Mind Your P’s and Q’s: Netiquette for Law Student

Online etiquette is critical for any law student seeking a position with a law firm.  Law firms tend to be very traditional institutions focused on preserving their reputations as community leaders and professionals.  To demonstrate that you are a good fit for their culture, you need to ensure that your online presence comports with the firm’s policies and that you follow the simple rules of online etiquette, or what has now been coined as “netiquette.” 

First, be ethical.  Remember that you are subject to a code of ethics regarding confidentiality.  Before sharing successes online or griping about opposing counsel on a case, make sure that the information is public and is not confidential.  And avoid giving any sort of legal advice online.  Even if a friend emails you a quick question that you elect to answer, make it clear that you are not offering actual legal advice and that you do not have a lawyer-client relationship.  This may be best done by preparing a short statement to follow your signature line so that your friend understands it is something you include on any such correspondence. 

Second, be professional and put your best e-footprint forward.  Use social media for its intended purpose.  For example, if you want to share a funny and tasteful joke, it is more appropriate for Facebook and should not be included on LinkedIn.  Also, consider whether your post has the potential to harm or offend others.  Always be aware that what you email or post can be forwarded to countless other people whom you never intended to receive the information.

Finally, be responsible by exercising good judgment and common sense.  Avoid discussing overtly private issues on a public forum.  NEVER make any negative comments about a firm or judge in a public forum.  Above all, be honest at all times.  Exaggerating your account of a personal event in your life could lead to an integrity issue that affects your professional career, as well.