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Are Derogatory Posts on Anonymous Chat Sites Costing Law Students Jobs?

This recent Washington Post article focuses on a Yale Law School student who believes that false derogatory statements about her personal life posted on a anonymous internet chat site prevented her from getting any offers for summer associate jobs. The article has generated a major blogosphere debate about the dangers of anonymous commentary on the internet (e.g. here, here, and co-conspirator Randy Barnett here).

Most of the commentators appear to assume that the YLS student is right to believe that her failure to get an offer was caused by the chat site posts. I am not so sure. According to the Post:

[The student] graduated Phi Beta Kappa, has published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in her field. So when the Yale law student interviewed with 16 firms for a job this summer, she was concerned that she had only four call-backs. She was stunned when she had zero offers.

Though it is difficult to prove a direct link, the woman thinks she is a victim of a new form of reputation-maligning: online postings with offensive content and personal attacks that can be stored forever and are easily accessible through a Google search.

I sympathize with her dilemma, but I doubt that it was caused by the chat site. How do I know? Because the same thing happened to me! Like this person, when I interviewed for law firm summer associate jobs as a second year student at Yale, I had "graduated Phi Beta Kappa [from my undergrad institution], ha[d] published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in [my] field." And, very similar to her, after interviewing at a dozen big DC firms, I ended up with two call backs and zero offers. Why did this happen? Frantic later investigation showed that the main culprits were precisely some of the credentials listed above. Because of them (particularly the publications), firms feared that I would go into academia and either never take a permanent job with the firm, or leave after just a year or two. A highly paid associate who quickly jumps ship for academia is far less profitable for a firm than one that stays for several years and can eventually bill hours as a senior associate.

Of course, I don't know for sure that what happened to me also happened to the student discussed in the article. But, in addition to the issue of her publications in "top law journals," there are two other reasons to doubt that the chat site comments played a decisive role. First, most people know that anonymous comments on chat sites are often inaccurate, and intelligent employers are unlikely to give them great credence - especially if doing so leads them to pass up a strong job applicant from what is arguably the nation's most elite law school. Second, even if law firm hiring committees did believe the comments, it seems unlikely that very many of them would reject the student's application for that reason. Most big law firms care very little about associates' personal lives outside the office, so long as those associates are racking up the billable hours. Even if one or two firms were deterred from making offers to this student by the internet comments, it is highly unlikely that all sixteen (or even a large percentage of them) were.

This is not to deny the fact that anonymous comments on the internet may cause great offense and hurt feelings, including in this case. But I doubt they play as big a role in the job market as some have suggested.

Viscus (mail) (www):
You are probably right about the anonymous comments.

However, since you are a Yale Law graduate, I am suprised that you think Yale is only "arguably" the most elite law school. =)
3.11.2007 5:57am
Ilya Somin:
since you are a Yale Law graduate, I am suprised that you think Yale is only "arguably" the most elite law school.

I was trying to be polite to our inferior rivals:).
3.11.2007 6:23am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
To be utterly pedantic, "the same thing" didn't actually happen to you, did it? Nobody on the Internet posted comments about your sex life, so who knows?
3.11.2007 6:34am
JoeCurious (mail):
Does that address the underlying question as to whether there should be recourse for those who have been anonymously defamed on the Internet? I think a large part of the article was about how unmoderated sites (unlike the most excellent Conspiracy) have let trolls run amok and drag those "outside" the site into their mud-slinging.

Regardless of whether this particular case cost somebody a job, I'm sure you would find it a bit disturbing if you were alerted to the fact that a Google search for your name returned anonymous posts claiming to have knowledge of your sexual history, false assertions about your LSAT score, threats to violate you sexually, and claims of your STD status.

Maybe that's more than you were looking to bite off with this post, but it seems relevant.
3.11.2007 7:40am
Enoch:
Would potential employers even KNOW that such comments existed? The article claims that AutoAdmit is "widely read" (I've never heard of it, but that doesn't mean much), but do employers really troll the internet for information on potential hires (and as a summer associate, no less)?
3.11.2007 10:14am
Billy Budd:
Also, if the discussions on the website are to be believed, the student was only a 1L. It's a lot harder to get a 1L summer job than it is to get a 2L summer job. I knew lots of people who interviewed with many firms but didn't get a 1L firm job. And the 1L's that did get firm jobs usually didn't get them at "elite" firms. If the person in question really was a 1L, and only applied to elite DC firms, it's not surprising at all that she didn't get anything.
3.11.2007 11:55am
Mark Field (mail):
Jack Balkin also has a post on this topic here.
3.11.2007 11:58am
Billy Budd:
I do still think that what the xoxo'ers did was wrong (and that that site should be moderated). I'm just not so sure that they caused that particular person to not get a job.
3.11.2007 11:58am
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

To be utterly pedantic, "the same thing" didn't actually happen to you, did it? Nobody on the Internet posted comments about your sex life, so who knows?


