CLCA International Summit: reflections from Amsterdam

Despite all the shenanigans of Brexit, Bell Yard was grateful to receive a warm welcome from European colleagues last week at the annual meeting of the CLCA network (Crisis & Litigation Communicators Alliance), held in Amsterdam.

Brexit was, of course, a key topic with other member firms asking how it is affecting our business, our workplace and our families. (Answer – it will probably spurn litigation down the line, but as for many firms, opinion is divided amongst staff and our families on the issue). It was reassuring to hear that the EU will miss us, at least according to those in the room! 

The meeting also dealt with a lot of other interesting topics – for example: 

• The difference between crisis management and crisis communications.

• How far Litigation PR has developed as a concept in different markets – clearly much more so in the US than say, in Poland, but we agreed lawyer education is still required in each market while new trends and developments emerge. 

• Cultural differences influence attitudes to Litigation PR – in Asia there may be more reticence to engage with interviews compared to, say, the US.

• The increasingly prevalent role of litigation funders in the world of disputes across many jurisdictions and how that may, or may not, affect PR considerations.

• Where class actions are on the rise and what PR lessons can be learned from other jurisdictions. 

We also heard from several academics and lawyers whose work overlaps with ours and who offered some fascinating insights – for example:

• English speaking commercial courts in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris are unashamedly looking to attract disputes away from the UK post-Brexit (the B-word again!).

• Some sophisticated corporates look to litigation to advance their strategic and commercial objectives, not just for dispute resolution. 

• In the US there are now professional plaintiffs who buy a product or engage in activity purely to ensure they can participate in litigation.

• We are seeing a growth worldwide in climate-related litigation (not just against governments, but now against investors, companies and insurers) and privacy-related litigation.

• Frivolous class actions are actually rare. 

Bell Yard left the meeting inspired and heartened that we have wise and expert colleagues around the world to call on if our clients should ever require their counsel – from Australia to Indonesia and from Washington to Copenhagen. The CLCA has gone from strength to strength in recent years and our quest for global reach continues!

9 October 2019

We are recognised leaders in our field. We are proud to uphold the ethical and educational standards for the PR industry as members of the CIPR and PRCA.

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Language, Timothy!

In an effort to attract hearts and minds, words matter. 

I’m confident I’m not alone in feeling deep dismay at the debasement of dialogue among politicians, blithely following the crude degradation of our language by ever-increasing sections of the fourth estate. My great fear is this trend finds its way into the nation’s court rooms – perhaps soon to be practised by judiciary and advocate alike? Please no!

I was particularly struck by the depths we’ve plunged, when contrasting the final session in the Commons before prorogation, with a statement by the then PM Gordon Brown sending condolences to his opposite number, Mr Cameron on the death of his son. Brown even cancelled PMQs as a mark of respect. Yet, merely a decade on, The Guardian saw fit to dismissively describe Cameron’s bereavement as “privileged pain”. While an outcry rightly ensued, leading to the column’s withdrawal and an apology, the fact that one of our few remaining national newspapers saw fit to publish a leader so lacking in common decency or empathy, is nonetheless disturbing.

Social media may be the greatest driver of another trend – that of waning political rhetoric, as attention spans shorten amidst a fight for attention and influence. Of course politicians crave time in the spotlight, believing it assists their vote-winning potential. But forgive me for fearing that the days are gone of true erudition emanating from the green benches, no matter which side of the divide, such is the rancour over Brexit. Shouting “dictator”, “flying flamingo”, “liar” or “thug” across the floor (wholly un-parliamentary), does little to endear constituents to their MPs, let alone garner respect for their work. Ministerial use of “some might say” to sow seeds of disquiet among the populace to discredit judicial decisions is as appalling as some of the insults on twitter coming from MPs themselves!

Among this cacophony and onslaught on my sensitive ears, perhaps silencing parliament for a while was not such a bad thing! 

If there’s one institution that must surely still be prevailed upon to uphold public standards – not only in word but also in deed – please, please let it be our justice system, of whom many of us moderates remain resolutely proud.

We are recognised leaders in our field. We are proud to uphold the ethical and educational standards for the PR industry as members of the CIPR and PRCA.

Bell Yard Bell Yard Bell Yard Bell Yard Bell Yard Melanie Riley Bell Yard Melanie Riley