We’re right in the midst of wrapping up the school year. A fresh crop of law students are going to be graduating from law school with their JDs and ready to take the Bar.
But it’s tough out there for new lawyers. Many went to law school in hopes of becoming worker bees in someone else’s hive, only to find out the hives are all full, and many are going out of business. Despite not having gone to law school with such intentions, new lawyers are forced to strike out on their own. Hang their shingle.
In doing so, many take to the interwebz in order to market and promote themselves and their new practice. They make a nice website in order to present themselves to the world. In the process, a question will likely arise: should they include their graduation date on their website?
People fall into different camps. A few years ago, Sam Glover posed the question on Lawyerist and it generated hundreds of comments. It was in response to a post from Scott Greenfield, Without Dates, You Intentionally Deceive:
And if one wants to fix the problem of opaqueness in the legal profession, the solution isn’t deceit, puffery and omission of material facts, but accuracy and honesty.
The one thing that stands out above all others are lawyers who omit dates from their websites and blogs. This is wrong, and whenever I see “Harvard Law School” without a date, it tells me that this lawyer is concealing a simple, basic fact. Concealment is hardly transparency.
The topic came up again recently after a lawyer made the following statement on Twitter & Facebook:
It’s inexcusable for a lawyer’s website to omit the years of law school graduation and all bar admissions
— Lisa Solomon (@lisasolomon) May 8, 2016
Once again, people came out of the woodwork on either side of the issue. We started chatting about it on the Associate’s Mind Slack too. One lawyer came down with:
Why make the client figure it out using a range of years. Be up front. List all admissions and any failed attempts.
I agree. I’ve always had my graduation date on the website of the firms I’ve been a part of. As soon as I graduated, I took the next available Bar Exam and passed. Transparency is easy for me as I didn’t have any issues with law school or the Bar. But some lawyers have to take the Bar multiple times. This doesn’t make them less of a lawyer. I know people who needed a couple of times to pass the bar and are now great lawyers.
In Slack, another lawyer who passed and was licensed decades ago, but hasn’t practiced law in years, chimed in with:
No one should hire me to do any lawyering for them. You can pay me to fight someone, but that’s about it for representation.
Which is also true. If he jumped back into practice, listing his graduation and admission dates might be deceive potential clients into thinking he had vast amounts of experience.
Is Omitting Your Graduation Date From Your Website Deceptive?
I err on the side of transparency. Lawyers who’ve paid attention to the legal blog world over the past few years likely remember the Rakofsky Fiasco, and all the problems that came with a young lawyer not listing this information and pretending to be more than he actually was online. You don’t want that to happen to you.
Being open and transparent might disway potential clients from contacting you. They might think you’re too young or inexperienced. But if that’s how they’re going to make their decision, they were unlikely to ever choose you anyway. Better to be upfront with exactly who you are and what you’re about.