July 29, 2019

Scholar Stephen Cobb Explains Why Lawyers Need To Improve Their Media Skills

By Jacqueline Isaacs

Stephen Cobb, associate fellow for innovation and technology for the Rainey Center, wrote for Bloomberg Law recently that it is important for attorneys to hone their media skills. The reality of 24-hour news coverage is that legal topics, such as Congressional investigations, will be reported every day and will stir the interest of the American public.

“With the public’s ever-increasing interest in government investigations, both public and private sector attorneys are playing a new part in the process—public spokesperson,” Cobb says. He goes on to say that this is often a problematic reality because many lawyers do not have media skills and were not trained to be public-facing. Cobb explains:

With the press, an attorney, at a minimum, must be able to demonstrate:

- a heightened understanding of the content and timing of the news cycle;
- the ability to craft an effective press release and talking points on short notice;
- an advanced understanding that diverse new mediums require alternative types of advocacy;
- the ability to be prepared in an hour’s notice to effectively advocate for a client in a 6-minute segment across news mediums; and, most importantly,
- the ability to stay on message for the client without sacrificing the established facts or the applicable law

Cobb believes this heightened interest to be inevitable and does not foresee stories such as the on-going Congressional investigations receiving less coverage in the future. “With an endless stream of cable commentary, the public’s interest in government investigations is only likely to increase and, in turn, we should expect attorneys to continue to have an increasingly important and outward-facing role in these investigations.”

He concludes that attorneys brushing up on their media skills and preparing to jump into the media conversation will be a positive change because it will help protect “the integrity of the process.” 

Cobb is an attorney at the law firm of Troutman Sanders LLP where his practice focuses on government investigations, litigation, and election law. He has previously served as Deputy Attorney General of Virginia.

Read his entire article here: INSIGHT: Attorneys Must Master Media Roles as Government Investigations Grow

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