May 8, 2017

Can Young Lawyers Learn Something From Older Lawyers About Managing Their Professional Reputations Online (and Vice Versa)?

I thought I'd share an article that was published this week in the North Carolina Lawyer magazine that might be of interest to some of you.

Can Young Lawyers Learn Something From Older Lawyers About Managing Their Professional Reputations Online (and Vice Versa)?

by Matt Cordell, NCBA YLD Chair

When I have the opportunity to give advice to law students and young lawyers, one of the things I try to impress upon them is the importance of their reputations, including their “online reputations.” Usually the comment is quickly met with a knowing nod. Everyone seems to know that their reputation is important. However, having witnessed many lawyers of all ages impair their professional reputations online, I have begun to realize that many of us fail to recognize some aspects of maintaining our online reputations, and I have begun to be much more specific in my advice to younger lawyers.

Older lawyers, I have observed, often seem to understand some of the things that younger lawyers may miss, but older lawyers can have their own blind spots in this area. In this short piece, I would like to describe a few observations about lawyers’ online reputations and suggest that young lawyers and older lawyers can learn much from one another regarding this topic. (There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to my generational generalizations.)

For many of us, especially those of us who attended law school in North Carolina, our professional reputations began to develop during law school. I often remind law students that their law school classmates form their initial professional network. Their classmates are likely to become their partners, opposing counsel, judges, and clients. I suggest that they will want to be remembered as the friendly, reliable law student who was always prepared and who shared notes freely with deserving classmates; they will not want to be remembered as the John “Bluto” Blutarsky of their law school class (i.e., John Belushi’s character in the cult classic “Animal House”) or the sharp-elbowed “gunner.”

Some law students and young lawyers seem to be unaware that their social media posts can affect their professional reputations. When the weekend’s party photos are just a click away, the line between one’s professional reputation and one’s personal life can become blurred, or disappear entirely. Too many young lawyers allow themselves to be photographed or videotaped in unflattering circumstances without realizing that it may affect how others perceive them in a professional context (whether consciously or unconsciously). Older lawyers, by contrast, tend to be more perspicacious in their social media activity. Perhaps age brings wisdom in these matters.

I have also observed that young lawyers seem more attuned to their online presence when it comes to ratings and reviews. Young lawyers tend to be conscious of what is being said of them on online rating and review websites, and tend to be more proactive in engaging with these sites. For example, young lawyers tend to be more likely to “claim” their Avvo profiles and ensure that the information presented there is accurate, because Avvo profiles tend to get remarkable priority in search engine results. Older lawyers seem more likely to dismiss sites like Avvo as meaningless (perhaps because Avvo’s ratings system is open to criticism). Older lawyers also seem less likely to recognize how a clunky website or free email account (e.g., that old AOL account) can cause a client or prospective client to lose confidence in them.

The topic of online reputation management seems to be an area that is ripe for intergenerational learning. Older lawyers can share the wisdom that comes from experience and young lawyers can share their technological savvy. I hope this article will spark conversations here and there between older lawyers and their younger counterparts. We all have more to learn from one another, both online and offline.

March 5, 2017

A New Chapter

This photo was taken
for the firm's website
when I joined in 2007

In 2005, I met two exceptional people, Don Eglinton and Leigh Wilkinson, during on-campus interviews at my law school.  I could immediately tell from the way they talked about Ward and Smith and its people that there was something special about the firm.   In the years since, I've experienced firsthand the remarkable culture of this firm and the people who make it so special. I have also had the opportunity to work with some incredibly smart, innovative clients in a number of fields, and I've learned a great deal from many of them.  

My practice has evolved over the past decade, and I have found that I very much enjoy practicing in the areas of privacy law, information security law, and technology law, in particular.  A very attractive opportunity has arisen which will enable me to work on these issues on a global scale.

I will be joining the legal department of VF Corp in Greensboro, N.C. If you are unfamiliar with VF, you are likely familiar with its brands, which include The North Face, Lee, Wrangler, Vans,
Timberland, Nautica, Smartwool, Reef, Eagle Creek, Eastpak, JanSport, Kipling, and others.  VF has more than 50,000 employees globally and about $12 billion in annual revenue.  The legal department, like the rest of the company, spans the globe.  I will be managing a small group within the legal department handling privacy, information security, and information technology contracting. 

Volunteering at a workday at Camp Challenge
(a financial literacy camp for underprivileged kids)
with my Ward and Smith colleagues
just a few months after joining the firm in 2007
Even though I will miss my law partners and clients, I am looking forward to this new challenge and to starting a new phase of my career.  I am also looking forward to spending a little more time with my family.  We will be moving to the Triad area very soon.

I am confident that all of the clients with whom I have worked over the years are in good hands with the other (nearly 100) lawyers at Ward and Smith.

I intend to continue to write about interesting legal developments on my personal blogs: and /  I hope you'll continue to check back in from time to time.