Savvy trial lawyers know that investing resources in high-quality public relations assistance can be a difference maker for the course of the litigation as well as for the client experience. According to Ray DeLorenzi, the importance of communications assistance to the plaintiffs’ side has only grown as well-heeled defendants employ more sophisticated means to influence complex cases outside of the courtroom. That’s where his firm, Rebuttal, has excelled, earning DeLorenzi a spot on Lawdragon’s guide to the legal industry’s top consultants. DeLorenzi launched Rebuttal after fighting for access to justice as the communications director for the American Association of Justice, as well as working for nearly a decade at a DC-based public affairs firm.
Lawdragon: Can you talk a little bit about what Rebuttal does?
Ray DeLorenzi: Rebuttal is a communications firm that works exclusively with plaintiffs’ law firms on high-stakes litigation. We provide services such as strategy counsel, media relations, spokesperson training and digital and social media planning, with a focus on major cases such as mass torts, class actions or high-profile individual injury claims that have or will draw public attention, curiosity or scrutiny. We not only work with exceptional lawyers and advocates, but also with their clients who may need help navigating an unfamiliar media environment while coping with an injury or loss of a loved one.
LD: What are some aspects about this work that you find professionally satisfying?
RD: Plaintiffs’ lawyers, and in turn my team as well, help people navigate situations that are often the worst thing that has ever happened to them. There is reporting every day about lawsuits that are filed, but what often gets lost is that there is a real person behind them who was injured by a defective product, ripped off and lost their savings, exposed to pollutants that damaged their health and environment, or subjected to some other type of abuse or misconduct. It is incredibly rewarding to work with lawyers who fight for justice and help these individuals put their lives back together, against what often appear to be insurmountable odds.
LD: Do any recent matters stand out?
RD: We have been very fortunate to work on some of the biggest cases of the past 15 years, ranging from environmental toxic torts to sports to terrorism. But one area of our work that has been especially rewarding, particularly in light of the #MeToo movement and the social justice reckoning that followed, is litigation related to sexual harassment and abuse. It is nothing short of an honor to work with survivors who bravely come forward and trust us to help them tell their stories and hold their abusers, and those who enabled them, accountable.
LD: Are there any trends you are seeing in the communications and PR sides of the legal industry?
RD: One major trend is the growth of media covering the courts. The result is that there is more attention on court cases that once would have flown under the radar, meaning lawyers and their clients need to be prepared accordingly. Second, with mass torts comprising a larger portion of the civil docket, they are capturing a greater amount of media attention and scrutiny, as well. This presents challenges as well as opportunities. These MDLs often involve dangerous products that deserve more public awareness and investigation, but in turn you are seeing corporate defendants push for federal rule changes or legislation that can tip the scales in their favor. It’s a fascinating area of the law where we’ve had an opportunity to play an important role to advance and support plaintiffs.
Third, corporate defendants have finally realized the imprudence of “no comment” and are increasingly deploying more aggressive tactics to undermine plaintiffs’ claims. Sometimes they do this through simple media statements, but they are also getting more sophisticated with the hiring of third-party influencers, social media bots, threatening libel suits, litigation specific websites, etc. In short, they are litigating as aggressively in the court of public opinion as they do in the courtroom.
LD: What was your career path like that got you to your current position?
RD: After working in politics and D.C. trade associations, I became communications director at the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America). There I met and learned from some of the best trial lawyers around the country as we advanced AAJ’s legislative agenda and fought efforts that would restrict Americans’ access to civil justice. After my time at AAJ, I would frequently be contacted by lawyers involved in high-profile litigation needing guidance on media strategy, how to best tell their story and prepare their clients for interviews. These opportunities and experiences made me fall in love with the law and working with the trial bar to advance their cause and mission.
LD: What advice do you have for students or young professionals who want to work in this field?
RD: My first piece of advice is to be well-read and well-prepared. At Rebuttal, something we take great pride in is knowing the issue at-hand as well as our clients. This also means avoiding surprises by anticipating and preparing for what lies ahead. We find this approach makes us better partners to then achieve whatever goal we are trying to accomplish. Second, it is essential to be a strong writer. Writing is one of those skills that is always in short supply and high demand. To be an effective communicator, particularly in the legal field, you need to be able to take complex material and break it down into a story that is both accurate and meaningful for a broader audience.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
RD: Outside of work, it really is all about family. My wife and I are constantly running around with (or after) our two young boys who make life so much fun and exhausting.