Of all professions walking the face of this earth, none is more concerned about appearance than lawyers. From the first day of law school, when that new leather briefcase carried little more than lunch, impressions counted. The theme carried right through to the design and style of lawyers’ offices, the selection of letterhead and font, the right kind of rolling laptop luggage and cell phone. Most lawyers would rather be caught bare naked and unprepared on Court TV than be found toting the wrong icons of style.
When a lawyer participates in a mailing list, his or her personal appearance, age, office décor, and even c.v. is hidden from view, accessible only to those inclined to follow the link to the lawyer’s firm website. And even that can be styled to deceive, revealing only selected clues about who the lawyer really is.
It’s a simple matter for an incompetent, marginal, unethical and worthless lawyer to create the appearance, over time, of being the progeny of Felix Frankfurter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the anonymous world of law-related mailing lists, fooling a good many. But it’s even easier for an AV-rated, well-respected lawyer to create a poor impression in short order, simply by:
• Posting inappropriate jokes.
• Making sexist, racist, or other offensive comments.
• Engaging in rude behavior.
• Reacting to others’ posts by haranguing, deriding, belittling or attacking others.
• Deploying poor spelling, grammar and punctuation.
• Repeatedly using all capitals or all lower case.
• Persistently promoting him- or herself, either in the content of posts, attaching an annoying signature file, or contacting others, unsolicited, off-list.
The image created by poor posting behavior can endure far longer than something laboriously drafted and printed onto Crane’s Crest, simply because it will reach a larger audience, who may transmit it to others, and it may be archived forever. It’s one matter for an e-mail addressed to one person and written in haste and anger to find its way into hundreds of others’ inboxes, but it’s entirely another, and more serious offence, to intentionally disseminate messages which denigrate the sender’s appearance by posting to a listserve that which would never be sent out over a lawyer’s own letterhead.