Expect Your Internal Memo to Get Leaked

When you write a memo for an internal audience you have to assume that it will be leaked. Above the Law has proven this over and over again. The website is known for easily acquiring internal memos which often become the source of its stories, especially the juicy ones. It is naïve, but I assume firms did not expect anyone outside their offices to read. Big mistake.

Reporters cite ‘an internal memo’ as the source of their information and quote directly from them. It happened again yesterday on Above the Law and rebroadcasted again by Law360. Sheppard Mullin’s announced that it offered voluntary buyouts to its California-based secretaries over the age of 65. Law360’s Kurt Orzeck wrote that the memo was sent to all employees via email. In fact, the story never quoted anyone from the firm based on an email or phone interview; the reporter had all of he information he needed from that memo.

Sheppard Mullin had a smart memo. I assumed the firm knew the memo would get out, so in preparation the firm provided quotes that a reporter could drop into a story as if the internal memo was a carefully crafted news release. When drafting any internal memo, but especially documents containing sensitive information about attorneys, staff and firm clients, it is important to ask yourself these questions:

1) How will the media react if they get their hands on this information?

2) What are the messages we want to send to the public about this news?

3) If we are not planning to do interviews, what should our quotes say?

Writing a memo isn’t just for the law firm audience. Assume it is going to get leaked because it will.