As a lawyer, should you post political commentary online?
Election season is in full swing; and, for a multitude of different reasons, this year’s election is unlike any other in our nation’s history. When Americans cast their ballots in October and November, they will do so with unprecedented uncertainty, and perhaps without even a clear answer as to when they will know whether President Trump has been reelected or Joe Biden will serve as the nation’s 46th Commander in Chief.
All of this makes it an exciting time to be online.
But, as a lawyer, should you engage in political commentary or political discussions online? As with most questions, the answer is, “It depends.”
5 Factors to Consider Before Discussing Your Political Opinion Online
#1 – Is Your Opinion Informed?
If you decide to post about politics online, you need to make sure that your opinion is adequately informed. While this is important for everybody, it is especially for lawyers. Not only must lawyers do their part to help curb the spread of misinformation, but they must also avoid publicly making inaccurate statements that can harm their professional reputations.
#2 – Do You Have Something to Add to the Discussion?
Social media allows everyone to have a voice. While this is a good thing in many important respects, it also means that there is a lot of noise out there. As a practicing lawyer, before you post, consider whether you have anything to add to the discussion. If you can put in more effort and publish a more cogent and more thought-provoking post, you can solicit more engagement while also positioning yourself as a thought leader.
#3 – Will You Alienate a Portion of Your Peer Group or Client Base?
As a lawyer, talking about politics online can potentially impact your business. If you express your political views online – regardless of what they may be – will you alienate a portion of your peer group or client base? While this is not the only factor that should guide your decision-making, it is certainly a factor that merits consideration.
#4 – Are You Taking the Time to Draft Well-Written Commentary?
Practicing law is a profession; and, as a lawyer, it is important to portray a professional appearance online at all times. Among many other things, this means that you should take the time to carefully draft and proofread any political commentary you post online. If you type a stream-of-consciousness tweet or Facebook post on your phone and publish it without giving it a second thought, there is a very good chance that you will not be representing yourself in the best way possible.
#5 – Does Your Law Firm have a Political Expression Policy?
Finally, before posting anything online, you will want to review your law firm’s political expression policy. If you work for a large law firm, your firm almost certainly has one of these policies, and many smaller and medium-sized firms have implemented political expression policies as well. While your firm obviously cannot infringe on your First Amendment rights, it can place restrictions around what you post and when you post it insofar as anything you might say would have the potential to negatively impact the firm’s finances or reputation.
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