Litigation PR: The Greenberg letter and its fallout – vote for Greenberg?

Nick Augustine is a legal industry publicist at Augustine Legal PR and he helps law firms and their staffs attract more clients and tell their stories. Nick’s marketing, advertising and media team helps attorneys generate frequent original content to 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.

Steve Greenberg scored major name recognition this week. By now, the Greenberg letter is a topic of discussion among many Chicagoland lawyers and the public who followed the Drew Peterson case. Note that “Greenberg” appears in most of the news reports of the incident where the Peterson defense attorney chastised his co-counsel in a 15-page letter sent to every news outlet in town.

Consumer psychology should be a major component of any decision to go public with a statement.

What’s the real story? The story is that Greenberg is upset in his opinion of how his co-counsel/associate and he very much acted upon it. I scanned the letter and I just don’t think it does Greenberg well. I appreciate he must have been very upset with Joel Brodsky as he alleges Brodsky misspoke and put Greenberg in a bad light. We might see more developments in the event Mr. Brodsky passes on Greenberg’s “window to retract … [his] defamatory remarks,” (See Greenberg letter of Sept. 24, 2012, at the first sentence) and instead, sues him for defamation.

How do we react to news? Some attorneys who read the 15-page letter likely think that Greenberg is making a public record for later use. Others may think this looks like a client complaint to the Attorney Registration & Discipline Commission with a laundry list of every negative sentiment. Most of the public, however, seems to mistrust high-profile professionals and public figures. I bet most people in the general public will assume both lawyers are hotheads and ignore this news. The bigger fallout of this very public act takes place in private conversations among friends and colleagues who know these attorneys. 

What would have been a better recourse? As many professionals do not prefer to associate with others who publically wag the finger, a letter to a tighter and more private circulation might have been a good choice. What would you do if your professional reputation were tied to a high-profile case where you did not prevail?

What is Greenberg likely to gain? After the dust settles and depending on response, people are probably more likely to remember a lawyer named Greenberg.

Consumers of news tend to favor familiarity. If Greenberg is more of a household name, more people may recall his name and think, Hmm, that rings a bell – and not think any further. If Greenberg later runs for public office, people might vote for the name they remember, even if they mistakenly think he was the victor.

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