As a college student, I spent most summers working for a rather prestigious Connecticut law practice. At the time, the managing partner had just come off a high profile murder case and business was booming. A need to hire new associates was quickly evident. Not surprisingly, the firm began searching for new hires.
I remember one particular candidate standing out from the pack. A graduate from a top tier law school, his outstanding resume almost guaranteed him a position with our firm. The white shoe candidate graduated at the top of his class, had a judicial clerkship under his belt and had participated in law review. For the purpose of this story, let's call him "Timmy." So why didn't this budding barrister get the job? You can blame the Hartford Whalers.
At the time of our story, the Whalers were still skating to "Brass Bonanza" at the Hartford Civic Center mall. Team captain Brendan Shanahan had divulged that he wanted to leave the metropolis of Hartford for a team that didn't share rental space with the GAP and Mrs. Field's cookies. Apparently, word of this betrayal upset Timmy. In an effort to exercise his freedom of expression, he decided to dress up as a baby (complete with diaper, pacifier and baby bonnet) and bought himself a ticket to the next home game. The sight of an overgrown baby in the stands at center ice caught the eye of many, including the sports page photographer of the Hartford Courant. Did I happen to mention that the firm's senior partner had a subscription to that particular periodical? Needless to say, Timmy did not get the job.
A lot of things have changed since that fateful hockey game. The Whalers left town, Shanahan now plays in New Jersey and the world became a flickering, twittering network of facebooking bloggers posting everything and anything on youtube. Luckily for our friend Timmy, he missed many of these internet phenomenons. I can only imagine what could have happened to his reputation had the photos hit the world wide web.As social networking sites continue to grow in popularity, employers are being given an unprecedented inside view into the lives of potential employees. More than likely, you will be "googled" after your interview. The list of internet detectives searching your name can also include opposing counsel as well as current and prospective clients. What will come up when they type in your name? Is their anything that could potentially embarrass you? I was surprised to find out things when I searched my own name. My finds included a seven year old restaurant review about some seafood place in Maine, an ABA Student Lawyer Magazine article about me in law school, a photo of me with Kevin Bacon at a fundraiser and an old photo from my college days as a disc jockey in a New York bar. I'm posing with a guy dressed as an elf, a Joe Pesci impersonator and a woman on stilts (Don't ask). As you can imagine, it is important to be careful about what you post online. Here are a few quick tips:
(1) Search your Name online regularly through various search engines including an image search. Are there photos of you doing keg stands at a frat party? Did your brother in law post a photo of you passed out drunk at a wedding? Are your comments about your love of Justin Timberlake posted all over the internet? Make an effort to delete anything you would not want your senior partner or mother to see.
(2) Claim your profile. Websites like Avvo.com allow you to claim your profile for free. Take the opportunity to post some professional information about yourself. You can include speaking engagements, education, etc. You can also answer posted questions. It's a chance to show your legal acumen. I know some attorneys do not like the idea of Avvo. The site rates virtually every state attorney from 1-10. Usually the biggest complainers are the ones with sanction histories. Having someone rate you is never pleasant whether it is Avvo or those mean 8th grade girls in your homeroom class. (I hope you never need a lawyer Becky. At the very least, I am a 7...). Whatever your feelings on Avvo might be, you cannot avoid the fact that the site is increasingly being used by potential clients as it grows in popularity. Why wouldn't you want to put yourself in the best possible light. It never hurts to stand out from the crowd. (except maybe in a hostage situation). If you do real estate closings, consider posting on sites like activerain.com. The website allows you to include professional information, client reviews and has a built in blog feature. Sites like Linkedin give you the opportunity to give the world your resume. Many consider linkedin the business or grown up version of facebook. If you use Facebook, you may want to disable the function that allows friends to post pictures of you. We all have idiot friends from highschool that would like nothing more than to post your scandalous photos from spring break. Utilize privacy settings.
(3) Control your "Digital Footprint." I suggest starting a blawg in your particular area of practice. You want to present yourself professionally on the internet. It is better to have search results include demonstrations of your legal acumen rather than your thoughts about American Idol.
(4) You're a Lawyer, Act Like It I am not suggesting that you should never have fun. I am only suggesting that you should think twice before picking the Halloween costume you plan to wear in public. As aforementioned, the internet can be an unforgiving mistress. She can ruin a reputation with a few clicks of the mouse. Try to stay away from keg stands, food eating and belly flop competitions, Star Trek conventions, Hooters restaurants, the Jerry Springer Show, Speedos and jail. I can not stress staying away from Speedos enough.
(Editors note: Due to a heavy court schedule, the preceding post is a rerun from our 2009 season.)