Well that's easily fixed -- Ilya Somin is a deviated prevert who performs unnatural acts with raw haddock and mayonaise.
3.11.2007 12:01pm
jp2 (mail):
As a partner closely involved with hiring at a mid-sized firm, I think Enoch is on the right track. I don't know what may go on at elite DC firms, but none of the partners here have the time or inclination to google candidates' names. And even if we did, unverifiable internet chatter about a candidate's private life would be given zero weight.
3.11.2007 12:06pm
Chris W:
Billy Budd,
The article quoted two students--a 1L and a 2L. The 2L is the one who didn't get a job.
3.11.2007 12:07pm
Amber (www):
As a 2L at Harvard Law School, my interview/callback/offer ratio was 12/6/1. I also had a publication credit and fancy internships. I attribute my lack of other offers to poor interviewing and the presence of the HLS Target Shooting Club on my resume (I didn't realize how much this last would freak out East Coast lawyers. Growing up in Texas makes guns seem normal and fun.). Stuff happens.

Thanks her attempts to eliminate the message board thread discussing her, the YLS 2L has been widely identified online and at her school. She was better off before the folks at ReputationDefender.com became involved. This seems to be the case for their clients; witness the Ronnie Segev debacle and the Christine Parascandola incident.
3.11.2007 12:24pm
oldprposter (mail):
In 2005, the jobless 2L was described in a post by "Stanfordtroll" as a "dumb bitch" from Stanford with an LSAT of 159. No further derogatory accusations regarding her were posted to autoadmit.com till the current dustup.
3.11.2007 1:02pm
SP:
Obviously I didn't spend enough time wading through those posts, but it seemed most of them were of the "Yeeeeeeeah, she has big [I'll let you insert your favorite expression here]" and "Yeaaaah I'd like to do her." A little creepy, but nothing that as an employer I'd look at and be concerned with. Was there anything more detailed? Because it seems to me that one of the issues is that these were just lurid comments, not actual gossip. And because of that, there's no libel/slander action, I'd assume.
3.11.2007 1:10pm
anonnie (mail):
We're witnessing the birth of a new urban myth: a mix of new social phenomena (myspace; anonymous bulletin boards; googling by hiring committees) resulting in frightening results (defamation; career destruction; emotional devastation), with the meme itself replicating across the internet at astonishing speed and taken as truth by credulous journalists, law students, law school administrators, and parents. (Ilya, Althouse, and some others have asked the right questions.)
3.11.2007 1:17pm
Realist Liberal (mail):
It may not have made a difference in her case but I know that the big San Francisco firms google every candidate. I know that because they told me when I was interviewing. I wonder if anonymous posts wouldn't be given any weight unless there was a two person tie for the last spot. If there was nothing else to separate the two the hiring committee might use that. Over course that is pure speculation. And I want to work at a DA's office anyways so it doesn't really affect me much.
3.11.2007 1:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
Many employers google prospective hires. It's a good policy to do so, since you need to know as much information about a long-term hire as possible, and eliminate anyone who might embarrass the company. Heck, people get googled just for a date! Whether it is fair or not doesn't really matter -- what matters is the fact that it gets done. And many applicants to jobs find out that the sophmoric article that they wrote in college has come back to haunt them.

Having said that, a wise employer should know the difference between what an applicant herself wrote, whether it was on the internet or not, and what was written about her. The first you have control over, the second you don't.

Of course, if the school newspaper had written about her that she threw fire bombs on the college campus, that would hurt her too.

So the bottom line is that the employer, when googling a person, has to give appropriate weight to all these different comments.
3.11.2007 1:41pm
Truth Seeker:
Maybe she's overbearing, obnoxious and arrogant and didn't come across well in the interview but believes she's charming.
3.11.2007 2:50pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
I favor your explanation for the occurrence, Ilya. It's a variation of the "switches jobs too often" condition any employer will have on their list of things to consider.

Back when I was involved in other issues of personnel management (and a smattering of hiring issues), we considered "S" curves for various personnel groupings. These curves represented the amount of investment necessary for staff over time and, in part identified points of company average profitability.

