Dechert faces a two-front reputational and legal challenge: Zach Olsen speaks with The American Lawyer

October 31, 2022

Infinite Global President Zach Olsen was featured in a recent article by The American Lawyer discussing the reputational risks facing Dechert following the filing of two lawsuits in U.S. courts over an alleged hack engineered by a former London partner.

Dechert is facing two lawsuits in U.S. courts over an alleged hack engineered by a former London partner Neil Gerrard. While the firm is steadfast in its denial of the claims and has indicated it intends to fight them in court, the firm will also be facing a battle in the court of public opinion over the hacking allegations.

When commenting on what tactic the firm might take when it comes to addressing the lawsuits in the press, Zach Olsen said the firm likely seeks to avoid giving opposing counsel an insight into their litigation strategy through public comment.

“The way we counsel folks when we’re doing litigation PR is we’ll lay low in the beginning and then when we file a response,” Olsen explained. “We’ll use the language in that response and reinforce it in the communications strategy externally. That way, the communications externally and the litigation strategy are parallel and there’s no risk that you’re going to say anything that will be proven to be out of line down the road.”

Though allegations faced by Dechert are exceedingly unusual, Olsen said there is a playbook for organizations in a similar PR crisis. Olsen said firms facing a PR crisis tend to target three core group of stakeholders: partners, clients and potential recruits.

The onus on firms facing a PR crisis, he said, is to “confront the allegations, acknowledge that something bad happened and then figure out a way to communicate with your audiences, partners, clients and everyone else you care about that this is not who we are as a firm.” Olsen said the firm has to “show the behavior is not reflective of who the firm is. How is this able to go on without anyone else at the firm knowing.”

“The lawsuit alleges that the firm was willfully blind to Gerrard’s actions,” he continued. “If that’s not the case, let’s figure out how we can avoid things like this in the future and communicate that with the people we care about so there aren’t any questions from recruits coming in or clients thinking about hiring the firm about what sort of protocols are in place to make sure that the systems to catch things like this are working.”

Read the full article on The American Lawyer (subscription required).