Channeling your inner Olivia Pope

What to do when the scandal involves your company or your client

Every week, many of us watch “Scandal's” Olivia Pope handle one crisis after another. Of course, it is sensationalized for television and meant to entertain us, but the fact is, at some point or another, either as in-house or outside counsel, your company or client will find itself in the middle of a scandal of some kind. The scale and scope will vary greatly, but it is nonetheless a significant and important issue that you, as the attorney, will want to be prepared for and be able to provide valuable insight, advice, and counsel. The scandal you face will not necessarily be a legal or business crisis in the traditional sense. In light of the global nature of business, the interconnections between the public and private sectors — and the lightning fast access to and dissemination of information through technological innovation, social media, and the Internet — a political event occurring halfway around the world, a natural disaster, or a seemingly private matter involving an executive, officer or director can trigger a company-wide scandal. 

Preparing a crisis management plan while in the middle of the scandal is not optimal. That is why you hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Prepare in advance of crisis — draft the playbook and identify the “position” individuals will play, outline basic principles for your offensive and defensive strategies, select company spokespersons, establish relationships with a shortlist of crisis management firms, and identify the key team leaders across the various business, legal, marketing, public relations, human resources, and government and investor relations platforms. “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success,” said Alexander Graham Bell. Even if a comprehensive plan is not practical or doable, think proactively and jot down the three most important steps you know must be taken if a crisis hits.     

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Cari K. Dawson

Cari K. Dawson is the chair of the Class Action Practice Team at Alston & Bird LLP. She concentrates her practice on complex litigation matters,...

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