There is a very large investment over a considerable time span for most groupings in my field of engineering. When I did deal with the hiring side of things, potential longevity with the company was definitely considered. Sometimes it was a subject, decidedly opaque, during the interview process.

On the flip side, when we had layoffs during slow periods, and tough choices had to be made, folks who had a tendency during idle chatting to talk about moving on, often got that opportunity over others who talked of moving up the ladder.

But here is another possibility that relates the "S" curve we used. I don't know about the hiring process in your field, but if your experience is accurate regarding an applicant's qualifications, such as this lady's, tending towards a career in academia, then her analysis appears to be amateurish. I expect good analytical skills are important in the legal profession, so, if a) I was involved in the legal hiring field, 2) it was necessary for me to consider hiring her, and c) I had any indication her analytical skills were at that level, then I would being seeing a rather elongated "S" curve and that would be strike against her.

Is there a strike three?
3.11.2007 2:51pm
SP:
I found one of the interesting side arguments to be that the men would have absolutely no issue with an attractive applicant - instead, it would be another woman who would cross such applicants out.
3.11.2007 3:28pm
Cornellian (mail):
I wouldn't be surprised if firms Googled candidates, everyone's doing that these days, but large firm lawyers by and large are not so dumb as to put any credence in anonymous slander.

And I can't imagine that posts describing a female candidate as very attractive (however crudely) would deter male lawyers from hiring her. You'd think that would be neutral at best, or maybe a positive factor. As for whether that works in reverse for a good looking candidate plus female lawyers, that's a tougher call.
3.11.2007 3:33pm
Colin (mail):
Amber, as a fellow HLS alum from Texas, I have a very hard time believing that firms would care one whit about your sport-shooting hobby. It's the sort of interesting passtime that's much more likely to help you by starting an interesting conversation, even if the interviewer doesn't like guns very much.

I thought I read, a couple of years ago, a post by EV suggesting that the AutoAdmit administrator, who was a Penn 1L at the time, would have his participation in some of the uglier pseudo-stalking incidents reported to the Character and Fitness Committee. Does anyone know if that ever happened, or was actually warranted?
3.11.2007 4:08pm
Lindsay Beyerstein (mail) (www):
Thanks for the link.

I'm agnostic about whether any of the three women described in the Washington Post story were discriminated against at work (or at school) because of the vicious sexualized gossip about them at AutoAdmit.

What happened to the women with 0 offers is unusual enough to merit further consideration. Even the WaPo stresses that it's impossible to prove a definitive link.

It's hard to get a sense of the scale of the abuse unless you Google the person's real name and see what's out there. I learned the real names of two of the women mentioned in the WaPo article. A troll showed up on my blog and posted them gratuitously. I deleted it, of course. One of my Yale Law readers confirmed the names of the two women in question in a private email.

If you Google one woman's name the very first hit is a screaming headline:"[Student's Full Name] HAS HUGE FAKE TITS..." the link takes you to the first post in a thread heaping abuse on this woman. It's not just sexual or appearance-based criticism. The first poster claims that this woman is emotionally unstable and "the most hated person at Yale Law." That post is followed by numerous posts, many ostensibly from her classmates, echoing these sentiments and throwing their own accusations.

Most of the first page of Google results are links to one or another AutoAdmit hatefests. This is a very accomplished person who generates a large absolute number of hits about her awards, student activities, and other accomplishments. But you have to pick through a huge volume of character assassination just in the titles of the links in order to find the positive stuff.

I'd be shocked if this level of character assassination didn't eventually affect the woman's academic prospects. It might not be a make or break thing for a job at a law firm, but the cumulative effects of having everyone who Googles your name see "[Your Name] Has Huge Fake Tits" are not going to be good.
3.11.2007 4:14pm
Ilya Somin:
well that's easily fixed -- Ilya Somin is a deviated prevert who performs unnatural acts with raw haddock and mayonaise.

Now, I will probably never get work again...
3.11.2007 4:16pm
Setting the facts straight:
Until you read the thread written about her you really can't see the ridiculousness of the situation.

A person who claimed to know her from Stanford said that she was a stupid bitch (her 159 LSAT score was the criteria for "stupid bitch" that they used) and to watch out for her. The rest of the comments are sheer speculation by people that weren't even at her school and men just commenting on her looks. There is NOTHING in that thread that should be taken seriously by ANY employer. It's not as though people were writing "Oh, I go to law school with this girl and she lies, cheats, and steals" or "This girl had sex with my boyfriend and gave him herpes". It's more along the lines of an elementary school playground name-calling session. Several of the posters stick up for her and even insult those that are giving her a hard time.

