Nick Augustine is the principal of Chicago’s Augustine Legal Public Relations and he works for the Bryan Law Group, a full service, boutique family practice in DuPage County. Nick teaches law firms and their staff how to get more clients as he helps attorneys share their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.
Lawyers can use public relations tools to influence policy. Whether policies are public or private, the necessity for change often appears through litigation. Lawyers have an opportunity to use PR tools to appear as a hero and friend of the people. Calls to action and explanations of why lawsuits proceed as they do helps the public better understand and appreciate the need to affect policy.
Policies in the public and private sector typically take the form of rules and guidelines to achieve consistent and rational outcomes. The corporate policy of a helmet manufacturer, for example, includes the standard use of warning language in product marketing and packaging. A lawsuit about traumatic brain injury and concussions can influence the manufacturers’ policies regarding product use and safety warnings.
In litigation, attorneys file complaints against individuals who engage in wrong acts as determined by statute and common law. The acts, transactions and occurrences giving rise to lawsuits can be functions of policy. Public and private policies are a function of an organization’s structure and its people. If you are not influencing lawmakers, you are working to attract the attention of members of a corporate board.
Consider how policy and profit align. How does your lawsuit fit in? When your complaint alleges Brand X failed to warn consumers of the risk of traumatic brain injury, despite use of their helmet, the outcome is not only at law, it is also in policy. When Brand X elects to change the language on their warning label, their policy and need for compliance helps drive that change.
Behind the scenes in public and private sector policymaking are the people. People voting and people buying products impact rulemaking and profits, respectively. The public can be influenced by what they find in media. A smart litigation coordinator makes sure, where appropriate, the public learns about policies and how the lawsuit affects them.
To bring about change, a lawyer needs to communicate the need and opportunity for change. Depending on how a lawyer states their case, in the court of public opinion, the public can weigh in on their thoughts. Today’s digital media options offer many ways to measure public opinion. A skilled litigation public relations team is an asset in high profile litigation. Do not forget the court of public opinion.