The recent controversy around privacy injunctions almost provoked a constitutional crisis.

Yet many still regard it as an issue of concern only to media lawyers, or wealthy celebrities with the means to cover up their misdemeanours in court.

It is not, after all, everyone who has a spare £50,000 to spend on a Saturday trip to the Royal Courts of Justice.

Dig a little deeper and it soon becomes clear that there is a broader relevance for all lawyers whose clients may be involved in newsworthy cases.

The whole saga illustrates how quickly the modern media scene is changing.

The power of social media - not just to disseminate information but to change reputations instantly - has been made clear.

But we have also seen how mainstream and digital media feed off one another.

Get mentioned in one and it will affect how you are reported in the other.

This is of growing importance to people who suddenly find themselves in the spotlight.

Inquests, tribunals, neighbour disputes, divorces - the list of legal situations which give rise to interest from journalists is almost endless.

In fact, almost anything where there is an element of dispute or blame will attract media attention.

Take inquests, for example. A quick search of the Daily Mail website throws up 227 pages - relating to thousands of different stories - about inquests.

And that is just one newspaper - one that reaches nearly 80 million people across the world every month, according to the latest figures.

Indeed, British national newspapers on the whole have online readership figures of around 200 million people.

And once something is reported, it is out there in perpetuity, and almost impossible to change.

The Times’s Sally Baker recently explained why.

Commenting on the ‘umpteenth time’ she’d been asked to delete something because the reader 'hadn’t realised that six years later [her] name would still come up on Google, and now it embarrasses [her]', she said:

'We turn down the vast majority of such requests because we regard the online edition as being every bit as important a historical record as the printed paper, and it would be quite wrong to tamper with it by altering or erasing an article just because we can.'

That is the policy of almost all news websites.

And once on websites, stories are picked up by Twitter, Facebook and so on, with the result that news and comment is blurred and the story published to far greater audiences than ever before.

So it is far better to influence matters in advance of publication than firefight afterwards.

That is why media relations advice is increasingly woven into the fabric of what solicitors offer.

And it is not just about reputation management, but can deliver a more immediate strategic purpose too.

To use the example of inquests, influencing how the media report matters could affect what happens next.

The coverage could help determine, for instance, whether the parties concerned feel emboldened to institute civil litigation; or it could give rise to political pressure for further inquiries - or arguably even to a reconsideration by the CPS of whether to bring a prosecution.

Building good media relations at an early stage could pay dividends for months or even years - particularly if a story is protracted by a Rule 43 recommendation from the coroner.

At an inquest, this works best when the lawyers and the media representatives agree strategically about which messages need to emerge from the process.

This will involve pre-planning with the solicitors, barristers and media team, with the barristers managing the coronial process before the PRs brief the journalists and make sure that their practical requirements are met.

Large companies involved in industrial accidents will normally already have a slick and experienced media relations team to guide them through any legal proceedings.

But what of smaller firms that do not have embedded PR experts?

One lawyer winces at the memory of a case involving a metallics firm in the South of England.

'One of their employees had died at work, and they were convicted and fined several hundred thousand pounds.

'Because they were a small company they thought no-one much would be interested, and rejected our suggestion of media advice, just issuing a starchy statement instead.

'They had no pro-active plan and hadn’t prepared properly.

'Of course, at the end of proceedings the local TV and press chased the MD down the street asking questions he felt uncomfortable with, and he ran away with his papers covering his face. It made for gruesome viewing. The lack of engagement with the media seriously damaged their local reputation.'

In this case the company’s decision to save a few thousand pounds on media advice was at the price of a blow to their image - and eternal embarrassment for the managing director.

But it also illustrated another truth: that public relations setbacks are frequently avoidable.

One PR with a background in the print media explains that ‘any story can legitimately be written about half a dozen different ways. Good media relations advice will ensure that it’s the angle most advantageous to the client that gets published’.

The Press Complaints Commission, which does a lot to support people at times of grief, confirms that reporting of inquests and tribunals gives rise to dozens of complaints about newspapers and magazines.

But many of them do not involve any breach of the rules, which may suggest that much of the time the problem is the editorial line favoured by the publication.

The lessons seem to be clear.

Reporting of legal proceedings leaves an indelible legacy which can follow people around forever.

But much can be done to influence what is said at source, so that people are not haunted by this legacy.

The keys to success are not complicated: you have to be quick; engage with the media as a potential ally rather than something to fight; and - where possible - plan ahead.

Tim Toulmin is a former director of the Press Complaints Commission and founder and director of Alder Media