Here, they discuss how the legal PR landscape has evolved, particularly in group litigation and class actions, and what this means for the future of PR and costs in these types of claims.
Gus and Andy discussed consumer group actions and the challenges of communicating with large groups of people in these cases, such as the £14bn class action claim MasterCard is facing. Group actions inevitably involve potentially vast numbers of stakeholders - from claimants, investors in the company and employees, through to current and potential customers, who may be based all over the world. This creates a very interesting communications challenge.
The advent of digital media and the 24hr news cycle has had a transformative effect on the way the public engages with the news. Gus discussed the importance, particularly for claims with international aspects, of blending the new and ‘old’ media when communicating messages about the litigation; of accessing and harnessing both social media and traditional news outlets and crucially, understanding the target audiences and how they like to consume news and the sources they are likely to choose.
Gus contends that in the future, forging a smooth bridge between advertising, analytics, digital and social and traditional media - harnessing both AI and traditional media relations - will be even more important. The communications challenge here we will be how to bring these various components together to communicate most effectively with key audiences, throughout the lifecycle of a group litigation claim. PR here will play a crucial role within the wider administration of the claim.
Litigation costs play a fundamental role in group actions, due to the complexity of the matter and number of claimants involved, with potentially very high numbers at stake. Access to justice for those bringing a claim is a crucial concern, with the expectation in the UK that those who succeed in litigation should be able to reclaim their costs.
Costs disputes can and do occur however, and Andy Ellis argues the process involved should be rethought. Whilst electronic data can be compiled and presented quickly now, in readiness to answer questions from a judge appointed to assess costs, ultimately, Andy feels that there has not been sufficient attention given to how arguments are conducted in court about costs. Detailed assessment of costs should not mean ‘line by line’, and firms should be expected to present the data and the arguments in a more sophisticated way at lower cost in terms of time in court and length of submissions.
Technology is increasingly being used during costs disputes and assessments, including widespread adoption of spreadsheet technology to big data and creating reports faster. Practico are also proponents of using data visualisation to present key data and help litigation teams understand the key information.
In summary, the development of largescale group litigation in the UK - together with technological advances in the way we consume news and in how justice is administered - is causing us to rethink both the PR and costs management of these types of cases.
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