I enjoy Brian Tannebaum. Brian is a fellow criminal defense attorney who’s getting his name out there. He blogs, tweets, and otherwise assails the Internet with his ideas about defense work, law practice management, and the like. Recently, I stumbled upon his post about handling media appearances. Since I’ve written about this myself, I was curious about what he could add to the discussion. College Station lawyers would do well to heed much of Brian’s advice when talking to the media.
Any career criminal defense lawyer will have the opportunity for talking to the media and discussing a case. Whether it’s a high-profile murder case or one dealing with a local celebrity, it’s just a matter of time before the defense lawyer is contacted by the media for comment. Much of Brian’s advice was common sense. “Be prepared.” “Return the reporter’s call.” Avoid “no comment.” You’re the lawyer for heaven’s sake – say something! However, what really piqued my interest were his pointers about commenting on cases where some other lawyer has defended the accused. Especially in big media markets, the deeper one ventures into their professional career the fewer media appearances will concern one’s own high-profile case and more with cases handled by other lawyers in the community. A good Brazos County defense lawyer can help you understand how to deal with the media.
Here are some of the take-aways about talking to the media. First, always decline the opportunity to play backseat driver. People loathe backseat drivers. Remember, most likely you weren’t sitting in the courtroom listening to the evidence. Consequently, be careful when criticizing the trial strategy of another lawyer. Further, you probably don’t know the critical contested facts, either. And it’s not YOU who’s developed the key relationship with jurors making the make-or-break decision about the client. This was my favorite. “Don’t make people dumber.” Brian’s point was to educate people . . . educate the viewing public. Know the law and procedure and explain how (and why) things work. “Be bold enough to dispel the public’s skewed perception about the process and the evidence.” Protect the other lawyer’s back and explain why critical trial decisions may have been made. You never know, the trial lawyer you’re commenting upon may be asked to evaluate your trial performance some day.
The bottom line? “You’re the lawyer for heaven’s sake – say something.” But make the “something” positive and educational, especially if its about somebody else’s case.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.