Jordan Furlong published a good piece today about the importance of fact checking for blogging lawyers, and “…the enormous damage you could do to your reputation by producing inaccurate or insufficiently credited material.”
He says in part:
But you need to be careful about exaggerations: overstating what a case means or what a lawyer said, overemphasizing a warning or a guideline for dramatic effect, that sort of thing. If you get called out by a commenter or another blogger for exaggeration, it will make readers doubt the veracity of everything else you’ve said. The sexy headline or sound bite just isn’t worth the gamble.
This line of reasoning can be extended to the way we practice as well.
Most lawyers are good at putting a spin on the facts to put a client’s position in the best light, or to argue a client’s case. After all, our role as advocate and negotiator is to get the best result possible for our clients. But we always have to keep it in perspective.
One of the things social media has taught us is that taking over the top, overly aggressive or specious positions can quickly result in a total loss of credibility. It is not unusual for recipients of demand letters to post them on the web and ridicule them.
And while the facts – and indeed the law – may not always be clear, we have to be open minded about the other party’s perspective. In the end, even if one does not agree with the other party’s position or version of the facts, trying to understand it can often help facilitate a resolution. If you decide after due consideration that the other party is just plain wrong, unreasonable, or inconsolable, you can at least factor that into your advice. And if you decide it is your own client that fits that description, that helps too.