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Seek out potential allies before your situation heats up, and work through intermediaries when possible. Enlist the assistance of sympathetic interest groups, elected officials, or journalists. The strength of your support coalition is often key to making the legal rights you have on paper work for you in reality. As with preventative medicine, getting a little legal advice up front can protect against the need for extensive intervention later. Be careful to find an attorney who respects your goals as a whistleblower, and who is willing to safeguard your evidence.
Many attorneys see their duty as preventing you from incurring the liability you are willing to risk but that you should be prepared for. This will be an intimate professional partnership, so make sure you trust and are compatible with your lawyer. One reason some whistleblowers hire attorneys is because they can make disclosures on behalf of an anonymous client, legally shielded by attorney-client privilege.
If possible, pick a time and set of circumstances where you will have the most impact with your disclosure. The timing of your disclosure, particularly to the press, is a serious strategic decision that can affect the chances your disclosure will receive attention. Timing can also affect whether you face retaliation. Press coverage can cut both ways: it could shield you from immediate retaliation while you remain in the media spotlight, but it could also anger your management more than if your disclosures were more discreet.
If you do decide to disclose your evidence to the press, it may be wise to release your evidence incrementally rather than all at once. This can spark repeated stories that sustain the spotlight, and provide a chance to call the bluffs of overly broad institutional denials. See Chapter 5 for an extended discussion of working with the press.
Those who are abusing their power must be reacting to you, not vice versa. Be clear-headed about precisely what you expect to accomplish and how. Do not premise your actions on the vague notion that the truth will prevail. As part of your advance work, get information into the hands of key potential organizational and political allies, and earn their commitment to reinforce your disclosure. The tenor of this first exchange may determine if the immediate battle with your organization will be quick or drawn-out.
Map out where your actions will leave you a year from now, two years from now, five years, and further on. Plan out the route you want to take and how you reasonably expect your professional path to proceed. There is little doubt that you are about to embark upon a journey that will have a significant impact on your professional and personal life, and you should be prepared with a realistic roadmap of how you might get where you want to go in your career.