Minding the language

The battle for Allied Domecq (see War Story pages 22-23) turned on an unfortunate comment by Whitbread's chief executive, the fallout from which was that Whitbread lost the battle. In some sectors Whitbread's adviser Clifford Chance became the scapegoat. Such criticisms are obviously unfair but they highlight a problem for firms.

A law firm's role may be to advise on the content of contracts and not the conduct of press conferences, but in effect Clifford Chance was caught not only in the middle of the Whitbread Punch battle, but also in the middle of political battles involving the OFT, the DTI and the Government.

No one is suggesting lawyers should take the place of PR departments and police the ceo's speeches, but they should be aware that they may end up with the fallout.