“Shut The Fuck Up”: Lawyers Behaving Badly

Holy fuck, so how about that Parrot thing?  That was wild.  Why do you think that got so popular?  Righteous indignation?  Maybe some joy in correcting the record?  It’s possible, but I got another theory.

People really like it when lawyers fuck up.

First, let me say this about Parrotghazi: I heard nothing from Mr. Adler.  I’m assuming he’s keeping his head down and waiting for shit to blow over.  Either that or he was too busy talking to the BBC about the matter to respond to the accusations being made online.  Probably a smart idea, because yesterday, by the time he could have said something, the Internet had made up it’s mind on him.  I’ll admit, by the end of the evening I was with it, too.  I think I could make a coherent argument that he stole the tweet and didn’t actually have a parrot case based off the circumstantial evidence collected.  So let’s assume, for the purposes of this post only, he did steal the tweet and lie about the case.  That guy is absolutely a piece of shit, right?

Well…no.  See, I got to look through his tweets yesterday, so I saw a bit more than a few posts.  He’s got two kids, did you know that?  He even teases his eleven year old daughter on social media like any dad should do.  Oh, yeah, he’s also involved in fundraising for the Childrens’ Hospital of Pennsylvania, the same place that more or less saved my son’s life a couple years back.  Looks like he fundraises for a lot of access to justice stuff, too.  I mean, all around he seems to be a good guy and a good lawyer.

But he fucked up, and that brought a lot of attention on him.  Man, that just sucks, even more so because he probably does have witty sayings of his own.  He just didn’t use them, and he became a villian as a result.

People like watching lawyers fuck up.

Don’t believe me?  Cool.  Here’s a video of a lawyer in Nevada showing up drunk for court:

Alright, so this guy is a lawyer named Joseph Caramagno.  Or rather, was a lawyer named Joseph Caramagno, considering it appears his law license has been inactive since 2006, shortly after this video came out.  Caramagno, shortly after this video, admitted to having substance abuse issues and agreed to having his license made inactive  (Let’s also note that his office staff consisted of, according to that order, “some guy named Craig”). He practiced law for about three years, and sober, by all accounts, he was a decent lawyer.  But he had issues a lot of people face, he fucked up, and it cost him his career.  And then it got posted on YouTube.

This video has been on YouTube in different forms since at least 2009.  The title? “Drunk lawyer – very funny.”  Let’s remember, this is literally a video of a man’s career ending over the course of about forty minutes.  Just that earliest video, which isn’t the one I linked to, has over 1.5 million views.  Pretty much every comment is a joke.

By the way, lawyers with substance abuse problems?  So. Fucking. Common. But yeah, I guess it makes a good bit of entertainment. Because…

…People love watching lawyers fuck up.

Here’s the thing: everyone fucks shit up from time to time.  But lawyers who fuck shit up are in the spotlight for things that other people would just wait out.  There’s even a subreddit specifically for it.  It’s easy to forget that in each lawyer is a human, and it’s easy to forget that humans, by nature, make bad decisions.

This isn’t, by the way, excusing these lawyers, or Mr. Adler.  By the virtue of our profession we’re held to a higher standard than Joe Blow. We are expected to be honest in our dealings and not misrepresent ourselves.  We’re expected to be capable and not impaired.  And we’re to be held accountable when we don’t fulfill these expectations.  We understand that…but fuck, do people have to take such joy in our failing to do so?

Because ultimately, we are responsible for our lack of judgment and good sense.  As Parrotghazi showed, a momentary misstep can change how we’re perceived or what people see when they Google us.  Let me ask you:  are you more or less likely to hire Mr. Adler today than you would have been Monday?  Even if you know he’s competent, you aren’t, are you?  Because now he’s “the lawyer who lied about the parrot thing.”  That’s without even hearing both sides of the story (although Adler is taking the tack of saying the case and the tweet are his).

But hey, there’s a lesson here, too: be careful.  Lawyers, be careful what you put on the Internet, what you say on YouTube, what you tweet or post on Reddit.  Be careful, and be honest, and be diligent.  You’re under a more intense gaze than your neighbor, and it can count.  It can change how people perceive you.  It can end your practice.

Oh, you think I’m being dramatic?  Cool, chucklefuck.  Two letters: C & F.  Remember that?  Character & Fitness, the benchmark we have to pass to get a license to practice that looks specifically at our moral and ethical character, even if you meet every other requirement to practice law.  People have been denied their licenses because of social media.  I personally know of attorneys who have received private reprimands for their online actions.  This shit happens, and it’s almost unique to the legal profession.

And when we fuck it up, as Parrotghazi shows, or even when we just appear to fuck up, it’s going to get released into the wild.  Because, and say it with me:

People like watching lawyers fuck up.

There’s a reason I post these ramblings under a pen name.  It’s because every time I see another attorney make a misstep that gets released into the wild like Parrotghazi was, I think “Jesus, better him than me.”  The fickle gods of the net have passed me by, and like the Jews at Passover, my pen name lets me smear a bit of blood on my door frame for another day.

Alright, that’s all I got today.  Tomorrow I’ll post something interesting and such.  Hell, maybe I will later today.  But I wanted to get this out there first.