Trials & Litigation

Celebrity lawyers offer tips for dealing with narcissistic clients

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The rich are not like the rest of us, and having a client who is not only wealthy but a celebrity and likely narcissistic to boot presents special challenges even for lawyers accustomed to such representations.

Trial-related publicity is a potential minefield, and attorneys need to be prepared both to deal with it and to place limits on their expected role in doing so, panel members told attendees at a Tuesday program hosted by the Beverly Hills Bar Association.

“I don’t do entourage,” said Blair Berk, who has represented Halle Berry and Kiefer Sutherland. She said she makes clear to clients from the outset that, while the L.A. District Attorney’s office has a dedicated unit whose role is to shape public opinion in a positive way, dealing with the publicists, stylists and other hangers-on with which celebrities often surround themselves is not her job, recounts the Hollywood Reporter.

At the same time, she and others agreed, media spin can be critical to the outcome of a trial. Much of the time, less is more, and attorney Harland Braun recalled in this regard the case of Prison Breakactor Lane Garrison, who stunned observers by pleading guilty at the first hearing he attended, concerning a fatal driving-under-the-influence accident.

“It minimized the damage to his career. He’s still working,” Braun told the audience at the program, “Celebrity Behind Bars: When Celebrity Clients Are Charged with Crimes.”

None of the lawyers were fans of cameras in the courtroom. Shawn Holley, who no longer represents actress Lindsay Lohan in her ongoing legal travails, points out that photographs can memorialize details that might otherwise be missed.

That includes a Lohan fingernail on which the f-bomb had been dropped, which a sharp-eyed camera operator noticed. (An Associated Press photo published in 2010 by Fox News provides a close-up of the offending middle finger.)

“I sat next to her all day,” Holley said. “I didn’t see it, the judge didn’t see, the prosecutor didn’t see it. It was really impossible to see it.”

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