So find a friendly face in the crowd and tell them the story.

But what if there are things that cannot yet be revealed?

Understand that reporters use a language.

Most reporter follow the Society of Professional JournalistsCode of Conduct. It is a good and thorough code for professional conduct. Read it.  Cite it to them. Most reporters have been encouraged to follow at some point in their career. 

Here is the language you use with a friendly reporter including the ground rules for information that can and cannot be revealed.   

Off the Record – means they cannot use it.  They must find another source to go “On the Record” with that information.  Make sure your reporter understands that promise.

On Background – Meaning they can use the information but it didn’t come from you. It is simply the context they need to tell a story.

For the Record – Means that you can be quoted.  Make sure you are carefully crafting what you want to say. There are generally no do-overs.

Have your reporter friend recite what they mean when they say “Off the 
Record,” so you can check their understanding just in case they have a different interpretation.

They may look at your with surprise.  How do you know that?   Well you’ve read the code of conduct and you understand the rules. Do they?  If they do not, finish your coffee and say have a nice day.

Again, reporters work long, hard hours and for little pay. It is a calling and a good reporter is passionate about that calling. Reporting is one of the fastest ways to see the world and come face-to-face with issues of our time. Occasionally you even have a front row seat to history.

These people do exist and they can be immensely important in helping you craft your narrative to the public.

Use the media to your own ends and you may find your story, your litigation, gains traction to bring you clients and to raise awareness of a real and emerging danger that the public needs to know now, not years from now when the harm has already occurred.

3 Successful Tips for Getting Your Exhibit Admitted Into Evidence

Presenting a well thought out demonstrative has the power to compel a jury to see angles of your case words can’t illustrate. But laying the foundation for getting your exhibit admitted into evidence is a major part of the battle lawyers often overlook.

Taking steps to properly lay the foundation for your exhibit will ensure you and your visual team are on the same page in illustrating the most important evidence, communicating the core themes of your argument, and complying with all the requirements necessary to prove your exhibit is admissibly bulletproof.

We break the process down into these three simple steps.

1) Collaborate Early With Your Exhibit Team

Meeting with your exhibit team early enables both you and your team to foresee all the requirements needed to recreate an accurate presentation that includes all the facts, statistics and evidence to strengthen your case. It also allows time to organize all the technical assets required to produce the most powerful presentation possible.

2) Establish a Clear Understanding with Your Exhibit Team About the Themes of Your Case

The evidence doesn’t speak for itself as persuasively as the larger story. Making sure your team has a clear understanding of the larger arguments you’ll be communicating to a jury will ensure the production process connects the evidence with the more compelling themes of your case – resulting in a clear, cohesive message that resonates with the jury.

3) Adhere to a Proofing Process that Allows Expert Witness to Provide Feedback for Revisions in a Timely Manner

The final step to ensuring your exhibit will be admitted into evidence is to have your key expert participate in the proofing process to ensure he or she agrees w what has been created represents an accurate account of what happened. Adhering to a proofing protocol that incorporates your expert’s feedback as early as possible will minimize the amount of revisions and ensure your exhibit is finished both timely and most importantly, accurately – with a feeling of confidence that it will overcome any objection from the opposition.

Once you have an expert-approved trial exhibit that communicates the themes of your case while being accurately grounded in hard evidence, you will be ready to have it admitted into evidence with peace of mind.

High Impact’s team of visual strategists, artists and developers can build and customize your digital presentation for any case involving personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma – or any subject involving complex information.

Ms. Esquire: How the Legal Field Is Changing for Women

Ms. Esquire: How the Legal Field Is Changing for Women

Law has traditionally been a men’s profession. It wasn’t until 1868 that the first female lawyer in the United States – Arabella “Belle” Mansfield – was admitted to a state bar association. Fifty years ago, female lawyers were unheard of. Even thirty years ago, the percentage of women in law was woefully small.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that females began joining the ranks of the legal profession en masse. In 2000,an estimated 28.9 percent of all lawyers in the U.S. were women. At the beginning of 2017, that percentage had grown to 36 percent.

Now, we live in a world in which the legal field is changing to become friendlier and more accessible to women who aspire to practice the law in a wide variety of areas. There are women judges – even three female U.S. Supreme Court justices – as well as female litigators, general counsels, law school professors, and law school deans.

