By John Ryan | November 5, 2020 | Legal Consultant Limelights
As Lawdragon expanded our research on the best legal consultants past America’s borders, Tim Maltin quickly landed on the short-list for UK-based public relations advisors. Maltin PR has earned a stellar reputation in developing and managing communications strategies for law firms with a particular strength in handling PR tied to litigation. Maltin says that lawyers engaged in litigation can maximize the benefit of outside advisors by integrating them into the broader legal strategy to prevent the different components from falling into silos.
Lawdragon: What type of services does Maltin PR provide to clients?
Tim Maltin: My firm and I work across the legal industry, from solicitors, attorneys and barristers through to litigation funders and, ultimately, the individuals and corporates bringing proceedings. As well as our day-to-day PR support for law firms and other professional services providers, we specialize in providing litigation support on high-value, often multi-jurisdictional, civil commercial matters.
We regularly work with leading counsel to provide an integrated PR strategy that manages the reputational risks inherent in any litigation while also maximizing the impact of the client’s legal case in the media. The matters we handle vary in quantum, but invariably they have serious implications for the client which necessitates a careful and considered approach to the media that works to support their litigation strategy.
LD: What are some aspects about this work that you find professionally satisfying? What do you like about working with lawyers?
TM: The complexity of planning, preparing and implementing an effective litigation PR strategy has few parallels. While I began my PR career working generally with professional services firms, the challenging, fast moving and unique nature of each litigation ensures that each day presents both new challenges – and new opportunities.
Working with lawyers is also very satisfying. Like PR professionals, they are highly experienced in distilling and finessing messaging for specific audiences. A truly collaborative relationship with a legal client offers a chance to ensure that pleadings in each case are as media friendly as possible while any media relations work fully supports the legal strategy.
LD: Are there any trends you are seeing in your area of consulting or advising in terms of the types of matters keeping you busy these days?
TM: A major trend that has shifted the litigation landscape is the rise of litigation funders. While there were concerns that third-party funding would slow, recent results from publicly traded litigation funders have highlighted the sector’s resilience. Third-party funding enables parties to bring or fight cases that would otherwise be financially impossible for them, opening up potential for fascinating ‘David vs Goliath’ litigations. As well as single-claimant litigations, group actions have increasingly involved litigation funders who can provide seed capital to get the claim off the ground. Those funding group action claims are often keen to work with litigation PR firms who are well placed to assist in attracting claimants.
Naturally one of the other most impactful developments this year has been the Covid-19 pandemic, which has completely changed the playing field for litigation PR. Remote courts have made it easier than ever for journalists and interested members of the public to attend hearings, while making it more difficult for PR practitioners to ensure that they are fully briefed on the client’s narrative. Conversely, it provides expanded opportunities to cover the case for journalists that would otherwise not have the budget, flexibility or geographical proximity to be able to attend a traditional hearing.
Major international litigations continue to be filed, despite the wider economic slowdown, and a number of cases have emerged specifically due to the pandemic. Such cases are likely to become a feature of the litigation landscape.
LD: Is there a matter or client in your career that stands out as a “favorite” or one that is more memorable for certain reasons?
TM: One of the more memorable matters is our work for the Central Bank of Venezuela [BCV] in their litigation against the Bank of England [BoE]. The claim was launched over access to 31 tonnes of Venezuela’s gold stored at the BoE. The gold is valued at approximately €1.9B making it an important case in both quantum and political interest, given the international sanctions currently in place on Venezuela. There is a further humanitarian element to the case as the BCV is seeking to transfer the proceeds of selling the gold to the United Nations Development Programme to assist in Venezuela’s Covid-19 relief efforts.
Since the initial filing of the case in May 2020, representatives of the purported ‘ad hoc’ BCV Board joined the claim. This has resulted in the Court hearing arguments around who the United Kingdom Government recognizes as President of Venezuela: Nicolás Maduro or Juan Guaidó. This is naturally a highly contentious topic and the original judgment of the High Court stating that only Mr Guaidó was recognized was then overturned by the Court of Appeal. The latter found that both Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó could simultaneously be recognized (in different ways) by the UK Government, directing the case back to the High Court for further analysis.
The quantum, geopolitical dimension and humanitarian aspects have combined to draw interest from media across the globe. It has also made it a truly fascinating and memorable case to be involved with.
LD: What advice would you give potential clients in terms of how to best work with outside PR assistance?
TM: In litigation it is vital that everybody on the team understands the strategy, so integrating your communications team with the wider legal team as soon as they are engaged is important. Equally, it is key to impress upon your lawyers that they must keep the PR team in the loop with developments. If they are kept within their own silo, they will be unable to advise you optimally across all aspects of your communications, both inside and outside the courtroom.
A good PR team can also provide you with lateral strategic advice that may otherwise slip through the net. Lawyers will typically (and rightly) be focussed on the matter at hand, which can cause wider strategic concerns to be neglected. Your communications advisors will be able to take a more holistic view of wider concerns, reputational and strategic, that may emerge from the litigation. This is not to say that you should consider the opinion of your communications team more highly than your legal representatives – simply keep the two integrated to ensure that good ideas are not missed in the trenches of litigation.
LD: Are you involved in any community or public interest activities? Please tell us what you find meaningful about your time serving them.
TM: My firm has worked pro bono with Breast Cancer Now for over five years, supporting their Tour de Law initiative. Tour de Law is a charity initiative aimed at the UK’s legal sector, seeking to raise funds to enable Breast Cancer Now to continue to provide research, care and support to all those affected by breast cancer. Over £115,000 was raised last year from approximately 1,300 participants.
The event, which takes place for a week during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, has previously seen teams from law firms and barristers’ chambers across the UK compete on static bikes within their offices. Given the restrictions caused by Covid-19, this year participants were able to compete on whatever bikes they have easy access to.
As an initiative that both raises much-needed funds for a truly worthy cause while fostering team spirit, encouraging exercise and providing friendly competition, we are proud to be able to utilize our skills and network to support Tour de Law each year.