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Social Media and the Moral Character Requirement

For most law students, it is no surprise that the moral character and fitness examiners might take a look at their social media. And depending on what's found, it could actually matter significantly.

One prominent example involved a prospective Maryland lawyer who, in addition to having a criminal record, also had made numerous posts on social media that would make one wonder if he wasn't just some rude online teenage troll. However, one prospective lawyer's failure might just be what saves you from failing your moral character exam, if you heed the lesson here.

You're an Adult, Clean It Up

If you have the ability to scrub your past stupidity from the internet, U.S. News thinks you should probably do it. There's nothing wrong, per se, with attending parties, being young, immature, or even a crude jerk (well, maybe there's something a bit wrong with that last one), but lawyers don't need any help looking bad in the eyes of the public, as they already hate us enough. You're trying to enter a profession where you are authorized to serve as a person's legal representative in court, and in this day and age, your image online reflects your moral character. You either control it, or it controls you.

So don't just clean it up for the moral character and fitness board, but do it for the profession as a whole, and not to mention your future earning potential. If you look bad on social media, it could really hurt your career. If unflattering pictures or comments routinely come up when your name is Googled, don't expect clients, or future employers, to take you as seriously as you now take yourself.

Survey Says ...

If you're a current or prospective law student that doesn't think a state bar association, or even an employer, should be looking at an individual's social media to evaluate fitness to practice, you're in the minority. Nearly 80% of recent grads think it's fine for employers to review social media, and over 65% also think it's fine for a state bar to review social media when considering admission. These relaxed attitudes toward social media likely reflect the newest generation of lawyers' comfort with public social engagement online.

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