By Alison Monahan • September 15, 2012•Writers in Residence, Law School, Pre-Law
I’m not saying this to make you paranoid, but – in law school – anything you say can (and will) be used against you. Particularly if you say it publicly!
This can play out in a number of different ways:
- How will your classmates remember you? What sort of reputation are you building for yourself in law school? Are you the competent, friendly person who stays calm in the face of pressure? Or are you the nitwit who raises your hand in every, single class to talk about your experiences “working on the Hill” (as in, your three month college internship in D.C.)? Yes, it’s nice to contribute your thoughts and experiences from time-to-time (and you should feel empowered to do so), but everything in moderation. And remember one important rule of thumb: When you speak badly about someone, what you say reflects back on you. Think carefully before you spread that vicious bit of gossip.
- What sort of paper trail are you leaving? Most law students participate in some sort of social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your own blog, etc. Please, I beg of you, think twice before you post about any of the following topics: cheating on your exams, using illegal drugs, breaking the law, being so drunk you can’t find your way home, stalking your ex-boy or girlfriend, and so on. If you must do it, at least make an anonymous account! (Not locked, anonymous.) Although even that’s risky, since someone’s probably going to figure out who you are. As with all things, try to use good judgment. You’re joining a profession, and they get to pass judgment on your “moral character” first. Do you really want to explain those ill-considered late night Tweets to the Board of Bar Examiners? I think not.
- What do “the grown ups” think of you? As a law student, you’re going to encounter a number of powerful people. Professors, obviously, who have the power to write, or not write, letters of recommendation. But also lawyers you meet at networking events, judges who come to campus to judge your moot court competition, and so on. You never know when you’re going to run into one of these people again. The person who judged your moot court final might later interview you for a job (it happened to a friend of mine). The professor you were rude to 1L year turns out to be good friends with a judge you want to work for. The legal world is pretty small – tread carefully. When in doubt, be polite!
What if you’ve seen the light, but there are some questionable incidents in your past? If they’re online, start cleaning them up now! You know any potential employer will Google you, so make sure they find something flattering.
If your prior indiscretions were of the offline variety (arrests, expulsions, etc.), be sure you disclose them as required (on your law school and bar applications, for example). Trying to hide the truth is unlikely to end well. When in doubt, consult a lawyer who specializes in helping applicants get admitted in your state. Yes, there are enough aspiring lawyers in questionable situations to keep such attorneys in business!
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Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School and the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox and the Bar Exam Toolbox. Stay tuned for her monthly Ms. JD column about law school and the legal profession. You can find her on Twitter at @GirlsGuideToLS or on Facebook. Say hello!