Director’s Tip—Learn the Skill of Lawyerly Discretion Now

As attorneys, you will have duties of confidentiality to your clients.  As professionals-in-the-making, the skill of being discreet (not publicly ‘oversharing’) goes beyond your direct duties to clients.  It is not too early to practice that skill—whether it is online blogging/ other information, loud discussions in public, or emails you send.  

Those of you who read may have read a story about a group University of Virginia law students who had been on a recruiting trip to New York.  While waiting in LaGuardia for their flight, they began talking very loudly—and unflatteringly—about some of the recruiters with whom they met.  And they named names.  Those names were noted by someone else who clearly overheard the details of the conversation, and who reported it—for the little it may be worth—to abovethelaw.  The incident is discussed in more detail here–

Whatever one thinks of the person who tipped off abovethelaw (Petty? Bored? The Airport Hall Monitor?) the fact is, the students were being incredibly indiscreet.  The persons next to them at the airport could have been anyone—a friend, spouse, or colleague of the persons they were discussing—or just a bored abovethelaw tipster. 

As lawyers, you will be required to keep client confidences.  Just as important, you will want to display good judgment, including discretion, in your dealings—including the information you share in public (including online). 

  • Consider refraining from sharing in public places specific complaints about your work, clinical or interview experiences.  Keep in mind, the legal community in Utah is small, and word often gets around.  If you have a complaint, DO talk to someone who can help you, and of course to trusted friends.  Don’t talk about it in a loud voice in the airport.  
  • Sometimes, even complaining to and gossiping incessantly with friends is not a great idea.  You are all going to be colleagues someday.  Although your friends may love to be with you and hear your funny stories, they may not love to hire the person who complains and gossips all the time.  
  • Same thing goes for interesting cases you are working on—don’t share non-public details and strategy in public. 
  • Pause and think before you complain about anything professional online.  Not saying that it is not warranted, or you should never do it, but remember that once it’s out there, it’s out there.  
  • Remember that when you are on your cell phone, there is not a magic bubble around you to prevent others from listening to everything you are saying.