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Should law students blog about work?

VC relayed Ambivalent Imbroglio's concerns regarding blogging about his summer job. This brings up a host of separate issues regarding attorney-client privilege and maintaining employer confidences that our infamous Dutch law grad need not have contemplated even with his misdirected missive.
I guess for now the rule I'll be following when I start my job next week is that if I were a reporter on the criminal beat and I could have learned something in that capacity, then it's bloggable. That's still a little vague, but it seems like a good rule of thumb to follow for now.

It is quite a bit vague, since even professional journalists get called on the carpet for how they obtained information that should not have been publicly disclosed. IMHO, professional blogging is NOT the same as academic or student blogging. The greater the risk of harm (to your career, your clients, and your employer), the greater amount of caution you should use. To satisfy most risk-averse employers, that means no blog, no matter how well worded your posts nor how well-guarded your pseudonym may be.

I have two rules:

  • Don't use pseudonyms. If you have a relatively difficult name (like mine), make it available with your blog name so (a) people don't think you're trying to hide something, and (b) you don't get lulled into a false sense of security (that your random thoughts posted in a public forum could never be attributed back to you).

  • Know why you're blogging. Do you really have a meaningful contribution on the subject or are you blogging to let people know what you've been learning? Are you marketing yourself to future clients and employers or are you just trying to keep in touch with friends and family? If you're blogging your personal diary for the whole world to see, what do you think future clients will expect of your ability to keep their life secrets under wraps?

    [UPDATE] 20050901 Prof Leiter @ UT Law posted this useful message from "a top law school." Thanks to Prof Loren for pointing it out![/UPDATE]

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    Patent lawyer murder-suicide in Houston

    Our local news stations have been busy reporting on an apparent murder-suicide involving two lawyers, one in-house patent attorney, the other a contractor, at Cooper Cameron this morning.

    It's an unfortunate incident that still needs time for a full investigation to uncover all the details, but it does remind me of two issues that may be overlooked during law school: Lawyer's Assistance Programs (LAPs) and the common misperception that contract workers are not contractors by choice.

    Learn about your local LAP
    The State Bar of Texas created the Texas Lawyers' Assistance Program (TLAP)
    to provide for the identification, peer intervention and rehabilitation of any Texas attorney or law student whose professional performance is impaired because of physical or mental illness, including chemical dependency and alcoholism***

    TLAP receives anywhere from 300 to 350 hotline calls each month from impaired attorneys, their family members, friends, partners, office staff, and other attorneys, resulting in about 25 to 35 new cases. Approximately 75 percent of these attorneys suffer from alcohol or other drug abuse, 20 percent suffer from depression and the remaining 5 percent involve a variety of issues from Alzheimers to chronic physical conditions to severe mental illness. Since March of 1989, TLAP has helped over 2,700 Texas lawyers in crisis.

    The ABA has a Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs that also maintains a nationwide directory of local programs.

    Law students and lawyers should become familiar with the programs available through their local LAPs and school counseling services to deal with stress related issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.

    Contract work gets a bad rap
    There is a common misperception, not just in the legal field, but also in IT and other professional consulting areas, that contract workers are not contractors by choice. Most people are convinced a permanent position is the only way to have a decent career and prospects for a lucrative partnership in the future. Contractors are just brought in to do the unglamorous grunt work, get no respect, and live paycheck to paycheck. I suppose some contractors may fall in that trap if they are fiscally undisciplined, but if you know how to manage your time and money, contract assignments may teach you more in a shorter period of time - making you more valuable - than the cushy permanent gig you thought you needed.

    The May 2005 issue of Student Lawyer includes a feature story on "A Working Alternative" by Deborah Schneider
    For law students who graduate without a job lined up, contract lawyering may be a good interim solution. It's also attractive to experienced lawyers who want a flexible work arrangement.

    The article discusses many of the advantages some students and experienced attorneys see in providing contract services. Students have the advantage of learning how different firms operate in different practice areas without making a long-term commitment if the environment isn't quite their style. Experienced attorneys have the benefit of flexible work schedules and, often, the same (or better) income levels compared to equally experienced attorneys paid on salary. These are the same reasons I became an IT contractor in the mid-90's by choice, not by circumstance.

    As a consultant, I firmly believe diverse work experience works to your advantage. Before you dismiss that next contract opening, ask yourself whether you are working to earn or working to learn.

    [UPDATE] This post featured in Blawg Review #5, hosted by the Conglomerate. Take a look at what else they have included from the best of the blawgosphere! [/UPDATE]

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