Discuss your goals in advance with your collaborators and your stakeholders. Identify clear and specific objectives that have the potential to further a broader cause.
Compare litigation to other means of reaching your objectives. Consider potential allies with other causes that might benefit from (or be harmed by) the outcome of your case.
Consult a wide variety of experts (such as engineers, activists, academics, and social scientists) to assess the potential impact of your case on society in general.
Plan for contingencies, both during litigation and afterwards. Think about what will happen if you lose or if your opponents offer to settle. Have a plan in place to capitalize on a victory in court or to mitigate a loss.
Set realistic expectations about what you and your organization can contribute and what risks or uncertainties you foresee. Don’t be afraid to admit when a task is outside your area of expertise – that’s what collaboration is for!
As a group, divide responsibilities based on each collaborator’s expertise, resources, and bandwidth. Decide who will provide the “bridges” between collaborators and make sure they have the support they need.
Create a timeline that includes both external events (court dates, legislative hearings, elections, etc.) and internal deadlines. Build in extra time for unanticipated events.
Be prepared to put in time away from your desk. Collaborative strategic litigation means dedicating time to supporting others – be sure to factor this in when setting your own deadlines.
You can only do so much with a single lawsuit. Focus on achieving the objectives you and your collaborators have agreed on.
If you need to change or refine your objectives, don’t do it unilaterally. Make sure all collaborators understand the reasons for the change and agree that it is necessary. Ensure that any negative impact on allies’ efforts caused by the change is sufficiently mitigated.
Respect and defer to your collaborators' expertise. Be prepared to hand over control on certain issues; trust the ability of others. Play off each other's strengths and embrace the opportunity to learn.
Respect others' limitations in capacity and resources; be forthcoming about your own. Be realistic about what each party is able and willing to invest.
Be prepared to negotiate priorities as yours may not necessarily be aligned with those of your collaborators.
Acknowledge the time and effort others invest in both the case and the cause. Understand that each party will be involved on different levels of intensity at different times as the case evolves.
Don't shy away from technology. It takes time to understand technical details, but engaging with them is necessary and yields benefits.
Identify the technological data and analyses that are most helpful to the case. Consider how they relate to the broader cause.
Articulate the technological issues at stake in legal and advocacy terms, and vice versa. Ensure technological accuracy and be patient in helping your partners understand the perspective you have from your area of expertise.
Technology is in constant development: plan to leave room for dealing with a moving target. Also consider how you want the tech to develop and how you can impact this.
Identify people and organizations that are (or could become) engaged with your campaign and break them down into identifiable groups. For each group you want to reach, identify which collaborators are best positioned to reach them.
Include all collaborators in your messaging strategy: consult technologists to develop simple explanations of crucial technical details; consult lawyers to explain legal outcomes; consult communications experts to ensure your messaging is effective.
Be prepared to engage in external messaging about the case and cause, even if this is not your usual area of expertise. If you do not regularly engage in outreach, ask for help. If you do, be prepared to support your collaborators.
Avoid jargon: captivate, do not alienate your audience. Formulate a message that is easily accessible and understandable for a wide audience, yet remains legally and technically accurate.
Words are only part of the message. Literally show your audience the big picture: create strong graphical representations of key technical points or complex legal or social issues. A picture, diagram, animation, meme or interactive dataset can capture the public's imagination.
Tailor your message for different audiences. Frame the issue in a way that is easily relatable for each constituency. Choose different channels and spokespeople to reach different groups.
Litigation is a channel through which technology, policy, and research can be communicated to decision makers. Craft your legal arguments to create opportunities for expert testimony or affidavits.
Keep your message strong, but simple. Create clear graphical representations of key points – a picture, diagram or compelling analogy can capture the imagination of the jury or judge and help them better understand complex technical and legal issues.
Make non-lawyer collaborators an integral part of your legal planning team. Make sure that the legal arguments reflect the broader campaign. Seek orders from the court that are both technologically feasible and supportive of your overall cause.
Keep abreast of changes in technology, policy, or law during the case. If necessary, reevaluate your argument to ensure it isn’t obsolete on arrival.
Communication holds and exercises power. Expect that your external communication strategy will affect court procedure and outcomes.
The case is fought inside and outside the courtroom. Be prepared: develop a communication strategy that resonates with the audiences important to your case and cause; identify key moments for communication outreach; and have designated spokespersons ready to speak to the different constituencies.
Leverage public campaign efforts to increase the visibility and importance of the case and to frame the debate in your terms. Emphasize those stories from the litigation that are compelling and resonate with issues of broad public interest.
Losing the case does not mean losing the cause. Win or lose, litigation combined with a good public advocacy campaign can spur public debate. This can lead to the policy or legislative change the cause wants to achieve.
Prepare for the worst and try to achieve the best. Before litigating, consider the spectrum of outcomes, their likelihood, and strategize how they could be used to advance the cause. If you win the case, how will you ensure expedient implementation? If you lose the case, how will you use the loss to fuel public debate and ignite calls for action? Can you turn a loss into a qualified victory?
If you suffer a setback, don't give up. Establishing social change is a long-term process. Learn the lessons that can be learned, reassess, recalibrate, restrategize and recommence.