The raid on former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is providing a case study on savvy litigation communications—complete with photography for the multimedia age.
The Justice Department is effectively using legal filings to make its case in the court of public opinion on the Trump documents fight, rather than press statements or social media. We think this is good practice in any legal fight, and here’s why:
- Making your public-facing argument as part of the filings gives it an official imprimatur instead of a battle by press release.
- Judges sometimes rebuke parties for trying to “win the case in the press,” so it makes sense to make your arguments all part of the official record.
- Any good litigation comms strategy should be driven by the legal strategy. When your public-facing arguments are in the legal documents, there’s no room for daylight between them.
To be most effective, communications advisors should always be a part of weighing in on legal filings to make sure they paint the big picture and that the arguments are compelling to a broad audience, not only in legalese.
As the New York Times reported, DOJ went out of its way to draft its filing in simple terms that tell a clear story. “Unfolding over 36 pages, it combined complicated legal arguments with an easy-to-read narrative.” It even included a photograph of top-secret documents spread across Mar-a-Lago’s carpet for dramatic effect, an unusual attachment to a federal filing that immediately went viral.
One tip here as a time-pressed former reporter who covered the federal courts: Make sure your most compelling arguments are within the first two pages of your filing. You may not have a second chance to make a first impression.