Washington University School of Law Dean Kent D. Syverud (and my first year Civil Procedure Professor at University of Michigan), to my knowledge, coined the expression, “Yes, no, maybe so, all the way to Mexico…” as a model answer in a law school exam. A typical law school exam sets out a factual and legal backdrop that should make the test-takers’ heads spin with many legal issues which affect the analysis first one way, then another, and another, and another….
“On the one hand, on the other hand, on the third hand…” This kind of complex meandering reasoning is one of the things that grinds the gears of clients (especially if they have to pay by the hour and this wordy analysis seems to go in circles and even at times seems to be self-contradictory). But it is not just lawyers whose advice can sometimes seem complicated and almost self-contradictory or circular.
Take, for example, the recent article in Bench and Bar of Minnesota (the “official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Assocation”) on law firm handling of law firm crises. Authors Stacy Bettison and Amy Rotenberg advise on mistakes to avoid (I paraphrase):
- Don’t say too much;
- Don’t say too little;
- Don’t be too “media averse;”
- Don’t be too “media friendly;”
- Don’t sit and do nothing in a crisis;
- Don’t overreact in a crisis;
- Respond to published inaccuracies;
- Don’t respond to every published inaccuracy.
In other words, “Yes, no, maybe so, all the way to Mexico.” At a superficial glance, these pieces of advice, each seemingly dismantled by the previous, seem singularly unhelpful.
The point, however, is that public relations challenges, like a lot of legal problems, are nuanced and complex, which is why public relations professionals (and lawyers) exist.
When law firms find themselves in the unwanted glare of public attention for misconduct, the trusted advisors need trusted advisors.