Thursday, 11 November 2010

Trouble. Again.

Oh dear. No sooner have I cautiously embarked upon my experiment in blawging I seem to have been heading in the direction of trouble. Again.

I had to hurriedly edit one of my earlier posts having inadvertently made reference to a case I was doing that had not completely finished. I say inadvertent - well, the reference was not so obviously, but my not thinking about the possible problems that might cause me was indeed so.

Luckily for me a young and industrious member of my chambers (with nothing better to do, it seems) had gone to the trouble of reading my missive and emailed me to tell me I should remove the offending post. So pleased am I that he took the trouble to do so I have forgiven the tone in which he penned his advice. For example, in what I am sure he thought was a natty and inventive twist on my blog title - THE criminal barrister - he disclosed that although I might not be THE idiot it was perhaps a bit silly to have mentioned an ongoing case, even if not identifiably. And just in case I was THE idiot, this well meaning chap provided an example of the potential risk I was exposing myself to...a female juror, apparently, who had a crush on me could have googled my name having found out how to spell it and come across my blog. Hmm....this young barrister could have potential because this appeal to my vanity was the main reason I took note of what he had to say! Well done you clever chap!

Despite the surprising tone of this message from a chap I have once led in a case (it felt as wrong as being spanked and sent to my room by my son!) I could see straight away that he had a point. Accordingly I have attempted to remove the post, but genuinely being THE idiot when it comes to computer tech, I have only figured out how to edit it as opposed to removing it in its entirety (an endeavour that has exhausted my efforts at discovery). Annoyingly that meant I had to delete the offending passage and then make up something else that fitted into the context of the rest of what I had written - harder than it sounds!

Although my reader's message was mildly humorous in its presumptuousness, it also served two other purposes. In the first place it forewarned me of potential trouble I might be getting into, for which I am genuinely grateful. But it got me thinking on a wider platform about the real problems for lawyers that the internet has brought into being. The internet is a wonderful resource for instantly telling the world about what you are up to. The motivations for doing so are, of course, numerous but our age old predilection to 'talk' about ourselves and our lives have been given a new mass audience through the web. Instead of calling a friend to voice the successes and failures of our daily lives or to spread news of our plans, we can now do the same thing on the internet and more, have our thoughts communicated to thousands in the same time a 'real' conversation communicated them to our single listener. This, in part at least, perhaps explains the meteoric rise in popularity of sites like Twitter - forums for virtual conversations where discussion about any aspect of a person's life is played out in a way that would formerly have been aired in chats with friends and colleagues, in person or over the telephone. The difference is that in saying something on Twitter, a person does not know (and its often difficult to pre - determine) who his listeners are. And therein hides the danger for barristers who use the internet in communicating the thoughts they would previously have voiced in conversations with friends and colleagues at work or at social events. Having received a cyber smack from my young member of chambers for not being alert to all the possibilities publishing something on the internet may have, I conducted a little research of my own just out of curiosity. Enlightened as I now am by THE clever chap who emailed me, I had a look at some of the messages and comments posted by collegues in my profession through sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as in blogs. I have to say that the authors of many of them might have been more circumspect in posting their disclosures had they been more aware that telling friends something on the internet is very different to telling them personally. Friends might laugh about hearing how drunk and inappropriately Mr. Lawyer behaved at his stag do, but the same conversation read on the internet by those not part of the receptive audience the disclosure was directed to may react very differently. Similarly, I have seen on Twitter, comments by lawyers about their cases that although innocuous in themselves, were potential pitfalls of precisely the sort I fell into by publishing the material I have lately removed from one of my postings. The lesson I have learned is that you cannot always tell your friends or colleagues on the internet what you might tell them in the pub. Not without consequence anyway. Happily for me, my mistake only resulted in my having to endure being told I was almost THE idiot. And not BY an idiot because my young reader also said in his message to me that although he could not say for sure that I was THE criminal barrister, he had to concede I was 'a bloody good brief'.

I can't fault his judgement on that.