I received an email a while back from a lawyer who was the subject of a post here. I’d called him out for making accusations against another lawyer in a forum comprised of nearly every DUI lawyer in the state. His wasn’t a terribly friendly email, but that was hardly a surprise. What was a surprise was exactly what upset him.
He was mad that I had written something negative about him on the internet. That was his biggest sticking point. He disagreed with what I wrote, obviously, and he thought I had no business writing about him in the first place. Even more important to him than correcting things he believed I had wrong, however, was making sure I understood what he perceived to be the irony of me calling him out on the internet for calling a colleague out in front of a large group of esteemed lawyers. Tarnishing his internet reputation was the worst thing I could’ve done to him.
At first, I thought I might be able to point out the disconnect. I tried to highlight the difference between him attacking a colleague in front of a big group of people whose opinions actually matter and me writing some random post at a blog read almost entirely by strangers and that he’d never heard of before it mentioned him. That didn’t make sense to him at all. I even explained that, when it comes to a lawyer’s reputation, I think the internet has about as value as a random gas station bathroom, and scribbling something critical on a stall isn’t anything like telling the same thing directly to people who actually matter using a forum where they actually pay attention. The idea was incomprehensible to him, it seemed.
It was fascinating to get a glimpse into a set of values so different from my own. It was very clear that his internet reputation was his real reputation to him. The opinions of other lawyers? Worthless. Except to the extent they’re willing to write online endorsements, I suppose. The internet is what matters. The real world has little to do with making it as a lawyer.
Sadly, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from. More and more lawyers rely solely on the internet for business. Their standing in the community is their Avvo score, not the opinions of their peers. One bad review online does more harm than a hundred quietly dissatisfied clients keeping their thoughts to themselves.
Now, I’m left with an interesting little dilemma. A simple “please take down the post” from him and I probably would’ve pulled the post immediately. What he did was absolutely noteworthy, but I have no ill will toward the guy. It’s apparent that I did something that really bothered him, and given the strange state of the profession, maybe it is a bigger deal to damage someone’s Google juice than it is to smear someone in front of all of their peers. It’s also apparent that he’s never going to think he did anything wrong, and I’m not interested in teaching him any lessons anyway. Plus, it was hardly that interesting a post in the first place.
So is there any benefit to leaving up the post?