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Jones Day and How NOT to Handle a Gaffe

In the Internet age, when a law firm's gaffe can spread like wildfire, law firms need to learn how to engage in appropriate damage control. Jones Day's failure to understand the new rules of conduct in an electronic age led to widespread speculation about whether the firm was hiding a conflict of interest and nearly forced the recusal of FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras, as described in these news stories, here and here

Here's the story.  On Wednesday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Center for Digital Democracy asked FTC Chair Majoras to recuse herself from merger review, saying that her husband, John Majoras is a partner with Jones Day, the law firm that is advising DoubleClick on antitrust issues relating to the acquisition.  The following day, the parties filed a supplement, showing a cached Web page from the firm that claimed that it represented DoubleClick in the U.S. antitrust proceeding. But the FTC and DoubleClick both said that Jones Day was not engaged to represent or advise DoubleClick before the FTC.

Apparently, the Web site was incorrect.  Moreover, in a statement released by FTC Chair Majoras, she declined to recuse herself, explaining that her husband did not work on FTC matters and further, was a non-equity partner whose economic interests would not be affected by the outcome of the case.

As Blog of the Legal Times points out, this is a lesson to law firms to keep Web sites accurate.  But this incident offers other lessons as well.  First, firms need to realize that removing a Web page won't hide evidence in our "cache and carry" world.  Second, once an error is recognized, firms must step forward to preemptively address the confusion so that it doesn't become the subject of Internet discussion.  Had Jones Day done so, it's unlikely that these stories would have gone as far as they did.

Then again,  what can be expected of a law firm that doesn't admit that it's headquartered in Cleveland? (See this earlier post).

Update - see the comment section for additional information on the Intervenors' petition before the FTC and further comment on this post.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 14, 2007 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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