Shunning: Confessions of an Ego Surfer

I've been hearing the sound of one hand clapping for the past couple of weeks, and was prepared to ignore it. But I've never been good at walking away from controversy. I suppose that is why I gravitated to the law.

Blogging has become second nature to me. I do it because I am proud and like it when people tell me they enjoy a post of mine. I do it because I want to encourage younger lawyers to be more fully human, and hence I try to express my hopes, fears and sorrows on this page in a candid manner. And I do it because I want people to know who I am. Call this a biographical caveat emptor to potential clients, if you will. Presenting the self to the world is a form of marketing, like it or not.

Hence, I ego surf, and I always have. I Google my name several times daily to see what is being said and reported about me. Sometimes I like what I see. Sometimes I do not. The anonymous comments to news stories about cases of mine remind me the pride comes before the fall: There are people out there rooting for me to fail. It is a sobering realization.

I stumbled yesterday into the lap of a new friend's blog, Rick Horowitz. I've never met Rick in person. We've become virtual friends. We trade emails and speak from time to time on the phone. Frankly, I do not know whether I will ever lay eyes on him. In this brave new electronic world I accept the fact that some people will become important to me and that I will never lay eyes on those people. The Internet fosters some new sort of communal space that sort of snuck up on me unawares. I am in it, although not fully with it, yet.

This summer I'm reading Erving Goffman, Peter Berger and others on social psychology in an effort to understand the Internet. The Presentation of the Self In Everyday Life, written decades ago, still speaks. How to understand this electronic theater where we all send cues to others intended to convey who we are?  I feel suddenly, like a castaway: I am here, but where am I exactly?

As I was reading Rick's blog, Unspun, I saw that Scott Greenfield, a Manhattan lawyer, is still arguing with me. I've become something of a straw man to him. He claims to speak on behalf of a couple of other bloggers, Mark Bennett, a trial lawyer in Houston, and Brian Tannebaum, a Miami trial lawyer and president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  These are all big-city lawyers, and I confess to being intimidated by them. My law office is located in a town of 1,500 or so people; we joke that there are more horses than people here. I know it is the case that animals far out-number humans at my place. I often wonder whether I could cut in a big-city practice.

I've earned the suspicion of Scott and accept it. Not long ago, I delinked from his page and asked him to do likewise from mine. It is not that I care not to debate issues or that I want law-related blogging to become a mind-numbing feel good society. I just wearied of what looked to me like the struggle for social hegemony. I learned that old hands at blogging were spending a lot of time trying to influence younger lawyers: there were phone calls, private messages, off-net communications intended to get people to toe some invisible line important to those drawing the line. I find that offensive. I am not looking for someone to censor my reading for me.

So I have decided to shun those who I believe to be behaving in a manner I don't like.

Shunning is little more than voting with your feet. It is not moral disapproval, snobbery, self-righteousness, or, as Scott suggests, a request that people pick sides in some dispute or other. I'm not pitching any norm but Norm, and God only knows where that is heading.

I am both bothered and flattered that Scott is still debating something with me on other pages. I can only hope that as time passes, I will fade from his radar. The Internet is a big place. Scott has made a good place there for himself through hard work, determination and intelligence. I simply don't like what the view from the top of the hill has done to him. So I have decided to shun him rather than engage in a head-on conflict that does not seem worth the effort of engagement. Others will shun me as a result. That's fine; that's social reality. None of us can be all things to all people.

Move on, Scott. There's an infinite amount of space out there on line, and there's room for differing points of view. There's nothing to be won or lost in debates about style and temperament. Besides, I still want to refer cases to you when folks come needing New York counsel.

About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis


Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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