Home / Professional Development / Reputation / Ethics / Is Omitting Your Graduation Date From Your Website Deceptive?

Is Omitting Your Graduation Date From Your Website Deceptive?

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?

Omitting Your Graduation Date From Your Website Deceptive

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:

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.

That’s transparency.

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.

7 comments

  1. oscar michelen

    Savvy clients who don’t see an admission date will figure out why you are omitting it anyway.If you are recently admitted, you should be going after clients who may want a lower cost, more energetic and creative lawyer. You do yourself no favor going after established businesses or clients who will want experienced counsel as their top priority.

    • Agreed. my thoughts lean that way as well. newly admitted is not always a negative. There are ways to use it to your advantage.

      • Transparency is always the best policy. As a Realtor for over 9 years, I agree that I know much more than a newbie. I am definitely able to benefit my clients with working knowledge. It is only fair to the public that the client knows that I can help in more ways and that my experience will aid in most transactions. As a current law student, these posts help me. It is great to see them and what experienced attorneys think….keep them coming!

        Future lawyer…A. Smith

  2. Keith, very well said! I thought I knew simply where I would fall on this, but once you start thinking about bar passage dates and the like, it’s clear that it’s simply not clear, particularly considering the example of the lawyer “out of practice.” Good food for thought.

    • Yep, at first blush it’s clear cut…but as with most things the more you think about it, the more you come back to the law school stalwart “it depends.”

      That’s why ultimately I vote for total transparency. It doesn’t solve all problems, but it at least gives a baseline to work with.

  3. As with anything in the law, I think it would depend on a whole host of facts. These would include, but not be limited to, the practice area you are engaged in and the awareness of your clients. The traditional rule is whether or not a reasonable person would be mislead by your efforts. I know that clients in areas of practice like Family Law in rural Virginia are far less likely to implicate the rule than if we were talking about high stakes M&A work in the heart of D.C.

    There is no clear cut answer, and I think, as with everything, that “it depends”.

Share This