CEOs know when a lawsuit is filed in the courts, reputations hang on the scales of Lady Justice. Most attorneys know this too, and for those in need of a reminder, OWC is approved by the State Bar of California to provide MCLE credit for our one-hour program in managing reputation during litigation. Here are some highlights of a crash course in surviving any legal collision:

Lawsuits are news: Reporters make daily scans of Federal Court Cases via Pacer or California court case records on courts.ca.gov to see what companies and individuals are cited. Does it warrant a story about the impact on a company’s stock price, valuation, leadership team, market sector, or executive indiscretion? Reporters are on the lookout for who’s involved, as well as for any juicy language that can be quoted in a news story.

Have a spokesperson: Assign someone who knows the media and the stakes. We start by recommending an attorney from the law firm filing the suit and ensure they respond to inquiries by email rather than on the phone, so ambiguity doesn’t ensue.

Monitor all media: Be the first to know what everyone is saying, especially on social. Listen hard, but promptly seek corrections when needed. Boeing faced intense scrutiny following crashes involving its 737 Max aircraft. Early responses were criticized for downplaying the issues and lacking empathy for the victims’ families. The company’s poor social media communication contributed to its public relations crisis. The CEO wisely reversed course and continued a mea culpa crusade.

Be available. If media reports claim harm to customers, employees, children or minorities, be ready with statements and data points approved by attorneys. Don’t hedge, obfuscate, niggle or fade, as when Wells Fargo’s unauthorized accounts scandal faced backlash for public statements that downplayed the scale of the issue. When accused, details matter.

Communicate aggressively: “No comment” sounds like “guilty” to many. Company CEOs and attorneys must be ready with a proactive public relations campaign that is aligned with a company’s core values. Under fire, Apple leans in with its core values of innovation and intellectual property rights through substantial investments in research and development.

Risk is real. Lawsuits related to employees, products, shareholders, defamation, intellectual property and trademark infringement often damage the bottom line.

The attorneys are ready. Every company must be, too.