Lawyers on the Web

     You can learn from science fiction.
     Fellow nerds out there already know this – or at least believe this – and I have a concrete example for you today.
     The Los Angeles Times the other day ran a story about a local lawyer who wrote an article critical of something called Confederate History Month and then got hit with personal attacks on the Internet by people who had learned all sorts of things about her on that same Internet.
     The Internet waters are dangerous. There are sharks out there.
     Nerd that I am, the first thing that popped into my mind was Ender’s Game.
     This is a novel by Orson Scott Card that I’m not going to tell you much about because it’s really wonderful and I don’t want to give away the surprises. But one of the best parts about it is the interesting use of a futuristic form of the Internet.
     A couple of the characters create fictional identities to debate public policy. They mold politics by, essentially, arguing with themselves and it works, in part, because no one knows who these people are.
     It’s kind of hard to launch a personal attack against someone who doesn’t exist. You’re stuck dealing with the actual issues.
     So using a secret identity on the Internet is a good way to get those controversial opinions out while avoiding the personal attack problem.
     In fact, I’d like to now propose a constitutional amendment requiring that all candidates for president, vice-president, and Congress be completely anonymous so that all we have to go on in voting is what they have to say. Think how much more pleasant campaign season would be.
     (OK, I know the problem with that is that we won’t know if the candidates are doing the actual writing, but is that really so different from what we get now? Maybe the actual writers will run for office if they don’t have to look good.)
     But I digress. What I really wanted to talk about is all that personal information – everything from court records to really embarrassing party pictures – on the Internet.
     First off, shouldn’t bar associations be banning lawyers from the Internet?
     Think about it. If a lawyer makes any kind of claim about being wonderful or winning cases, ethics police go nuts. But you don’t have to tout yourself in an ad any more. Just get yourself noticed somehow on the Internet and then let all those people using search engines go crazy finding all those nice things you’ve happened to say about yourself on MySpace and Facebook.
     Stuff you’ve gotten your fictitious friends to say about you will turn up in those searches. So will those sponsored law journal supplements that look like best lawyer surveys but really aren’t.
     Bar associations need to ban all that stuff.
     And what should lawyers do?
     Write bland opinion pieces after saying nice things about themselves on MySpace and Facebook and get fictitious friends to do the same.
     All that Internet personal intrusion can work for you.
     OVERHEARD IN A COURT CLERK’S OFFICE: “If it’s a same sex marriage, is it the same paper?”
     The person on the other side of the counter didn’t seem fazed by this, but I thought it was a fascinating question. After all, same-sex marriages (at least today) aren’t legal in California, so are same-sex divorces?
     Should divorce laws apply to same-sex couples if marriage laws don’t?
     If you’re against gay marriage, shouldn’t you be in favor of gay divorce?
     If you’re for gay marriage, shouldn’t you be against gay divorce?
     I see fascinating litigation in the future.

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