We’ve spoken previously about how important it is to have a privacy breach communications plan. In our prior coverage, we discussed the importance – and the difficulty – of balancing transparency in your crisis communications with legal risk. In this week’s brief, we’re going to dig into the legal risk that comes with crisis communications and why you should loop in your legal team as early as possible.
Crisis Communications and Legal Risk
Every crisis comes with legal risk. In the event of a data breach, there’s the risk of regulatory action as well as lawsuits stemming from any personal cause of action granted by certain state privacy laws. In the event of an oil spill, there’s again the risk of regulatory action, as well as the risk of damages for lost revenues and the injury to personal property and/or natural resources (amongst other things).
The primary role (and goal) of your crisis communications is to empower those who need to know about the crisis to act without increasing your potential future liability. In fact, crisis communications can help to reduce your future risk when they’re done well. Looping in your attorney as early as possible can help you to achieve this.
Here’s why you should loop in your legal team as early as possible when managing a crisis and developing your crisis communications:
Benefit From Attorney-Client Privilege
If your attorney is cc’d in on certain emails or included in certain meetings, your communications may be covered by attorney-client privilege. Privilege can become very important if legal action follows the crisis, since attorney-client privilege may mean that the emails or other communications discussing the crisis are not discoverable’. That is, since the communications were between an attorney and their client and were created in anticipation of litigation, ‘the other side’ may not be permitted to see the communications.
Attorney-client privilege is nuanced, however. If you need advice about whether certain communications are protected or to learn more about the extent of the protections, speak with your attorney.
Develop a Better Communications Strategy
Your attorney can help you to direct your communications strategy. By speaking with your attorney very early in the crisis management process, you can better manage the legal risks that come with crisis communications – including avoiding accidentally disclosing sensitive information and/or preventing a misstatement of facts or events.
Ascertain Your Legal Risk
You can ascertain the scope of your legal risk stemming from the crisis itself. From this position, you can tailor and time your communications to address potential liability.
Effective communication in a crisis can help to preserve your company’s reputation, while shielding you from risk. If you need legal assistance while navigating a crisis, reach out.
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