Over the last couple of weeks, a news storm has swept up my local court. As friends, neighbors, and Facebook followers engaged in the debate, I had a decision to make: stay professional or make comments about a judge whom I appear in front of regularly.
Family court, where I practice, doesn’t usually see many cameras or news reports. It would be easy to imagine that the judges who practice there are less concerned about public outcry than their criminal law counterparts. So it was a big deal when Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca’s decision to hold three children in contempt for refusing to visit with their father made national news.
Now, I respect Judge Gorcyca, and was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But many in my social network were quick to second guess her decision. Some of them were lawyers. On list-servs that the judge had access to, fellow attorneys were making armchair-quarterback calls about whether she should have done something different. One even went so far as to call her decision cruel.
The issue raises an important question about professionalism for bloggers: How should you engage with controversial issues? If you disagree with a court ruling, what is the appropriate response?
By all means, engage in the controversy. One great way to grow traffic on your blog is by responding to the trends of the moment and tying them into what you do.
That doesn’t mean you just have to report the facts, either. You are allowed to disagree, even vehemently, with other commentators and with decisions made by public officials. This is the very root of democracy – the ability to use Free Speech to voice controversial opinions.
But don’t let your disagreement turn ugly, or irrational. If you find yourself ranting about a recent news article without adding anything constructive, step away. Don’t show that face to the public eye.
Remember, you are a professional. All of your online writing – from whitepapers to tweets – reflect on your ability to do your job. Whenever you engage a controversial issue, do so with respect for the other side. Acknowledge how others may have reached a different conclusion. And be prepared to explain why their opinion is wrong – not by attacking the speaker’s character, but through reasoned argument.
By being able and willing to engage controversial issues in a well-reasoned and respectful way, you will show your readers that you are up to date and passionate about what you do. You will also show them the level of professionalism they can expect when they hire you – even if it involves something difficult or controversial.
Taking on controversial topics can help your blog, but it can also destroy your professional reputation. If you decide to enter the fray, make sure you do so with respect and courtesy. That way you will come out looking like the expert, and not an irrational complainer.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist. She helps attorneys and small businesses grow their online presence by providing high-quality web content. If you need help getting started on your professional blog, contact Legal Linguist today to sign up for Lisa’s one-on-one blog coaching classes.