In this state alone, we’ve had multiple female chief justices of the Supreme Court of Alabama, including our current Chief Justice Lyn Stuart. In the 2016 elections, furthermore, nine female judges – African American females, even – were elected as circuit and district judges in Jefferson County.

What’s more is that more and more women lawyers are joining the elite ranks of partnership, even in some of the nation’s biggest firms. As of 2017,over one-fifth of all partners in the nation were female. An estimated 18 percent of the managing partners in the nation’s 200 largest law firms were women. And nearly half of all associates and summer associates were female.

Within my firm – Hare, Wynn Newell & Newton – we have three female associates and three female staff attorneys. Our women lawyers have been recognized nationally for excellence and are a part of the thriving legal community in our state.

The future looks bright, as well: women received 47.3 percent of all law school degrees awarded. (Plus, 54 percent of leadership positions in collegiate law reviews are women, and 49 percent of all editors-in-chief are women.)

The legal field is changing for the better for women. Our daughters are growing up knowing that if they have the aspiration and ability, they, too, can become lawyers – and even partners and deans and judges. They see that women are capable of driving substantial changes to policy at all levels and are influencing the practice of law all across the country. They also can see how female lawyers can use their experience as a catalyst for involving themselves in the community at large, whether it is as an activist, nonprofit advocate, or politician.

I personally want my daughter to see me as a role model and learn that life is about helping others with the talents and gifts we have. When it comes to law, women have a unique ability dig deep into others’ lives and tell their stories. I want my daughter and other daughters to believe they have that abililty, too – the ability to have compassion for people and their situations.

Some of the progress was made the old-fashioned way, through decades of perseverance, determination, and hard work from trailblazers. Some of the progress being made today and into the future is accomplished by groups likeMs. JD, a student-founded nonprofit working to support women in the legal profession.

Every time a mother, guidance counselor, teacher, or mentor tells a young woman that yes, the law could be for them, though, more progress is made – one woman at a time.

It’s an exciting time to be a female practicing law in today’s America. There are still challenges that need to be overcome – for example, there is only one female lawyer in the Alabama legislature – but female lawyers have shown that women are just as capable in practicing law as men, and can provide rich insight and experience to the ever-changing nature of jurisprudence. There are real benefits to having women at the table, not just in the conference room but in the courtroom, and there are many situations in which having a woman represent a client is a real advantage for the client.

Support our nation’s young women as they choose a career, and if their dreams happen to settle on the practice of law, encourage and cultivate them. They can – and with hard work, will – become a reality

The McDivitt Law Firm Representing Families Impacted By Water Contamination

The McDivitt Law Firm is holding an informational open house for those affected by contaminated water in the Fountain/Security/Widefield area.

The law firm is representing all families affected by the water in a potential Class-Action lawsuit against the manufacturer of firefighting foam which contains high levels of perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFCs.

“People of Widefield, Security, and Fountain are concerned about being exposed to contamination and we want to make a difference and help them,” said attorney Kelly Hyman.

The fire retardant was used by the Air Force and seeped into the ground water supply affecting water for those three communities in 2015. There are a number of manufacturing companies named in the lawsuit, but no mention or intention of going after the Air Force that actually used the toxic foam.

Studies have been ongoing into the long-term effects of those who have been exposed to the toxins, as researches were recruiting volunteers to study effects earlier in the year.

“I feel like I’m an individual who’s healthy at this time, active and all that, and what if this product is still in my system and starts to affect me,” said Shelly Laborde, a Widefield resident.

Time is running out for those who want to get in on the lawsuit, so the informational open house will continue through the weekend at the McDivitt Law Firm at 19 East Cimarron Street. A judge is expected to decide this summer whether the class-action lawsuit can proceed.

Written By Rachael Wardwell

Kelly is an attorney with McDivitt Law Firm in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kelly attended law school at the University of Florida and after law school She worked for numerous Federal judges. For the last six years Kelly has focused on mass tort cases. Kelly chose to work for McDivitt Law Firm because of the Firm’s reputation for professionalism and that they truly work to help people during during difficult times.