Should a law firm appear on a politically biased news channel?
|Image: Public Domain, via Piqsels|
They say any publicity is good publicity. But is being associated with a right-wing news channel good publicity?
There is a certain right-wing news channel that recently appeared on (some of) our TV screens. I’m sure you know who I’m referring to. They’re known for their propensity for gaffes, and for rating numbers even lower than an England cricket score.
I have never watched the channel myself. I hardly watch any TV at all these days. But if I did turn to the screen in the corner of the living room in search of the latest reportage I certainly wouldn’t choose a channel that set itself up with the clear goal of bias (what few viewers said channel has attracted will happily tell you without irony that they moved there to escape the bias shown by other channels).
Anyway. We all know that lawyers love to appear in the media, to promote themselves and/or their firms. Whilst the practice can be a bit iffy, for example when the appearance is merely to plug some ersatz news story created by them with the sole aim of publicity, the lawyer can on occasion provide the viewer with a snippet of useful information.
Let us say, purely hypothetically, that a lawyer from a well-known family law firm appeared on said news channel, to give their opinion or advice to the channel’s viewer. Would this be a wise move?
Let us look at the record of said channel (apart from simply not being impartial):
- Giving yet another platform to Nigel Farage. I'm sure I don't need to remind you of his political views and background.
- Suspending a presenter for making an anti-racism gesture.
- Hosting a guest who declared that Jeffrey Epstein was not a paedophile.
- Having one of its presenters broadcast conspiracy theories about coronavirus being a “scare story”.
- Bizarrely, conducting a news interview with a Winston Churchill impersonator, as if he were the real thing. It is, of course, straight out of the right-wing playbook to invoke the memory of the (not so) great man at every opportunity.
I could go on, if I were not losing the will to live.
I know I would not want to be associated with a channel that did any of the above. And I don't have any reputation to protect, or business interests to promote. I ceased practising some twelve years ago. I care nothing for what anyone else thinks of me, or what I say, only about my own integrity.
But a practising lawyer does have a reputation and business interests to protect, whether they be appearing in the media in a personal capacity, or as a representative of their firm. If I were to see them appearing on such a channel (I suppose I could mistakenly press the wrong button on the remote), then it would diminish them in my estimation.
And that might be the same reaction of potential clients. After all, the views of clients must cover the full political spectrum, and some will inevitably not coincide with the output of said channel. It's a dangerous game, which may cause the publicity bandwagon to backfire.
I suppose the thinking may be that only those with similar political views will be likely to watch said channel, so there will be no damage. But are you going to take the chance that others might find out? After all, some blogger hack may let the cat out of the bag.
But it is not just about losing potential clients. It's about projecting an image. Lawyers of course have political views, just like everyone else. But those views should surely be kept to themselves. I realise that appearing on a certain channel does not necessarily mean that you hold the same views, but it is surely an endorsement of the channel's views.
Lawyers must represent all clients to the best of their ability, irrespective of who they are, and what they think. They must do so with no bias, or taint of bias. To associate themselves with bias, in any form, is to risk tarnishing the image of impartiality, with all that that implies.