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MSBA Legal Summit Series

Top Ten Tips on How to Manage a Crisis 

Every organization, large or small, profit or non-profit, local or international, will inevitably experience a crisis.  From weather events such as hurricanes and floods, product recalls, data breaches, and regulatory violations, managing a crisis to protect your brand is not easy and you, as counsel, need to be prepared to handle the crisis both internally and externally.  In the world of social media, a crisis can quickly get out of hand and cost your investors and company millions, not to mention the reputational damage that could result. Examples of badly managed crises are all too familiar, i.e. Volkswagen emissions scandal, Chipotle e-coli outbreak, United Airlines dragging a customer off a flight because of overbooking. These examples show that it only takes one crisis to damage a company.  That’s why your client and the humans that run them need a crisis management strategy.

Marisa Trasatti, Esquire, General Counsel of Sciton, Inc. and partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, moderated Top 10 Tips on How to Manage a Crisis, a MSBA Legal Summit Series Webinar.  Marisa and her mixed panel of experts consisting of lawyers, a CEO, a public relations’ expert and an insurance professional resoundingly proved how planning for a crisis is a must for all organizations.  

The panel focused first on common myths about organizational crisis and then addressed ten simple ways on how corporate counsel and outside counsel representing organizations can plan ahead to manage a crisis and mitigate damage to protect organizational reputations and profits.  The 7 common myths of a crisis were identified and discussed in detail: 1) a crisis is always negative to business; 2) the crisis management manual should always be followed; 3) a crisis for a competitor is good for my business; 4) silence with the media neither hurts nor helps; 5) you cannot trust anyone in a crisis; 6) crisis occurs during working hours; and 7) you can rely on the government for help. Sound familiar? Marisa and the panel of crisis professionals demonstrated how each of these myths can be detrimental to your organization and gave practical suggestions on how to remedy each myth. 

Counsel should not wait for a crisis to unfold before an organization begins a crisis management plan. Preparation was a key theme that all of the professionals on the panel underscored in order for your client or company to weather the storm successfully.

Ten tips in managing a crisis were also identified: 1) determine what activates the crisis management plan; 2) formulate a crisis management team; 3) assess the crisis; 4) initial response; 5) insurance coverage; 6) manage the external appearance with public relations, media and customers; 7) managing internal appearance by advising employees and communicating with key opinion leaders; 8) adjust promotional materials and sales practices; 9) response to law enforcement/regulatory agency; and 10) concluding the plan. The experts demonstrated how planning for a crisis and specifically implementing these tips will prepare counsel and your company for any crisis. Planning for a crisis requires an exploration of possible risks and contingencies. The knowledge gained during this probing is critical to the pre-crisis selection and planning of possible future appropriate responses as future events unfold. Detailed steps and instructions on how your organization can begin this process were explained.   

This informative program is now available in the MSBA’s on-demand catalog.

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This is the first of a 13-week part series that will discuss in detail how counsel can help their clients create a crisis management strategy.  This series is designed to assist you, as counsel, in weathering a crisis when it comes knocking.  Next week, the MSBA will present and specifically discuss in detail the 7 Common Myths of Crisis and how you can get your organization to remedy these ingrained misperceptions about expected and unexpected calamities. The following ten weeks consist of a weekly discussion of each of the top ten tips to manage a crisis with comprehensive suggestions and actions for implementation. The final week will include a comprehensive summation of all the myths and tips including the advice and counsel of the professional panelists.  I hope you can join us! 

Panelists:  

 Aaron C. Burton, CEO of Sciton, Inc.  Sciton, Inc. is the largest privately held dermatological and medical device laser manufacturer.  Aaron shared his experience as CEO and especially the crisis that developed at Sciton during his first year.  Aaron also generously shared how Sciton handled and endured the COVID crisis.   

Linda Lenrow Lopez, Director of Operations, Risk Alternatives, L3 Management Innovations, LLC.  Linda has more than 25 years of experience in private and non-private sector risk management.  Linda shared her experience as a project manager and Director of Operations at Bechtel Corporation. Other roles Linda served at Bechtel include corporate risk manager for a global business unit and project risk manager. Linda currently works at L3 Management Innovations and draws upon her years of professional experience in this area to share with the group.

 Robert E. Scott, Jr., partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP.  Robert handles litigation on insurance coverage, drug and medical devices and many other areas.  Robert shared his expertise on crisis management and his insights on planning ahead to control future crises.

Sam Terzich, Gallagher Bassett.  Sam is a current director of the company and manages specialty claims including product liability, cyber, environmental, pollution and product recall.  Sam has been in the claims industry for 25 years and will address the insurance issues that arise during a company crisis.                                             

Marisa Trasatti, Esquire, partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, and also General Counsel to Sciton, Inc.  Marisa is the moderator of the Top Ten Tips to Manage a Crisis.  Marisa shares her unique experiences of managing a crisis as General Counsel for Sciton along with valuable lessons learned as counsel for an organization in the midst of a crisis.  Marisa’s practice focuses primarily on civil litigation, with an emphasis on product liability litigation, including cases involving drugs and medical devices.  She is a past president of Maryland Defense Counsel and served as the DRI Maryland State Representative.