A Rep To Protect…

Being the coolest kid on the block isn’t easy. Sure, you have loads of mates, get invited to all the cool parties and have a very impressive Twitter following. However, your reign at the top can all come crashing down if your parents reveal that you routinely sing along to The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

It’s not just ‘on tha streetz’ where reputation has to be managed. Businesses and prominent individuals need to protect their brand, no matter the sector in which they operate.

What Does Reputation Management Involve?

Specialising in this area will combine expertise from sports and media law, intellectual property law, and commercial law. Reputation is the most easily targeted asset of a business or brand – consumers can get aggravated and complain via social media, protests can lead to criminal damage and undercover journalists can infiltrate organisations.

Being a reputation management lawyer means you have to get your head around defamation, confidentiality and privacy laws and advise your client how they can best utilise this legislation. There’s also an element of press and media relations involved, and reputation management lawyers will often find themselves working with, and advising, the PR teams of their clients. As time is critical in managing reputation, long hours and weekend work may be involved, and managing media profiles of corporations and high profile individuals includes keeping damaging or untrue stories away from the press.

You will also be responsible for obtaining and defending injunctions and could even be involved in litigation involving defamation, privacy and reporting restrictions.

On the flip side of the coin, you may also find yourself working with national press and media outlets to ensure that their journalists don’t break defamation and privacy laws, checking over material before it is published and providing clearance and advice to publishers.

What Makes A Good Reputation Management Lawyer?

You’ll need a thorough knowledge of defamation and privacy laws, plus loads of commercial awareness about how specific laws will be applicable to your client’s situation.

As managing reputations can be particularly time sensitive, you’ll need to be able to remain calm under pressure and be prepared to work at all hours and be able to react within minutes – the client’s entire business may be on the line! 

A Day in the Life of Tom Rudkins, Reputation Management Solicitor at Farrer & Co.

Tom joined Farrer & Co as a trainee in 2011 and qualified in September 2013. He spent five months of his first year on secondment at the Lawn Tennis Association.

What is the first thing you do when you get into the office?

I get in around 8.30, check through my emails and catch up on the newspapers just to make sure none of our clients have been on the wrong side of a press sting.  Since we also work for a couple of celebrity magazines, to my embarrassment I also keep up to speed with what is going on in the world of celebrity, devoting myself to the likes of the Sun and MailOnline.  After that, it’s time for breakfast before getting on with work properly.

How do you handle and organise/prioritise your workload?

The work our Reputation Management team does is frequently deadline driven, meaning that it is usually relatively easy to decide what to prioritise.  When there are court deadlines or clients who are seeking to limit the damage to their reputation caused (or about to be caused) by a newspaper, TV or an Internet story, the timeframes for doing the work are clearly defined.  While this means the workload can be quite intensive, this adds to the interest and makes it easy to maintain motivation.

What sort of daily responsibilities do you have in Reputation Management?  Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day-to-day?

The work we do is very varied but broadly speaking we are either seeking to protect the reputations of our clients or, where our publisher clients are concerned, advising them in relation to complaints (potential or actual).  One day it might involve reviewing stories that our publisher clients are proposing to publish in the next edition of their magazine, whilst on other occasions we find ourselves writing or speaking to lawyers on the other side of disputes where one of our clients has been the victim of adverse publicity.  Increasingly these days, clients are also the victims of harassment and false allegations by anonymous Internet users, meaning that we have to do investigative work to find out who is responsible.  Where clients have been subjected to more sinister forms of harassment and/or blackmail, then part of our role might involve working with the police and/or criminal lawyers.  Since a number of our clients (whether they are high net worth individuals, celebrities, sports stars, charities or companies) have a significant public profile, the work we do is often high stakes, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

What sort of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?

As I mentioned above, because matters involving reputation can affect anyone (especially in the days of the Internet), we work for a very diverse range of clients.  On any given day, we might be advising a footballer on stories about his love life, a school on press coverage of the actions of a teacher and a hedge fund on allegations of tax avoidance. 

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