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Do Aus lawyers need to be better media-trained?
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Do Aus lawyers need to be better media-trained?

media interaction, communication

A new university course for Canadian law students that teaches best practices for media interaction needs to be introduced in Australia, according to a crisis communications practitioner.

The University of Calgary has introduced a new law subject, ‘Crisis Communications for Lawyers’, which educates students about the nexus between law and public relations, especially in the context of protecting the interests of clients.

Mercer PR managing director Lyall Mercer argued such education and training is “long overdue” in Australia, because there are still far too many lawyers who provide advice that ignores, or is naïve to, the evolving media landscape, and the end result can be that that advice adversely affects the client’s interests.

“During a crisis, a company or organisation usually engages with two key outside consultants, being lawyers and public relations companies,” he explained.

“The ideal situation is for both to be working together to assist their mutual client to achieve the best possible outcome from both legal and reputational perspectives.”

But, too often, the focus of lawyers is narrowed to merely the legal outcomes, ignoring the very real damage that ongoing negative publicity can do to a client’s reputation, he said.

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“It’s very frustrating for me to deal with lawyers who don’t understand this, and I have had some clients instruct me to completely ignore the legal advice because they also realise it’s not meeting their needs,” he said.

“When lawyers understand the world of PR — and I have worked with some who do — the benefit to the client is significant.”

The Calgary tertiary course teaches students to “speak effectively to the media in order to serve your client’s best interest”, and features simulations based on real world events.

“What’s the point of achieving a favourable legal outcome but losing in the court of public opinion and damaging your overall reputation, which can cost far more?” Mr Mercer questioned.

“Issues and crises are best resolved when lawyers and PR practitioners work together and understand the importance of the other’s role.”

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily at Momentum Media.

Jerome is an admitted solicitor in New South Wales and, prior to joining the team in early 2018, he worked in both commercial and governmental legal roles and has worked as a public speaker and consultant to law firms, universities and high schools across the country and internationally. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines self-help book series and is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Western Australia.

Jerome graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry).

You can email Jerome at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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