E Professionalism has become a hot topic over the last few years! Below are tips from area attorneys and PDO on managing email and a professional image via social networking tools. You may also want to review excellent article on this subject, http://pslawnet.org/uploads/E-Professionalism_Guide_NALP_Bulletin_Aug_2010.pdf
Prioritize. Do you need to read every email in your inbox? Are you spending your time reviewing every advertisement, following every thread on the open forum, and watching every YouTube video that your friends send you while failing to review carefully the emails about financial aid, jobs, and meetings? Unsubscribe to email lists you don’t find useful. When you open your email, review the important notices and invitations first, get any events on your calendar, and respond to pressing questions.
Organize. Create folders for important subjects—classes, clubs, jobs, clinics. When you have read them (and provided a response, if needed) file them.
When compose an email, think how it will be perceived by the reader. Is what you are emailing is an appropriate subject for email? Or, does it concern something that should be reserved for a phone call or an in-person meeting? For example, are you emailing someone in response to a voice mail they left you? You might want to try calling first. Or, are you sending highly personal information you wouldn’t want accidentally forwarded under any circumstances? Not the best idea. Are you asking a series of complicated questions (at least a follow up phone call would be appropriate). How is the tone? If you got it, would you perceive it as rude, immature, or inflammatory? Is it well written? If you are writing to a professional contact, please don’t assume that they will be impressed with an email written in all lowercase letters with no punctuation.
Social Networking: Professional Use of Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
Ask yourself what your goal for using social media is/what you want your image to be. Do you want to stay in touch with friends and family? Do you want to network with other students, alumni, and other professionals? Do you want to be known by and accessible to potential employers or clients?
Understand what your current online presence is, and ask whether that presence meshes with your goals. If you haven’t already done so, search your name using google, bing, and/or other search engines. Hiring attorneys (especially younger ones) will often search the names of job candidates. You should know what they can see. Regarding stuff already out there– clean up what you can. This can go beyond simply scrubbing scandalous material to the extent possible. It might also mean increasing your privacy settings on your facebook account, keeping separate social v. professional accounts, or simply updating your LinkedIn presence with your recent accomplishments and a picture more recent than your high school prom photo. Keep in mind you want to appear to be a mature professional and someone with whom others will want to work—not someone who will immediately feel an irrepressible urge to get on their blog or facebook page to complain about every detail of an assigned task, job, client, or supervisor.
Going forward, actively foster a professional image. Some things to remember:
- Once something is “out there,” it can be hard to erase.
- Once your reputation is established in this small legal community–especially as someone who lacks judgment –it can a challenge to overcome, at least for a time. Young alums often know about what you are saying on the open forum and blogs. That stuff gets around.
- Think carefully anytime you are posting images or comments which might cause a possible employer to think you are two-faced, dishonest, lazy, and don’t appreciate the experience you are getting.
- It is ok to be human, have opinions and be interesting—even if you are a future lawyer. Sometimes, however, you don’t need to express every thought that ambles through your head the minute you have it. Judgment, discretion and an ability to use facts rather than hyperbole are excellent qualities in a budding attorney.
- Once you create a presence, make sure you update it with new information. Do not allow things to get stale.
- Always be honest in your representations.
- LinkedIn seems to be the way many folks choose to present their professional self to the world. Create a profile and keep it fresh!