So please... before people jump to conclusions on this one READ THE DAMN THREAD.

And just as a side point- if this girl is so willing to blame ONE THREAD on ONE WEBSITE for her failure to land a job (coming out of Yale, no less), I'd be willing to bet that her rancid personality had something to do with her lack of job offers. Just a thought.
3.11.2007 4:23pm
Setting the facts straight:
And to Lindsay Beyerstein; the woman claiming not to get a job is not the same woman that had comments about her breasts posted. The former is the Yale 2L that attended Stanford; the latter is a Yale 1L. They are two different women and these are two very different issues.
3.11.2007 4:26pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
It does seem uncertain whether her lack of offers was due to the online defamation, etc. However I am familiar with a situation that is much more cut and dried. Some of the distinguishing factors:

- Prospective employers have referenced the defamation in question
- Past employers and internship employers mentioned the defamation in question, and even made harassing remarks about it
- Other students mentioned the defamation in question and made harassing and threatening remarks based on the defamation in question
- Professors mentioned the defamation in question and made harassing remarks based on the defamation in question (Other students were amazed at the grade the student received from one of these professors because it was at such odds with the class participation of the student. And participation was a big part of this course's grade.)
- Other students, including student employees of the university computer system, clearly had access to the defamatory material and were propagating it.
- Other students had electronic access to images of the student that required the commission of felonies to generate and obtain that were used in the defamation.
- A bar preparation lecturer and former bar exam grader and bar association official also made references to the defamation.
- Etc, etc, etc....

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think the defamation has effected this person's career.

And note that one technique of smear campaigns like this is to play games with cause and effect. Certain parties will harass someone using defamatory material, lies, threats, etc. and then when the person justifiably responds with outrage and anger the same parties will claim the person is boorish, obnoxious, arrogant, oversensitive, impolite, unstable, dangerous, takes themselves too seriously, is trying to extort money, etc. They will particularly use claims that the person is unstable or dangerous and claim they are afraid of the person if the person is male. (Even though the harassment they initiated clearly shows they aren't afraid of the person.)
3.11.2007 4:29pm
Goober (mail):
Affected her career. (/grammarnazi)

I don't know when Prof. Somin graduated Yale, but as a pretty recent vet of the hiring process (and current beneficiary of the drastic shortage of midlevel associates) I find it really, really shocking that a Yale grad could meet such results. The Cravaths and the Sullivans of the world might have objections to such a credentialed applicant, but it's an almost-open secret that a large number of firms are almost guaranteed offers for top-end law students. Students in the top quarter at Columbia/NYU and maybe top half at Harvard, at least my year, were kind of just waved through so long as they didn't have a crippling personality defect (and even then, odds were that at least one of those firms would miss the clues).

It's of course to be conceded that we can't know for sure what reason this particular student didn't get an offer. But just as a matter of numbers, it's pretty remarkable. The extent to which that gives rise to an inference that this message board might have played a role in the hiring process is pretty slight, but it sure seems suspicious.
3.11.2007 4:59pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
American Psikhushka, that's why one shouldn't respond with outrage and anger but respond in a better way.

I admire the way the folks at Volokh respond to criticism, some of it harsh, with an aplomb that makes such attacks irrelevant and would show themselves to be a valuable addition to any law firm.
3.11.2007 5:01pm
Vovan:

I admire the way the folks at Volokh respond to criticism, some of it harsh, with an aplomb that makes such attacks irrelevant and would show themselves to be a valuable addition to any law firm.


Heh, did you seriously compare the XOXO criticism of the posters to the criticism that the law profs receive here?

I mean c'mon, the shit that flies at XOXO would be deleted here in a milisecond, the IP's would be blocked, and a couple of profs would be dialing numbers to get subpoenas.
3.11.2007 5:06pm
Dave N (mail):
Ilya, you responded to Sean O'Hara's post as follows:



well that's easily fixed -- Ilya Somin is a deviated prevert who performs unnatural acts with raw haddock and mayonaise.


Now, I will probably never get work again...


I wouldn't worry too much about someone who cannot spell "mayonnaise" ruining your reputation.

