Tuesday, November 22, 2005

PR Protection?

As I'm reading and thinking about the Massachusetts Shield Bill I'm starting to believe that it offers protection for public relations and investor relations.

Technically, our jobs are about collecting information in order to disseminate that information. We have clients tell us things all the time that may or may not be "public" and that we must hold under wraps. Also, we're constantly told that in the case of litigation, our emails and other notes may be subpoenaed.

During the discussion last week, First Amendment Lawyer Robert Bertsche pointed out that in many cases divorce lawyers come to journalists asking for information to help their clients. He gave the example of a magazine that develops a list of fast growing companies, many of them private, and how that last always brings out divorce lawyers who say their client's spouse is claiming poverty but in the magazine, and they want financial information to make the case. Of course, the magazine always says "no."

This struck me as quite interesting since it's not a criminal matter, which is what most journalists fear, but a civil matter.

But what if PR people could contest handing over their notes, emails and other documents in a corporate case? What if we could tell the lawyers "sorry, we're protected under the shield"? Certainly our clients would feel a little freer to share information with us knowing that it would be, potentially, protected. We may gain more insight into our clients' operations.

This is obviously not the intent of this bill, but if it becomes law I'd be curious to see how far some creative lawyers can push it.

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