Extinguishing an exploding nude-video scandal for a celebrity client is not something many lawyers get hired for very often.
Los Angeles attorney Marshall Grossman made headlines this week as the lawyer representing Erin Andrews, the ESPN reporter who was secretly videotaped through the peepholes in her hotel rooms. An insurance salesman was arrested last week in the case and charged with interstate stalking.
Grossman, who came to Bingham McCutchen in 2007 through the Alschuler Grossman merger, has had a few more stabs at representing celebrities than most, but even he said nothing prepares a lawyer for the tightrope maneuvers required to keep a client’s reputation in place. We chatted with him earlier this week to find out how you handle a case like this.
Stress and strategy, after the jump.
“It’s not uncommon in representing high-profile personalities that there is an element of stalking or extortion involved, and it requires a skill set of public relations, media savvy, relationships with law enforcement and nurturing the feelings and hurt of clients who are used to controlling the media instead of being controlled by the media,” Grossman said.
In July, Andrews learned of the videos circulating on the Internet and needed a lawyer quick. A Bingham partner whose wife knew Andrews’ manager referred her to Grossman, a high-stakes commercial litigator who also occasionally represents celebrities, including handling a stalking case for Steven Spielberg in the ’90s.
“I turned to my partner, Dan Alberstone, and put together a game plan,” Grossman said. “First and foremost to get this stuff off the Internet, second to manage her reputation and make sure we understood the facts, to put the world on notice that she was alone in the privacy of her room and this was nonconsensual. Next was to warn anyone who trafficked in this material that they were subject to criminal prosecution.”
They also contacted the U.S. Attorney and FBI offices in Los Angeles to make clear Andrews wanted the case prosecuted.
“The story was developing legs that day, and there was uncertainty in the media on whether it was Erin Andrews or someone else,” Grossman said. “[We decided to] acknowledge it was Erin, put an end to the speculation and move on.”
Grossman also made sure ESPN would foot the bill.
Grossman, who won a $600 million settlement early this year for client Grupo Televiso in its four-year battle over royalties with Univision, said representing celebrities takes up about 25 percent of his time. The public doesn’t find out about most of these cases, though, because Grossman’s usual goal is not to let word get out.
“When I’m successful, it’s under the radar screen. When it becomes public, I’m successful when my client emerges with his or her reputation intact and her wallet intact,” Grossman said.
— Amanda Royal
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