On a more serious note, I am not sure I would WANT to work for an employer who was relying on anonymous or semi-anonymous web postings in making its hiring decisions.
3.11.2007 5:37pm
Amber (www):
I have a very hard time believing that firms would care one whit about your sport-shooting hobby. It's the sort of interesting passtime that's much more likely to help you by starting an interesting conversation, even if the interviewer doesn't like guns very much.
Colin, nearly every attorney I interviewed with during callbacks started the conversation by remarking on my office in the organization, and their reactions were almost uniformly negative: curiosity tinged with repulsion, usually. The NYC firms were especially obvious in their disgust. Sometimes questions about it consumed the entire interview. It was a distraction and I'm sure made it more difficult to gauge anything else about me as a candidate. But that was a self-proclaimed affiliation on a resume, not a series of anonymous posts on an obviously anarchic message board.
3.11.2007 5:40pm
blackdoggerel (mail):
1. There is just no way that anonymous, unfounded gossip on the internet is taken into account by law firms that only care whether (1) the person will be a good lawyer, and (2) the person will bill enough to make him/her a worthwhile investment, and thus hire, for the firm. No law firm in their right mind would turn down someone who meets criteria (1) and (2) because of random, anonymous information they almost certainly discount to zero importance (if they even look it up).

2. Moreover, I would argue that even if there were some scuttlebutt about someone out there, and interviewers knew it before speaking to the applicant, the situation could very well work to the applicant's advantage if he/she came off as a perfectly normal person during the interview. I add that at many top schools, there's no application process to getting an interview -- you just sign up for them. So anyone can get interviews with a firm, allowing one the opportunity to rebut whatever impressions might have initially been formed.

3. I know some other law students who were the subjects of embarrassing internet phenomena -- in fact, due to their own fault, not even just anonymous chatter. And they did just fine in the job process (very well, in fact), because they handled it professionally by not wallowing in it, explaining themselves, and allowing the interviewer/firm to recognize that this was not something that should affect their potential contributions to the firm. Who knows if that's how this Yale 2L approached the situation, but, like Prof. Somin and others commenting here, I am very skeptical that the anonymous chatter adversely affected her professional opportunities.
3.11.2007 6:17pm
blackdoggerel (mail):
Oh, and I second Amber's remarks that (1) the HLS Target Shooting Club was probably not a great thing to put on a resume, since, unfortunately, many lawyers still maintain the judgmental vestiges of their holier-than-thou law school days; and (2) Fertik is a phenomenal tool.
3.11.2007 6:22pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
Vovon, not only did I not compare them to either criticism in the comments here or elsewhere (and I meant criticism elsewhere), but I didn't even look at the XOXO criticism.

I still hold that my statement is both a valid and solid recommendation apropos American Psikhushka's comment I cited. Do I really need to make comparisons or give examples?
3.11.2007 6:49pm
Captain Credibility:
It's obvious that there was something wrong with this girl- either her personality, interview skills or something else. The internet did NOT cost her a job, and it's just disgusting that this girl would try to find a scapegoat. BH (the girl's initials) was discussed on only one thread on autoadmit, and the only bad thing said about her is that she's "dumb." She is hiding something about why she was rejected.
3.11.2007 7:08pm
JoeCurious (mail):
Nobody has ever confirmed that her LSAT was actually a 159. One anonymous poster put it up and it has been confirmed as gospel since then. How would some random person -- hiding behind a veil of anonymity -- even know her score?

It seems especially unlikely to be true given that only two people in the class at Yale have scores below 160 (based on their publicly-available data).

The fact that others are now citing her LSAT score ON THIS VERY BOARD as gospel truth suggests that there is harm done by the anonymous posting of libelous data.

How could she respond? Post her actual score? The social norms of law school prevent people from sharing GPA and LSAT data. She sould be viewed as self-aggrandizing if she just sent an email to all her classmates informing them of her actual score out of the blue. Posting on AutoAdmit would just fan the flames of troll higher.

The trolls are even trying to smear her on this board, which is a little gross. They have made it their mission to personally destroy someone who dared to enforce her right to not be libelled.
3.11.2007 7:10pm
TheseFactsDontLie (mail):
> the only bad thing said about her is that she's "dumb."

Oh, and getting her LSAT wrong. Because, you know, that's not important or anything.
3.11.2007 7:12pm
Ilya Somin:
I don't know when Prof. Somin graduated Yale, but as a pretty recent vet of the hiring process (and current beneficiary of the drastic shortage of midlevel associates) I find it really, really shocking that a Yale grad could meet such results.

This happened to me in 1998, which was in the middle of the 1990s boom, and a good time for hiring. Despite that, DC firms were generally suspicious of people who seem like they're going to jump ship for academia quickly, and I suspect that the same attitude is prevalent today.
3.11.2007 7:13pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Now, I will probably never get work again...
That's because you're sick and disgusting. Now, if the haddock were cooked, it would be a different story...


