Visiting The Dark Side

Rupert Murdoch brings us the latest example of what happens when you ignore the dark side of your brand.

Synopsis: A The News of The World tabloid reporter hacked into the cell phone of a 13-year old murder victim, after she disappeared, but before she was found. When this came to light last week, Britons were outraged, demanding action. Illegal payments to police officials were uncovered and a former editor has been arrested. Another Murdoch mega-deal was in jeopardy over the scandal.

The family’s reaction? Shutter the paper, send 200 employees packing and yet keep the editor who was at the helm during the hacking incident.


When boundaries are breeched, you step up, apologize, and make it as right as you can. You figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. What don’t you do? Fire the crew and keep the captain.

You probably don’t deal in scandal and muck-raking. But you will be presented with opportunities to sacrifice your hard-won brand. To take on a dicey client. To hire a rep with dubious sales tactics. To cut corners here, to close a big deal over there.

Resist. It’s the dark side calling.


  • This commentary covers perhaps have the most provocative subject. People have to eat; people may not have real choice about clients under such circumstances. As a lawyer, legal ethics looks rather starkly at the dark side and legal ethicists actually provide cover for those representing a client on the dark side (or much worse); the rationale provided involves the need to make sure the system of justice which includes both a defense and prosecution (criminal)/ plaintiff (civil) adequately works.
    Nevertheless, I refuse to take on a client or a cause or issue where I find myself in disagreement. I maintain loyalty to the truth matters. I often talk about the concept of loyalty (to people) but it ought never cause one to cross a line to (or near) the dark side. Some 17 1/2 years back I wrote a commentary, “The Freedom to Say No,” published as a letter in Newsday (See: For those who prefer not to use the link:

    “The allure and practicality in choosing law as a profession remains the opportunity to say no. Once admitted into practice, a new lawyer remains free to hang her/his own shingle rather than compromise one’s own morality and/or ethics. The only constraint on one’s ability to say no should be the need to reasonably provide for one’s family. A new lawyer has the opportunity, however, to develop a professional reputation, relationships, knowledge and skills that could still permit one to leave rather than lawyer for some person, concern or issue that conflicts with one’s personal morality and/or ethics.

    “As I was about to enter the same law school where Levine* was already enrolled, a learned former Court of Appeals clerk** who was then my employer and remains my friend offered me the following advice, which I share freely with prospective and new attorneys: No matter what else you do as an attorney, make sure you are always in the position to say no.

    “It was good advice in August, 1978. It is good advice in January, 1994.”

    I remains good advice in July 2011.

    *then newly appointed NYC Labor Commissioner Randy Levine, now president of the NY Yankees.

    **you’ll need to go my website to get this one.

  • Thanks for sharing this Corey. The ability to say no is fundamental to all of us in the professions…

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