King's College law student Yi Bin Woh reckons Lord Neuberger's recent warning to judges about the dangers of courting publicity applies to wannabe lawyers, too
I won’t lie: I like blogging. Not blawging in the semi-journalistic sense. I’m referring to personal blogging.
You see, I like the cathartic effect of writing with complete abandon. I prefer to limit critical analysis to ‘official’ work, whereas blogging is escapism. I could attempt to justify narcissistic banter as practice for opinion writing. With freedom of expression as my trump card, I should feel entitled to subject the internet to raving rants and superfluous entries about my daily routine. It’s a liberal world after all, right?
However, Lord Neuberger’s recent speech – in which he warned judges against the dangers of courting publicity – reminded me of why, for a while now, I have chosen to practice blogging abstinence. Put simply: I’m worried that having a blog could work against me, and would potentially repel both chambers and, in the future, clients.
As the Guardian explained, Lord Neuberger emphasised that judges should be free to contribute to public debate but need to be careful not to undermine judicial independence and/or authority. Of particular interest was the implicit criticism he directed towards senior judges appearing on television “discussing who peels the potatoes at home, how they shop at Tesco’s...giving their views on mango and passion fruit crème brulee.”
I am not part of the judiciary (yet), nevertheless I think the following principles are relevant to law students:
1) Watch your words.
2) Don’t court publicity for the sake of it.
Closer to my social strata, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) does not have an explicit restriction against barristers blogging. It appears that as long as I retain enough intelligence to avoid blogging about sensitive issues pertaining to ongoing cases, the BSB won’t come-a-calling. In reality, the lines are blurry. Self-censorship is not one of my natural talents and with the little practice I have, something could go horribly wrong.
More importantly, considering I have a mindset towards blogging that’s entrenched in the age of dial-up internet (read: ‘Dear Diary’-style), Lord Neuberger Principle #2 is worth considering. If I have a public blog whose contents are completely self-serving and do not benefit the reader, I’d have to question my motives. Am I really just blogging to court publicity? After all, I have the option to privatise my blog.
Things would be different if I were wooing a different type of employer (advertising agencies, for example). However, in an industry where confidentiality is key, I’d rather err on the side of caution and not give the impression that I’d readily trade confidence for gossip fodder.
Yi-Bin is a final year Law undergraduate at King’s College London and the managing editor of the King’s Student Law Review. She will be commencing the BPTC this year.