Rainmaking Recommendation #237: When Is It Too Much Information?

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay.com

This Rainmaking Recommendation is a result of a Facebook posting in which someone I know said it was no one’s business whether or not they were going to receive, or had received, Covid Vaccines.  And while I agreed, it is no one’s business unless you make it their business, I also said that I was so excited to obtain my inoculations that I couldn’t help but post it on Facebook. Which made me think, what constitutes too much information?

Internet marketing, including social media and blogging, is an incredible way to get your name known for your practice area and target market.  When done correctly, social media CAN bring you new clients.  But, there are two things you need to know:

  1. It is not instantaneous.  You will not get new clients just because you posted once on some social media site or wrote one blog or had one article published; and
  2. You have to be you. Authenticity is a buzzword that has been bandied about for many years.  But it’s true because (and say it with me if you have been following me for any length of time) people do business with people they know, like, and trust.

But what does it mean to be authentic?  And when is it too much information (TMI)?

Authenticity was described incredibly well in this article by Lindsay Pollack, a best-selling author, and career and workplace expert.  One of the things she wrote was:

 “. . . authenticity means being true to yourself, but if you want to be professionally employed you have to do it in an appropriate way. And that means heeding the norms and boundaries of professionalism in your particular workplace.”

While clients want their attorneys to be human, they also want their attorneys to be professional – particularly if they are spending upwards of $595 – $1,000+ for senior associates.  You must understand that clients will search you on the internet when hiring you.  But if your clients find the social media posts out there showing you partying like a drunken sailor when you were in college (and don’t think it doesn’t happen), or comments about a particular religion or political party about which they have an opposing belief, you will find yourself losing out on deals and client work. 

For those of you who grew up with social media, you were posting anything about everything.  And some of this may come back to haunt you.  For those of us (myself included) who grew up without social media but have used it since its inception (remember AOL chat rooms? My Space?), we also have to wary of what we posted in the past.  And we all have to worry about what we publish in the future. 

What I teach my Rainmaking Coaching clients to do is:

First, do a “vanity search,” also known as an “ego search.”  This is when you search your name in the various search engines to see what is written by and about you. 

Second, scrub those things off of the internet that would be too embarrassing or revealing.  Please understand that nothing is ever truly gone from the internet, but there are ways of burying the information.

(By the way, there are trustworthy reputation companies out there that can help you with the first two steps.)

Third, start posting things that will not come back to haunt you in the future. 

Fourth, understand that TMI (too much information) is not just about personal matters; you can post too much information about that on which you are working, which could violate a plethora of ethics rules. 

Being authentic means injecting your personality into your posts.  You are not writing a legal brief or even a law journal article.  You are writing for your audience and “speaking” to them in the same manner you would talk to them if they were sitting in front of you.  “Talk” to your internet audience the exact same way. 

A lawyer would never spout a legal citation during a client meeting (“Well, according to Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 (1954). . .”), and you don’t need to do it in your internet posts. You can, however, hyperlink the case to your post if you feel it’s necessary.

As attorneys, we walk a fine line between what we can and cannot say, and what we should and shouldn’t post, on the internet.  These are the few rules that I always follow:

  • Think before you post.  Posting without contemplating the consequences, both good and bad, or posting  in the heat of a moment to something that triggered you, can be detrimental to your career  (And somehow, someway, there is always someone ready to capture a screen shot of that even if you wind up deleting it immediately);  
  • If you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, the American Lawyer publications, or Above the Law, then don’t post it; and
  • If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother’s face, don’t post it. 

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