If any of you have been watching the news for the past ten years or so, you may have noticed that at some point, someone’s digital indiscretions have cost them their reputation, their career or profession, and in rare cases even their freedom.
No one is untouchable; politicians, coaches, celebrities, civil servants, teachers. All are fair game. Usually this digital indiscretion comes in the form of a social media post on Facebook, or a tweet on Twitter, or a stray e-mail that should never have been drafted in the first place.
Whatever the case may be, there is a growing prevalence of people mishandling their social media resulting in massive information exposure which terminates in negative consequences that can never be erased.
In most instances, current technology is a God-send, allowing us to communicate quickly and efficiently, store data in massive amounts, and access information anywhere at anytime.
But the other side of that coin allows people to drift into a false sense of security in expressing themselves. People’s opinions and thoughts on any issue can now be screen-capped and used against them at a moment’s notice.
Further, the fact of the matter is that there is no real way around Social Media. Our current society demands that everyone be plugged in, and within digital reach, one way or another. Or you can choose not to, at your own discretion.
However, most of those who do engage in social media fail to practice the ancient art of keeping their personal thoughts to themselves. Everyone is now subject to a bizarre temptation to plaster their lives all over the internet for the whole world to see.
They need everyone to know their location, their activity, and who they are with. It is now necessary to comment on every scrap of news that is fed to us by the media.
Everyone has an opinion on everything. People feel compelled to share this information with everyone instead of practicing what is known in the military as “operational security”.
OpSec is the safe keeping, and compartmentalization, of important information. What constitutes “important” is entirely up to you – personal, professional, or otherwise.
OpSec example: my law school studymate had a friend who posted pictures of presents under her Christmas tree, and included the fact that they would be away from home on a 6-day cruise during the week before Christmas. Upon returning home, they found their house had been broken into, and everything had been stolen. Everything. But for their social media post, this tragedy would likely not have occurred.
As young professionals, and even as law school students, we are subject to a high degree of scrutiny when it comes to our online presence.
Your section mates want to engage with you on social media. Your classmates will be tempted to talk about professors, exams, curve outs, finals, studying, ad nauseum.
Failure to have a social media presence makes you a sort of unknown element. Make no mistake, your social media presence extends well beyond law school.
Scouting attorneys and head hunters will take notice of what you post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook.
Thinking you are invisible or above the fray is foolish at best. As a former law clerk, half of my job was the comprehensive cyber-investigation of many people; defendants, potential clients, opposing counsel, and even potential new associates.
I still practice this. And every good lawyer should be able to perform basic internet investigations. In all honesty, it was frighteningly easy to find the most personal information on the internet about these individuals. Several lawsuits were even scuttled by the damning information I was able to produce.
What people post on social media says volumes about what kind of person they really are. Social media exposes their general attitude, their nature, and their work habits. It shows the things that bring them joy, their personal activities, and can even expose their political affiliation.
As law school students and young attorneys, what you choose to post on social media can likewise drastically influence what everyone thinks about you.
They can change your professors’ or classmates’ opinions of you, and create severe enmity. Make no mistake, your social media posts definitely have an effect on whether that nice firm in town decides to hire you.
They can even determine whether your client chooses you over another attorney. At this point in your life, Operational Security is one of the best weapons in your arsenal, and can never been too honed or too sharp.
The most difficult aspect of all this is keeping the ever-present Social Media presence that our society requires, while maintaining that coveted social media veneer that manages not to offend anyone. (And let’s face it, these days everyone is offended by everything.) To this end, I suggest you consider tactics to either shield or divert your social media presence.
To this end, I suggest you consider tactics to either shield or divert your social media presence.
Obviously large firms will never allow any ties between your personal and professional social media that might reflect on them. Larger firms practice and utilize compartmentalization day in and day out. Law school students and solo or small firm attorneys should take a page out of this
Law school students and solo or small firm attorneys should take a page out of this play book and avoid association between personal and professional social media. Have a professional Twitter or Instagram to maintain your desired social media presence, but also generate separate personal accounts that in no way tie back to you professionally. In other words, your
Have a professional Twitter or Instagram to maintain your desired social media presence, but also generate separate personal accounts that in no way tie back to you professionally. In other words, your professional Instagram may be Marks_Crim_Atty, but your personal Instagram might be PunkIdiot99. And never the two shall meet.
In parting, I leave you with this; always think before you post. Think before you
Think before you email. Think before you Tweet. Move forward armed with the knowledge that everything that you put on the internet is there for the whole world to see, and for all time. Can your email to opposing counsel, or your client, be just as easily conveyed with a phone call? Does your tweet carry the tone and meaning befitting a smart attorney? Could your Facebook post possibly betray your client’s case?
Be disciplined enough to think twice before utilizing social media. It is indeed a double edged sword; it can help you achieve your professional goals, but it can just as easily be your undoing if utilized without competence and discretion. Handle With Caution.