How to Handle a High Profile Trial
You don't have to represent a celebrity to end up trying or defending the case of the century. The press and the media can take almost any case, and with enough work, force the public's attention towards it to the point of sensationalizing the case into popular culture.
In high profile cases, attorneys will face ethical dilemmas that don't befall most litigators. For the most part, the public doesn't really seem to care about what's happening in the majority of cases. But when the spotlight is shining, any mistake you make, and even your strategic decisions, will be amplified through the press.
If you find yourself considering taking on a celebrity's case, or maybe a case you took unexpectedly turned into a media frenzy, below you can find a few tips to help you handle a hot trial.
Don't Just Talk to the Press
If you wind up in the midst of a media frenzy, you may be tempted to step into the limelight. Don't. Taking interviews with the press is not likely to help your client. Even if the media is calling to "fact check," you have an ethical duty to your client.
If you can't control the information being released, you're probably better off not releasing any information. If you're going to release information, consider what you will release very carefully and prepare a press release, or written statement that will be read. Don't answer questions, unless you've prepared specific answers ahead of time to the anticipated questions.
Don't Be Afraid of Asking for Help
There are individuals who specialize in public and media relations. There are attorneys who have handled high profile cases before. Help is available. Don't be afraid of asking for it. Even if you have to pay for it out of pocket, getting help to ensure that you don't come off looking like a jerk, or worse, a bad lawyer, in the media, is absolutely worth it.
Voir Dire and Venue Critical
When it comes to the actual trial, perhaps one of the most critical components in high profile cases is voir dire. As soon as possible, you should be focusing on how to get the best possible jury pool, with the least amount of bias. That may actually require requesting a change of venue for trial, and will definitely require in depth juror questionnaires. If it's in the budget, juror consultants can also be retained to assist in the selection process.
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