I thought I read, a couple of years ago, a post by EV suggesting that the AutoAdmit administrator, who was a Penn 1L at the time, would have his participation in some of the uglier pseudo-stalking incidents reported to the Character and Fitness Committee. Does anyone know if that ever happened, or was actually warranted?
That was the infamous Brian Leiter threatening that. (Although he was coy enough to have couched it in the format of (rhetorical) questions rather than affirmative threats. E.g. "Do you think that will hurt him with Character &Fitness?" -- that sort of thing. That's a paraphrase, not a direct quote.))
3.11.2007 7:20pm
Lindsay Beyerstein (mail) (www):
Setting the facts straight, I didn't say that the two women were the same person. Sorry if I was unclear. The woman who was threatened with camera phone stalking at the school gym is not the woman who got zero offers from 16 interviews.

I said that I have no idea whether any of the women mentioned in the article suffered any discrimination at work or school because of the threads on AutoAdmit. I'm just saying that if you google either of the two names I learned from my troll, you get a barrage of incredibly nasty stuff from AutoAdmit. Hiring partners may not care, but they're not the only possible audience. Clients might be upset. Non-legal academics are notoriously uptight about their potential hires' online paper trails. Maybe law professors are more humane and rational, but who knows?

In an era where everyone googles everyone else, it's hard to imagine that there won't be real-life repercussions. Law students are notoriously paranoid about anything that might reflect badly on them, or reduce their chances of landing that hyper-prestigious job. So, I think most people will understand why the targets of AutoAdmit shaming might be concerned.

I'm trying to correct the possible misapprehension these kinds of threads happened in a remote corner of the web that your average internet searcher will never see. Furthermore, especially since the WaPo article, AutoAdmit appears to have become a forum to plot against the anonymous women who dared to complain to the media.

I've read a lot of threads on AutoAdmit, and there's some really scary stuff on that board. You see comments like "We can't let that bitch have her own blog be the first hit on Google," you see people scheming to create deceptive Wikipedia entries about their targets. One recent thread, a top Google hit, bore the title, "[Real Name] Found Dead in Her Apartment!"

In one particularly horrifying thread a poster claims to have made a spreadsheet of the contact information of all the faculty at YLS and says he's going to email them a letter about the woman's father's alleged criminal history and her dispute with AutoAdmit.
3.11.2007 7:22pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
I know nothing about this incident, and I have NO idea whether these women had an internet presence. However, every college student should be concerned about putting personal material in their Facebook or MySpace pages detailing their drinking binges, sexual excesses or any other sensitive data. The internet is effectively permanent. once facts or lies are out there, they persist.

The two men said that some of the women who complain of being ridiculed on AutoAdmit invite attention by, for example, posting their photographs on other social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace.

3.11.2007 7:30pm
Captain Credibility:
JoeCurious, do you know what libel is?

I ask because you seem to label everything someone says about a person as "libel," which is not accurate. I can say JoeCurious is an idiot with big **** and while it might be dumb and inaccurate, it's not libel.
3.11.2007 7:32pm
Captain Credibility:
TheseFactsDontLie (mail):
> the only bad thing said about her is that she's "dumb."

Oh, and getting her LSAT wrong. Because, you know, that's not important or anything.

Once you get into Yale and get decent grades (which she claimed she had), then no, it's not really relevant. Second, which firms do you think actually follow LSAT-score reports from anonymous internet users, especially when interviewing candidates at schools like Yale. Hint: probably none.
3.11.2007 7:34pm
Goober (mail):
Prof. Somin,

That is surprising, and not consistent with my own experience. Could be that I'm mistaken (could be that DC is a different from New York, too).
3.11.2007 8:10pm
Ilya Somin:
That is surprising, and not consistent with my own experience. Could be that I'm mistaken (could be that DC is a different from New York, too).

DC is indeed different from NYC, in large part because the summer associate classes at major DC firms are a lot smaller, but at least at YLS, just as much in demand by student applicants.
3.11.2007 8:32pm
Ted Frank (www):
A recruiting season or two ago, I was giving advice to a Yale 2L who had a phenomenal resume, but it was a resume that screamed "future academic" and he got only six callbacks and only one job offer.

