Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

Drake University Law School professor Melissa Weresh is on a mission to get law students and young attorneys to think twice before they hit send on an e-mail, post a photo to their Facebook pages or update their Twitter accounts. New technology has made communication faster than ever before, but also has led to a widening gap in the way younger and older generations communicate and differing opinions on what is professional and appropriate. “The way [law students and young attorneys] are accustomed to communicating is just so different,” Weresh said. “Everything is immediately available, and they’ve almost been exclusively communicating through electronic mediums in ways that older generations may see as inappropriate.” Weresh has been holding seminars at Drake and across the country to get young attorneys and would-be attorneys to be more deliberate in their electronic communications and to think about the ethical problems that can arise from new technology. The National Law Journal spoke with Weresh about the mistakes she sees young attorneys making and how those pitfalls can be avoided. Her answers have been edited for length. Q: What is the most prevalent mistake you see law students making when it comes to electronic communications and social networking? A: It’s really the degree of informality with which they are used to communicating. During orientation, we have a session on social networking and we make sure they understand that law firms will go to their social networking sites. And they will be communicating with faculty members via e-mail. They’re so used to text messaging that they will send e-mails with acronyms that older faculty might not be familiar with. We do get, from time to time, e-mails from students where they don’t capitalize. They need to recognize that when they enter law school, they’re entering a professional environment. I think that comes as a surprise to them. There is no longer that clear divide between your personal and your professional environment anymore. Q: That seems like common sense. Law students don’t already know this? A: For some students this is common sense, but I don’t think they are accustomed to thinking deliberately about a form of communication. If the lion’s share of electronic communication has been with their peers, it’s a new skill that they are engaging in. For instance, when you [instant message], you usually don’t sign your name. I’ll get e-mails from students where they don’t sign their name at the bottom and I have no idea who it came from. We’ve had group after group of great students, but they’ll do something that makes you realize they’ve never thought about these things before. Q: How do you get students to rethink the way they communicate electronically? A: I usually do some research on what people are doing in the wide world and how they run into trouble … . The Florida Bar recently announced that for applicants sitting for the bar who have been flagged, they are going to proactively search their social networking sites. That gets students thinking about how their private life is no longer private. Q: Do you think your students generally get the message? A: Our students and younger lawyers around the country are pretty receptive to the message. But they aren’t receptive when the message is communicated in a way that suggests that they simply don’t know what they are doing. … All lot of times when I read stories about these generational differences, it’s demeaning toward the younger people. It’s important that we don’t just criticize them for how they communicate. Q: Is this a bigger issue now than in the past because there are so many new ways to communicate electronically? A: Yes. I think about Twitter, and how there are no jurisdictional lines over Twitter. Could you have a dialogue that rises to an attorney/client relationship? Are there jurisdictional issues there? I don’t know, but as we continue to morph the way we communicate, it takes a while for the law to catch up to the technology. As each new mechanism develops, we really have to keep an eye on how this relates to ethics and how it might change the way we are perceived.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.