Lawyers know all too well that, especially in high-profile cases, there is often a huge disconnect between perception and reality. It seems everyone remembers the McDonald's Hot Coffee Case, which kicked off attacks on "frivolous lawsuits" across the country. The public backlash was swift, calling the plaintiff ridiculous for suing over a hot coffee. But no one seemed to know that she had sustained serious burns, ones that even required skin grafts. Those who weren't well-versed on the ins and outs of tort law didn't understand.
Attorney Gloria Allred, best known for representing women who sue powerful men for sexual harassment, has encountered a similar problem of late.
In a new book entitled "She Said," as well as a podcast, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey questioned Allred's work - arguing that by encouraging clients to enter confidential settlement agreements she becomes part of the problem. However, Allred seems unfazed, telling reporters at an event for the new film Bombshell that it seems the New York Times reporters are new to the concept of confidential settlements. Allred went on to say:
"Reporters want to know everything because that's their job. I don't criticize them, because that's their job. But my job is not to be a member of the press. My job is to put my client first."
There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a case that, unfortunately, those who don't practice law will not understand. Something that might be obvious to a lawyer may not cross the mind of a reporter. Which is probably why Allred compared Kantor and Twohey's claims to someone being shocked that there's gambling in Casablanca.
In their book, Kantor and Twohey argue that while confidential settlements provide victims with privacy and financial recompense, they also potentially allow predators to continue hurting other people. However, what they fail to address is that the decision to go public with an accusation is something that no one, including Allred, takes lightly.
It's easy to forget that the bulk of an attorney's job is providing their clients with the information they need to make the best decision for their situation. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Allred points out that for many of her clients a confidential settlement was the best option. Writing about her law firm's decades of work with survivors of sexual assault, she says:
"We believe that victims should at the very least have choices when it comes to asserting their legal rights against the person or company that victimized them."
That includes the choice to settle.