When I interviewed law students, I was told by the recruiting committees to look out for people who didn't seem interested in working for a law firm, and for people who didn't have an obvious explanation why they wanted to work in the city they were interviewing for. Someone coming from Stanford undergrad and Yale Law and interviewing in an East Coast city where she has no ties with too academic a resume is going to have some strikes against her before anyone googles them.
3.11.2007 8:56pm
Anon 3L:

Colin, nearly every attorney I interviewed with during callbacks started the conversation by remarking on my office in the organization, and their reactions were almost uniformly negative: curiosity tinged with repulsion, usually.


Amber, I, too, am puzzled at the reaction you got. I say this because I also listed target shooting as one of my hobbies on my resume. I never got a single negative reaction from an interviewer, and the rare person who commented on it usually expressed surprise and (positive) curiosity that a girl would be into guns. I interviewed primarily in California and DC, though, not NYC.
3.11.2007 9:19pm
Lindsay Beyerstein (mail) (www):
Drill Sgt, neither of the two women in the WaPo article disclosed anything particularly salacious about themselves online, as far as I can tell. One of the two has a blog, but it is an entirely professional and benign affair.

Jill Fillipovic of Feministe was also harassed on AA, but she wasn't mentioned the WaPo article. Jill didn't get burned for revealing anything more personal about herself than a vacation pic in a bathing suit--the sort of pic people enclose in their Christmas cards in the 21st Century. Hell, I know lawyers and executives who display similar pictures of themselves their offices! Since they're middle-aged men, nobody lectures them about it.

I read most of the AutoAdmit and xo content about the two women mentioned in the article, and very little of it referenced their self-published online content. These women had their pictures stolen off Facebook, or similar sites, but that's about it.

Contrary to what most people over 35 believe, a social networking presence isn't always an excuse to spill your most intimate secrets. When I first started blogging, people would act aghast and ask me why I wanted to blog about my sex life. I'd look at them equally aghast and demand to know why they were making such a ridiculous and degrading assumption. It turned out that as far as these people knew, blogs were all about sex and work gossip. Those were the only blogs they'd ever heard of through the mainstream media.

Now, people realize that there are blogs about every conceivable subject, from constitutional law to childcare to cooking. A year from now, the average person will understand that MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr aren't just big confessional orgies for kids.

These days, having a Facebook presence is an important form of social and professional networking for young people. If you don't have one, you'll miss out.

It's hopelessly anachronistic to say that you shouldn't even post your real name and picture online. If you haven't, your school, your work, your friends, or someone else probably already has.

Most of the people who are tut-tutting about how much young people reveal about themselves online have never even bothered to check what a simple Google search for their own name will reveal.
3.11.2007 9:27pm
anonVCfan:
DustyR writes:

I admire the way the folks at Volokh respond to criticism, some of it harsh, with an aplomb that makes such attacks irrelevant and would show themselves to be a valuable addition to any law firm.

I agree with this. I have a half-formed thought about this, though. People with blogs or who otherwise have an internet presence seem to be more immune to these sorts of attacks than people who don't. I'm not sure why this is, but I find it interesting. Maybe it's because bloggers can respond to criticism that's out there, maybe it's because they have enough Google hits for other sites about them that they don't have to worry that some XO page is the only data point a potential employer has, or maybe it's just because bloggers have voluntarily sacrificed enough of their privacy that they feel less revulsion at the prospect of being "cyber-ogled" by a bunch of anonymous trolls.
3.11.2007 9:45pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Blog posts BY a prospective hire might be considered by an employer. I've never even heard of blog posts ABOUT a prospective hire, by others, being considered.

OTOH, I had a prospective hire (trial court research attorney position) ask me whether my court would post her law &motion memos on the internet as the Court's Tentative Rulings, because the court she was leaving had done that without notifying her that it was doing so. She only learned of its practice when she was no longer greeted with glad cries of joy upon entering local legal watering holes. The civil attorneys did not appreciate the catty comments in her memos - "Joe will never, ever, understand the difference between resulting and constructive trusts", etc.
3.11.2007 11:09pm
SP:
While bloggers can simply respond, or even fight fire with fire, I thought the Feministe poster came off the worst - she was "burned" the least and had relatively few repulsive things said about her (at least compared to the others). And the result was paragraph after paragraph after paragraph about the trauma of it all and how Althouse is some kind of Aunt Tom.
3.12.2007 1:02am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
DustyR-

Without getting too specific, the facts are such that would make anyone respond with anger and outrage. Think death threats and pictures of doing sexual things to someone while they were unconscious. When that happens to the Volokh boys you can sprain your arm patting them on the back.
3.12.2007 4:46am
Jeek:
Many employers google prospective hires. It's a good policy to do so, since you need to know as much information about a long-term hire as possible, and eliminate anyone who might embarrass the company. Heck, people get googled just for a date! Whether it is fair or not doesn't really matter -- what matters is the fact that it gets done. And many applicants to jobs find out that the sophmoric article that they wrote in college has come back to haunt them.

