The importance of knowing how to interact with the media

By Staff

No matter the level of public interest in your case, it’s critical to know how to deal with the media and to protect your client's image, Toronto health lawyer Tracey Tremayne-Lloyd tells Law Times.

Having acted as counsel in many high-profile disciplinary proceedings, she says the client must be fully aware that the process is open to the public and there are aspects of the case that are separate from the evidence heard during a hearing.

“As well, if the press is there, they will likely have camera people standing right outside,” says Tremayne-Lloyd, principal of TTL Health Law.

While the primary focus is the case before the disciplinary panel, the optics outside of the hearing also matter and lawyers must help ensure their client is presented in the best light possible, she says.

That often begins when that person enters the building where a hearing is taking place, says the article.

Tremayne-Lloyd says her instructions to clients are clear when the media is taking the so-called “walking shot” as they are entering or leaving a hearing.

“Do not give a statement. But never duck your head. Don’t hang your head. Look them in the eye. Do not get involved in an altercation,” she says.

It is a mistake to try to prevent the media from photographing a client, but steps can be taken to limit the amount of time for that, Tremayne-Lloyd says. A vehicle should be waiting outside the hearing in anticipation of photographers and reporters being there at the end of a hearing day, she says.

“I tell my client to have a family member or I will have a student or associate pull up, so they can get into the vehicle immediately,” Tremayne-Lloyd says.

“You don’t want the media following as they walk to a parking lot a couple [of] blocks away,” she explains.

Reporters will also likely ask questions both of the professional facing the disciplinary proceeding and the lawyers, but Tremayne-Lloyd stresses to her clients that they should not speak to the media.

“Sometimes, they are harder to persuade not to talk. They are more adamant about their innocence,” she says.

Tremayne-Lloyd says it depends on the facts of a case as to whether she will provide a quote for the media.

“Only if it is strategically appropriate,” she says. “Sometimes, you do not want to say anything.”

It may be appropriate and beneficial for the client if counsel answered factual questions from reporters who are covering a hearing to ensure their stories are accurate, Tremayne-Lloyd says.

Interaction with media outside a proceeding is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to be cautious and respond to any questions as succinctly as possible, she says.

It may also be helpful, if possible, to have some knowledge of the previous work of a reporter or columnist who is covering the hearing, especially if the person works for a major media outlet, Tremayne-Lloyd says.

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