Social Media in Law School

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Law school presents all sorts of challenges. From exams, to networking, to finding a summer job, it is a non-stop obstacle course.

Law school is also an amazing experience that will create lasting memories and friendships. Be careful, however, about how you memorialize those experiences online.

Law school is not Las Vegas

What happens in law school does not stay in law school. There are companies that exist solely to investigate online activities. The legal economy is still rather grim and jobs are not as plentiful as you think. That means employers might will rely on all sorts of information to make a hiring decision.

In other words, the fact that you made law review does not guarantee success. If you made law review but publicly tweeted about being wasted at bar review every Thursday, that could be a problem. If you don’t think employers will go back and look at that stuff, you are dead wrong.

It does not just stop with Facebook and Twitter though. Last winter I wrote about the importance of getting practical experience in law school. Somehow that post became a public forum for whether or not a class at a local law school should be graded. If you decide to voice your opinion on a public website, be careful about what you say.

When in doubt, do not type it

Do your best to stick to the random comments that most people make online—“the weather sucks” or “I can’t believe the Vikings traded for McNabb.” Mind your online manners and avoid commenting on religion, politics, or anything else that can turn into a hot-button issue. Do you have a right to talk about it? Absolutely. Can it result in misinterpretations or adversely effect somebody’s opinion of you? Yep.

Everybody uses a laptop in class and many of your classmates will constantly stream their thoughts during class. Don’t be that person. Keep things locked down and it will payoff in the long run.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tyleringram/5099188455/)

Law School

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  • http://www.UndeniableRuth.com Ruth Carter

    I was shocked by what some of my classmates posted on their Facebook pages. There was a situation when what a student posted was so offensive that it was reported to the school. My rule of thumb is never post anything online that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper: http://bit.ly/d2mUN8.

  • Tyler White

    And don’t forget: pictures are almost never your friend.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    While caution is certainly warranted, these are all just tools. They can be used for big, stupid mistakes, but they can also be used productively in law school to find mentors, to explore job prospects, to begin focusing on learning a practice niche, to build trust in the the broader community.

    Social media doesn’t need to come only with warnings.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for steering me to your comment Aaron. My feeling is that these types of articles are misguided from your standpoint as an editor of the Lawyerist.

    The title of the post is ‘Social Media in Law School.’ Interesting subject, I’ll take a look. That was my response and I am sure the law students, law professors, and practicing lawyers who follow Lawyerist.

    What are we told law students should do with social media? “Do your best to stick to the random comments that most people make online—”the weather sucks” or “I can’t believe the Vikings traded for McNabb.” Shocking.

    Some law schools have one-third of their graduates from the last three years without jobs in the law. Law school placement offices are terribly lagging in their understanding of how law grads can use LinkedIn, Blogging, Facebook, or Twitter as a means of enhancing one’s reputation as a law student and building relationships with lawyers and businesses who hire lawyers.

    Social media is way under utilized resource by law students looking to building their reputations and law grads looking for work. Why? Because people preach fear.

    The ABA teaches at their annual meeting last week of the pitfalls and perils of social media. Law schools which I have approached to set up a free blogging platform & blogging education said no because law students would blog about drinking and partying and then not get jobs. Many senior lawyers who ought to be mentoring young lawyers on how to be a good lawyer and how to get business, rather than learning how social networking/media can help do this, are scared of their shadow when it comes to the using the Internet for anything more than email.

    Then we get this post which warning of the perils of social media and tells us nothing about any positives regarding social media, like how you may be able to use it to get a job and pay your student loans

    Sure, law students could do stupid things on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. Yes, those stupid things could cost them a job.

    But let’s weigh the benefits of social media (or even mention them) versus the risks. Benefits tip the scales. Hands down.

    The Lawyerist publishes some excellent information, insight, and commentary. This post just doesn’t stack up.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      So it’s the title you don’t like, for overselling the content?

    • http://www.shatterbox.biz/ Jay Pinkert

      I find your response very curious, Kevin, because occasionally taking provocative stands is a central tenet of social media discourse. Randall is not presenting himself as a journalist or social media “expert,” and Lawyerist is not a traditional news organization. Neither of them has an affirmative obligation to balance each story on social media with the “benefits.”

      As for the Lawyerist’s editorial judgment in running the post, please…. This kind of piece is precisely what makes the site interesting and special. Ya gotta love the free marketplace of ideas…

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/randallryder/ Randall Ryder

      There are absolutely great ways to use social media in law school. Unfortunately, that’s not what this post was about. As you noted, saying stupid things could cost you a job. I’d say that’s a fairly serious consequence that was worth highlighting to law students.

      I get your point—that I am apparently in the same boat as every other lawyer who denounces social media as the ultimate evil. To be frank, after reading my post again, I can see where you can get impression. To be franker, I’m bummed that I have been lumped in the same category as people who think the interwebs are a series of mysterious tubes.

      The example of the weather and sports was intended to be a guide for people who have an uncontrollable urge to write about the wrong thing. As a recent graduate and a teacher of two classes at a local law school, those urges are very prevalent. My hope is that law students are careful about what they post online, not that they stop posting altogether.

      • Jen Becker

        I agree with the author! I think this article is not only applicable to attorneys but to anyone in any field. I could go on facebook right now and find so many inappropriate pictures/comments/status updates etc. and if I were hiring at my firm I know it would color my impression and even stop me from interviewing certain candidates.

        I think people need reminders of this, and I think this article was a great reminder! If you need a personal journal to talk about your feelings, your mistakes, or the party you went to last weekend that is fine…but don’t publish it on the web unless you are ready to deal with the consequences (whatever they may be).

        In no way did this stop me from using social media (nor do I think that was the goal), but rather it made me aware and I do not think there is anything wrong with educating people. I believe that the spirit of the Laywerist is to offer many different ideas about many different topics (educate). I know that I have read many articles on here that have offered the benefits to using social media as well. I think having an understanding of the pro’s and con’s to each decision you make is very important and that is just what this article did, it reminded us that there could be a negative result if you are posting certain things for the world to see and everyone should remember that.

        Thanks for the reminder Randall.

  • Jennifer Gumbel

    I’m going to come to Randall’s defense. When I was in law school, during facebook’s infancy, oversharing was a huge pitfall. Sure, social media is a great tool for networking, but the caution is still valid. We may all be more savy about social media, but kids in their early twenties will be kids in their early twenties and judging from my younger online “friends”, they still need the reminder to think beyond next week when making an online presence.

    I will say this. You don’t have to necessarily shy away from political or religious speech (heck, that easily makes up 2/3 of my online presence). Just remember that a potential employer will probably know whatever you put online. If you don’t want to miss out on a potential job because of who you voted for, don’t post it. If you feel that you’re better off weeding out potential employers who would judge you because of your posts, then do.

  • katmere

    My suggestion, as a law student, is that instead of scaring law students away from social media we should encourage them to engage intelligently and responsibly. Encourage intelligent discussion on LinkedIn; encourage tweeting on legal issues they find interesting and engaging.

    One challenge many law students have is proving to the world that they have passions and interests in the legal world. A well-curated public presence on an accessible blog, twitter feed, or elsewhere can be a résumé builder.

    Scaring students who may already be in dire straights away from a viable resource isn’t helpful. Indeed, pictures of misbehavior are unfortunate, but this sort of messaging from the author above forgets that many law students are too mature and risk-adverse to be in such compromising situations in the first place. They’ll heed the advice of this article more than their rowdier counterparts, likely to their detriment. Maybe you could add a second half of this story about the “do’s” now that you’ve covered the “don’t’s”?