Pah, I can't believe law firms have such low self-esteem and tender sensibilities that they think sophomoric college articles can possibly injure or embarrass them. Will a group of bloodthirsty litigators really leap shrieking onto a chair, skirts held high, at the prospect that a current employee may have posted something dumb on the internet back in college?
3.12.2007 11:17am
JRL:
If it hasn't happened already, I have little doubt that a lack of googling a prospective hire will lead to some sort of employer liability, like negligent hiring.
3.12.2007 2:04pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
You're welcome to your opinion, American Psikhushka. You might be right that it is sufficient to make anyone react that way. Without thinking.

You write "Think death threats and pictures of doing sexual things to someone while they were unconscious." Really. It seems to me those are criminal offenses depending on the circumstances, particularly the latter, as that shows a criminal offense being committed, unless it is a scene acted.

Is it reasonable to assume acting outraged and angered might get you nowhere and it might be better for the student to consult, I don't know, maybe a professor knowledgeable in this field, on how best to respond and to proceed accordingly? It might even help with references if the work was serious. It could also show that one's interest is outside academia if that impression was important.

The WaPo article notes, "The students' tales reflect the pitfalls of popular social-networking sites and highlight how social and technological changes lead to new clashes between free speech and privacy." I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know that all the legal avenues have been trod. Have they? Might new paths be blazed? Might the pursuit of legal means of redress not be thought of as a resume enhancement, if successful, or maybe even that they were attempted in an orderly and thoughtout way that shows the $200,000 one's invested in education to become a lawyer has borne an adequate fruit of reason and action to replace the contemporary fashion of emoting to a WaPo reporter about how terribly this is and, what, that a person so violated should hire a lawyer?

But I'll qualify that last remark. I've had one interaction with a reporter. The resulting report was cast, most decidedly ,IMHO, as running counter to what I expected, so maybe, in this case, my use of "emoting" is inaccurate. These three(?) might have conducted themselves in an impressive and professional manner for law students and the reporter makes it look like they are "outraged and angry" so the story is a better read. If so, I suppose they have been doubly wronged.

Anyway, thanks for your caution for me to not "sprain my arm". It was a nice touch. I haven't heard that in a long while. Attempting to devalue an opponent's arguments with such is a long tradition and I'm glad to see you are one who believes it still has a place. Maybe I should note I've never met any of the Volokh folks and live too far for me to do that, so people can regard it as a metaphor for your belief I might change my mind if one of the Volokh folks were to be in such a situation. To the contrary, I expect anyone one of them would blaze a trail to new law holding value that surpasses the work of any of the storied minds preceding them in annals of legal history. ;-)
3.12.2007 2:49pm
neurodoc:
Ilya Somin, why should you fear never getting work again? Haven't many "deviated preverts" enjoyed successful careers in academia? In what fair-minded American institution of higher learning would a history of unnatural acts with raw haddock and mayonaise be seen as a serious blemish, let alone disqualifying? After all, it isn't like being a Republican.
3.12.2007 9:58pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
DustyR-

You're welcome to your opinion, American Psikhushka. You might be right that it is sufficient to make anyone react that way. Without thinking.

The situation was ongoing and to an extent still is. And the threats directed at the person in question were felonies that tend to cancel out liability for any reactions.

You write "Think death threats and pictures of doing sexual things to someone while they were unconscious." Really. It seems to me those are criminal offenses depending on the circumstances, particularly the latter, as that shows a criminal offense being committed, unless it is a scene acted.

They weren't acted. And they certainly do constitute crimes.

Is it reasonable to assume acting outraged and angered might get you nowhere and it might be better for the student to consult, I don't know, maybe a professor knowledgeable in this field, on how best to respond and to proceed accordingly? It might even help with references if the work was serious. It could also show that one's interest is outside academia if that impression was important.

Evidence has been a big problem. Can't get too specific beyond that. Attorneys have been consulted, but it hasn't gotten very far. The things I mentioned are the tip of the iceberg - the situation gets much weirder.

The comment was meant to be more sarcastic than insulting. I'm glad you weren't too offended by it.
3.13.2007 5:33am