Stacy L. Bettison: Litigator and Public Relations Expert

Stacy L. Bettison
2024 Feature Nominations

High-stakes, high-profile and complex. These are the types of cases that have been Stacy Bettison’s bread and butter for years. Whether it’s civil litigation, criminal charges, government investigations or enforcement actions, or other bet-the-company issues that need a careful “handler,” Bettison is very comfortable representing clients who also face the court of public opinion.

Bettison has taken two disciplines about which she is very passionate – legal advocacy and communications – and developed expertise that allows her to help individuals and organizations navigate through their most difficult moments.

As the owner of Bettison PR, she supports clients with crisis-communications consulting and reputation management. As an attorney at Kelley, Wolter & Scott, P.A. (Kelley Wolter), a boutique litigation firm, Bettison practices in the areas of complex civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense.

In her role as a crisis-communications expert, Bettison’s primary objective is to mitigate her client’s risk and protect their reputation. Clients often come to her needing immediate help because their issue is either about to break or has become breaking news. These fast-paced matters require a quick but careful, strategic analysis that takes into account both the client’s short-term and long-term needs.

“This often involves putting out the current fire, but making sure we are aware and ready for future fires.” The best result is achieved when Bettison can help keep a client out of the news media (traditional and social). “The old adage ‘No news is good news’ could not be more true here. I’m always working for that when possible.”

At Kelley Wolter, the considerations are similar given the type of client representations the firm is known for – cases that are highly complex, involve massive amounts of documentation and evidence, and require deep legal analysis and long-game strategy development.

Bettison’s career came full circle in 2019 when, after focusing for several years on crisis-communications consulting, she joined Kelley Wolter. Since she had clerked for the firm during law school, Bettison was familiar with the attorneys and their unique practice –  headline-making, multi-party, multi-year cases. In addition to high-profile cases, however, Kelley Wolter also is renowned for obtaining outcomes that preserve reputations and minimize public fallout; thus its tagline: “Much of our finest work never makes the news.”

“Most of Kelley Wolter’s cases are high-stakes, which complements the work I’ve been doing at Bettison.”

The firm focuses on complex civil litigation, typically venued in federal court, which naturally raises all kinds of questions concerning federal jurisdiction and constitutional law. Another large practice area is civil enforcement actions by government agencies, which can create client exposure to large monetary fines and penalties.

“These cases are very complex, but that’s what we thrive on. It’s what we love. To practice with a firm that is handling such rich legal questions and intellectually challenging work is incredibly gratifying.”

Bettison describes her colleagues at Kelley Wolter as authentic, incredibly smart and highly ethical. “We have an incredible synergy that is a result of our varied backgrounds and experiences. I think we all enjoy the intellectual rigor that our cases require,” she says. “It’s an honor to practice with them and do really good work for our clients.”

At Bettison PR, Bettison represents individuals and organizations from an array of industries in Minnesota and elsewhere, bringing purposeful words and legal insights to consequential criminal and civil matters. Collaborating with a curated group of marketing, media and legal professionals, she drives home her precisely crafted messages to transform potentially catastrophic crises into manageable events.

A seasoned litigator with more than two decades of experience, Bettison understands the intricate legal issues her clients and their counsel face. She has served as defense counsel in both civil and criminal litigation, representing clients in a range of criminal matters, government investigations and regulatory compliance issues. Her legal experience informs her 17 years of crisis management, and gives her a battle-tested reputation for ensuring that her clients not only survive media trial by fire, but emerge triumphant.

For lawyers who represent high-profile clients, having a legal colleague managing their clients’ PR interests is a unique asset. Bettison is known for grasping complex problems quickly, asking the right questions and moving straight to solutions. Her knowledge and experience in the law make her sensitive to a client’s legal position and mindful of protecting the legal integrity of their case — factors she takes into consideration whenever she crafts a PR strategy.

“Because I am a practicing attorney, I can spot legal issues ahead of time. It makes the process more efficient for the attorney, since they don’t have to micromanage their PR person. We often think through things together. My goal is to make the attorney’s job easier, so they can focus less on a media circus, and focus more on their client’s legal needs.”

Bettison acknowledges that some attorneys may entertain misgivings about hiring a PR representative or having their clients do so, fearing interference in their cases. “I think it comes from not understanding what someone like me can do,” she says. “My purpose is to help attorneys help their clients succeed. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes or muddle a case from a legal standpoint. My role is communication and thinking about the larger vision, which involves providing business strategy support to the client and attorney. I fill in where there are holes and only offer my thoughts on legal matters if invited to do so.”

Despite the demands of her dual private practice, Bettison makes public sector work a priority. She currently serves as an assistant public defender for the Veterans Treatment Court for Carver and Dakota County. “I feel privileged to help veterans through the process of resolving their legal issues and coming out stronger. It’s a lot of work for these vets, but the benefit is that it gives them the opportunity to clear their criminal records.” She notes that her colleagues, Brett Kelley and Doug Kelley, both former Army Rangers, are “very supportive” of her work in Veterans Treatment Court.

Reflecting on her career thus far, Stacy L. Bettison holds an abiding sense of gratitude. “I work with the best people — both attorneys and clients. I am extremely grateful to be doing the work I do every day with the people I do, knowing they trust me to help them with these important issues. I feel incredibly blessed to be part of this community.”

H.K. Wilson

H.K. Wilson is a contributing writer for Attorney at Law Magazine. She has been writing features for the publication for more than four years.

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