Stop Talking Politics: How to Preserve the Art of Not Being a Douche

Alright, so we have a new President.  He’s not the one I, as a lifelong Democrat, would have chosen, but he exists and no amount of alternative facts are going to change the fact that he’s now sitting in the White House quietly contemplating how to give it a spray-tan that matches his own hue.  I accept this.  I accept this in the same way that I accept the fact cancer is a thing that happens, but I still accept it.  That’s not the purpose of this post today, bitching about the President.  I do that enough late at night in the confines of my house, scaring animals and small children as I howl out my anger in the attic.

This is about you fucktards who just can’t shut the fuck up about politics, and I mean all of you, from the Jill Stein lover in the Prius all the way up to the guy who thinks that Trump is the second coming of Jesus.  All of you have this problem with running off at the mouth over politics and doing it all the fucking time.  In the break room, at the lunch table, waiting outside of court…and, importantly, in front of your fucking clients.

You’re a lawyer, dipshit, not a political analyst.  Cut it the fuck out.

Besides, you’re gonna lose some fucking clients if you don’t.

When I was coming up, it was beat into me severely in a Republican household (yeah, I said I’m a Democrat.  You know how kids who go to Catholic school are either Catholic or atheist?  It’s like that in a Republican house, too) that there were three topics which should never be brought up in polite conversation:  Sex, Religion, and Politics.  All three of those are simply things that are too fucking personal to discuss with a third-party and have it remain a professional conversation.  Yet I’ve heard and seen lawyers broadcasting their political support of one candidate over the other to clients, to the internet, to Facebook, all of these public-facing things that people read and go “Hm, is this the guy I want to represent me?”  And, of course, every time they make this proclamation they start it with “As a lawyer…,” like the bad decision to go to law school somehow gives us the magical ability to correctly identify the leader of the next free world.

Newsflash:  Some attorneys I know are lucky if they can bend over to tie their shoes without shitting their pants.  Bob Crappants, Esq. does not have a more valid political opinion than me simply because he has a bar license, even if I didn’t have one myself.

More than that, though, is the fact that politics are personal.  A person’s politics is generally a pretty good indicator of their core beliefs, and to some extent a sacred thing for that person.  Now, much like you I don’t really give a fuck about offending people on the street or in an actual political conversation.  You voted for a guy who literally said “I have the best words” and you want to argue politics with me in a non-professional setting?  Fuck you, let’s throw down.  I do this shit for a living, and I will definitely introduce you to some words that you never heard bandied about on Fox News.  But would I do the same on my website, or my professional Twitter, or my LinkedIn account, or in my conference room?  Fuck no.  You want to know why?

Well, let’s say you’re a dyed in the wool, washed in the blood, hardcore evangelistic Christian.  I know the odds of one of those reading this blog are slim to none, but we’re playing pretend (while we’re playing pretend, don’t you just love living under the patient and caring guidance of our new President, Sparkles the Unicorn?).  You have a Muslim client.  In the course of the conversation, the client mentions they are Muslim.  Do you:

A) Nod politely and continue with the legal conversation, never acknowledging their religion as it is absolutely not relevant to your representation (unless it is, because discrimination is a thing);

B) Nod politely, say “Oh, that’s interesting.  I’m a [insert religion here]” and then not comment on it ever again because it isn’t relevant to your representation, or;

C) Throw a Bible at your client while extolling the virtues of Christianity, and at the same time “pop quizzing” them on the tenets of Islam while attempting to poke holes in their deeply held religious beliefs.

If you chose A or B, cool.  I personally never choose B because nobody needs to know what religion I subscribe to, or whether it involves a goat mask and naked dancing, but B can be fine.  C?  If you chose C, fuck you, give me your bar license and go stand in the corner in shame.

Nobody chose C, though, because as attorneys we say “that’s the absolute best way to get sued/get a complaint filed/lose the client completely.”  Plus, we know that attacking the fuck out of an individual’s religious beliefs is just not right and not within our role as a legal counselor.

Yet I have literally heard this exchange in a consult:  “You’re a Democrat/Republican?  You know, I’m not, and here’s why…”

NO.  BAD LAWYER.  BAD.  The client doesn’t care about your political leanings, and while you can disagree with theirs that doesn’t give you carte blanche to say it.  Yes, you can disagree with them as much as you want in a public discourse setting, but that’s not the setting you’re in when you’re with a client.  You’re there to be their counselor, and that is a relationship that requires trust.  When you attack a person’s core belief, they tend not to trust you…and more than that, they tend to take their business elsewhere.  There’s a reason one of the very first model rules makes it clear representing a person is not an adoption of their beliefs. 

Then there’s the “Twitter dipshit.”  No lie, recently ran across an attorney on Twitter, who’s going to remain nameless, that is a trial lawyer. The attorney advertises under their own name.  They offer decent legal advice.  Interspersed with this legal advice are things like “LIBTARDS!” and “GOD EMPEROR TRUMP!”  Look, I don’t give a shit if you’re Clarence-fucking-Darrow, if you can’t see how that may not be the best thing to post on a professional account, you’re never getting my fucking business because I sincerely think you have some unresolved anger and impulse control issues.

The fucked up thing is there’s an easy way to defuse the situation even when a client directly asks you what your politics are, or what your opinion on politics is.  It does require self-restraint, and considering the practice is beginning to be crowded with people who scored a 143 on the LSAT and still said “I should be a lawyer!” I doubt the ability of some folks to exercise that impulse control.  The response, though, is as follows:

“I don’t discuss politics.  They don’t have any bearing on this case, and regardless of what my politics are I’m going to do the best I can for you.”

Or, even better:

“I try not to discuss my personal opinions on matters with clients.”

Yeah, those sound formal, and maybe even “brush off” formal, but they’re supposed to because your politics should have absolutely no bearing on your ability to represent a client, and it can be death to the attorney-client relationship to express them.  I know, I know, it’s hard.  We’re trained to believe that every word that comes out of our mouth is spun gold, appropriate for the finest of jewelry.  We’re educated and indoctrinated with the idea that, as attorneys, we are far more qualified to judge a situation than the layman in all of his ignorance.  Naturally we want to run off at the mouth about fucking everything.

Well, we’re not more qualified, we’re capable of being fucking morons, and running off at the mouth gets people in trouble.

I’m not saying that an attorney can’t have a political position, or that we can’t publicly support that position.  We can.  We definitely can.  What I am saying is that when talking to clients, or when trying to bring clients in the door, our political opinions, much like how many times we jerk off in a day and which of the Deep Old Ones we worship, have no place.  There are appropriate conversation topics, and there are inappropriate conversation topics, and sex, religion, and politics are never going to be among the “appropriate” list for the majority of the attorneys out there.

Now, I’d love to stick around and talk, but it appears I have a ritualistic orgy to attend.  There are chicken wings, and if I don’t leave soon Absalom will get them all.

-BB