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Lawyers and Communicators: Partners or Foes?

The article was originally published in "The Communicator", the LinkedIn newsletter of wellenwide

Lawyers and communicators, with their intricate dynamics, find their partnership or opposition contingent on specific contexts and circumstances. When the circumstances align, they effectively collaborate as partners, pooling their expertise to achieve shared objectives. Conversely, in other instances, their goals and approaches may diverge, potentially leading to conflicts and strains.

In the realm of partnership, they engage in various endeavours:

Strategic Planning: Lawyers and communicators collaborate in strategic planning, harmonising legal and communication goals. Through this collaborative effort, they formulate comprehensive strategies that address legal considerations while ensuring effective stakeholder communication.

Crisis Management: In times of crises or legal challenges, lawyers and communicators forge an indispensable alliance. Lawyers provide legal counsel, deftly navigating the intricacies of the legal system. Meanwhile, communicators skillfully handle both internal and external messaging, adeptly managing the organisation's reputation.

Compliance and Public Relations: Lawyers uphold legal compliance, while communicators shape public perception and foster positive stakeholder relationships. Together, they navigate legal complexities while adeptly communicating the organisation's unwavering commitment to compliance.

On the other hand, as adversaries, they encounter conflicts in several areas:

Confidentiality and Legal Risks: Lawyers attach utmost importance to safeguarding legal interests, including client confidentiality and minimising legal risks. Conversely, communicators may prioritise transparency and open communication, occasionally coming into conflict with legal requirements and restrictions.

Message Control: Lawyers often lean towards stringent control over messaging to safeguard legal positions. In contrast, communicators emphasise transparency, engagement, and trust-building. These divergent viewpoints can lead to conflicts regarding the extent of shared information and the level of transparency maintained with external audiences.

Timing and Speed: Communicators strive for timely and rapid responses to public relations matters, recognising the need for swift action. However, lawyers may require more time to assess legal implications, resulting in tension when legal considerations clash with the urgency of communication needs.

To foster a productive relationship, lawyers and communicators must establish clear lines of communication, deeply understand each other's roles, and actively seek common ground that ultimately benefits the organisation's overall objectives.

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