LEGAL CASES AS A LEVER FOR POLICY CHANGE

(3 Lessons for PR and Public Interest Law)

FCP has always provided counsel to attorneys to help ensure that a powerful verdict with deep public policy implications was heard far beyond the courtroom steps. Here are three lessons we’ve learned along the way to make sure our client’s voice is heard in the public debate when an important case is filed or when a winning settlement or verdict is achieved.

Details Matter: Too often, we think details (especially those containing lots of legalese) will make a reader’s eyes glaze over. However, it’s often those very details that make the story easier for readers to understand. In the case of gender discrimination, granular details of pay disparity can make the issue real for men and women alike. Details of the unproven restraint procedures used by police in subduing mentally ill suspects can drive empathy and policy change in local communities.

Humanity Matters: Legal cases often shed light on powerful stories of personal loss and suffering. They can also shed light on a path or opportunity for redemption on important cultural issues. News coverage often resonates most when it tells human stories that tap into the zeitgeist of the moment (improper use of cell phones) or the failure of schools to protect vulnerable students on the Autism spectrum. Ensuring important legal stories are told with humanity and clarity can drive the policy changes we all seek.

Expertise Matters: Attorneys have a wealth of knowledge on issues relevant to their areas of expertise. Generously sharing this knowledge with media and peers can lead to a deep network of connections. This network is essential for (1) developing working relationships with reporters who cover your areas of expertise and (2) ensuring that when your story is written, you have hundreds of allies and friends to help the story spread via social media. In this case, a key news clip was the product of the attorney serving as an on-going resource to reporters covering areas of wage/hour cases while her network of allies helped to ensure it was reposted many times on social platforms.

The wheels of justice may move slowly, but the media wheels spin many times faster. Our shared responsibility is to tell our stories well.

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