Practicing law is high-stakes and high-intensity—which means that when things go wrong, the law firm can start to feel like a sinking ship. The natural tendency is to panic, but of course, that’s not at all a productive way to deal with the issues your firm is facing.

So how does a law firm respond constructively in a time of crisis? When a partner messes up, the firm itself lands in legal trouble, or there is simply a PR catastrophe, how do you keep the ship afloat and aright your course?

Crisis Management 101

There are a few general guidelines worth noting:

  1. Be honest with your employees. Even if things are really dicey—like, if a partner is in big legal trouble—it’s never a good idea to obscure the truth or keep employees in the dark. Weathering the storm will require teamwork and collaboration, and your employees need to be on the same page and working with as much information as possible.
  2. Emphasize communication. You probably don’t want to tell your clients about the trouble you’re in—and there may be some aspects of it that are best left unsaid—but you can’t suddenly have radio silence, nor should you lie. Be candid and proactive in communicating with clients, letting them know you’re aware of the problems and are working to correct them.
  3. Bring in a crisis team. You may need to get some extra hands on deck, including an external marketing or public relations firm. Ideally, you’ll have a relationship with a firm before the crisis happens, so you can quickly get someone to your office to pitch in.
  4. Don’t take things too personally. Things may get heated, but remember that this is a professional problem that doesn’t reflect a personal affront against you as a human; vent to your family members or friends if need be, but don’t allow yourself to become unruffled or upset in the workplace. Speaking of which…
  5. Practice stress management. It’s always good to have an outlet for anxiety—exercise, journaling, art, meditation, or whatever else—and it’s especially important to fall back on that outlet during times of intense tribulation.

Crises may come, and they may seem insurmountable—but in truth that’s rarely the case, especially not when you keep these best practices for crisis management in mind.