It’s hard to avoid online commentary about the value of social media to practicing lawyers, so my decision to leave Twitter and Facebook is, at a minimum, counterintuitive.
An active online presence gives a lawyer an opportunity to attract clients, to educate the public and to display his or her brand to the world at large. All this is presumed good in a competitive marketplace.
A thriving industry supports social media marketing for lawyers.
But consider the costs.
All writing is marketing: you don’t put a pen to paper and broadcast your opinions without a superabundance of ego. But ego comes in many shapes and sizes.
Vanilla lawyers write informational pieces highlighting their practice areas – a form of indirect advertisement. More daring lawyers write hoping to be recognized as leaders in their practice areas, and comment on current events to showcase their insight and expertise.
Some lawyers, myself included, write because, candidly, they like to stir things up. Iconoclasm is, of course, a dangerous profession – when an end itself, it merges into performance art.
In the past year or so, I’ve written a boat load about such topics as my nascent Islamophobia, why pluralism gives way to nihilism, even why, given a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I’d chose Trump.
The pieces have attracted some predictable moaning and groaning. Hartford’s Jim Bergen has written me some agonizing notes about this rightward drift, questioning whether I mean what I say and begging me to reconsider my boorishness.
I’ve never worried much about what other lawyers had to say. The online world is filled with self-proclaimed “thought leaders” in a loose association of lawyers inhabiting the “blawgosphere.” It’s a tedious club of otherwise agile minds striving to become old before their time – iconoclasts with crayons, eager to color within the lines.
What flows from the electronic water cooler always leaves me thirsty.
So several years ago, I started to dabble on Twitter and Facebook. I developed followers and hosted, in particular on Facebook, raucous, and sometimes ugly, debates – most readers weren’t lawyers. It was fun, while it lasted.
I began to wonder whether it wise when a client took note of the postings, and wondered whether I was criticizing the client in veiled terms. I wasn’t. Another client accused me of violating the attorney-client privilege by writing in general terms about an issue common enough in cases of the sort the client brought. I didn’t.
Fighting off their complaints was time-consuming, but easy enough to accomplish.
The complaints that I could not so easily fend off came from a source I never expected: my family. I was informed that my recent rightward tilt in politics was embarrassing. I was urged to consider avoiding some topics.
The imperatives of my overweening ego ran smack dab into the need to keep peace at home. Should I submit to a little bit of domestic censorship to keep peace on the homestead?
Lawyers talk about balancing competing interests all the time. How to balance my family’s concerns against my overweening ego’s need to stir things up?
In the end, it was no choice at all: I pulled the plug on Facebook and Twitter.
I suppose I’ll miss the ease of cheap and easy digital warfare. But I’ll hear less about my many failings at home. I suspect that means I’ll sleep better, too, even if my “electronic footprint” shrinks by a size or two.