Confession time: I’ve always been skeptical of attorneys who litigate civil cases in the press. Send me court filings? Wonderful. Explain to me the finer points of law? Certainly. Tell me your client is a totally wonderful human being and it’s the other guy who is scum? OK, fine. But hold a televised press conference to advance the cause? Eh… not so fast.
The problem, as I see it, is that the media becomes merely a tool for leverage, regardless of the merits of the case. Reporters should be cautious here. If something is moving along in court, we can count on various rules of civil and criminal procedure to help sort fact from fiction. But those lawyers aiming to score big settlements by merely playing the public shame card are sidestepping some of the checks inherent in the judicial process. Extra scrutiny becomes necessary when lawyers act as publicists.
For years, Gloria Allred has epitomized, perhaps even perfected, the art of public lawyering. She’s been a trailblazer for the likes of Douglas Wigdor, Michael Avenatti, and her own daughter, Lisa Bloom. No doubt, some of her targets (Donald Trump, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Charlie Sheen, R. Kelly, etc.) may deserve her hits, but she has also had a habit of handling many client matters without actually stepping into court. What’s more, she espouses a public policy philosophy—allowing N.D.A.s and arbitration clauses for sexual assault victims, for example—that conveniently benefits her law practice but arguably isn’t optimal for female victims in general.