But it’s complicated.
Cathy McCarthy (above) is a 2013 graduate of Loyola Law School-Los Angeles, and she is sounding the clarion call for the right of bikini model-lawyers to be taken seriously. She wrote…
I graduated law school a year ago after receiving an academic scholarship and passed the California Bar last November on my first try. I am also a model and have had moderate success, building fan base of over 26,000 people where I do mostly bikini promotions. Does this make me better or worse at my job? According to some people, it makes me unable to be taken “seriously” in the business community. In fact, two weeks ago, I was reprimanded by a coworker for my online presence and was told to “handle the situation.”I fought back and was ultimately let off the hook, but this is not the first time that I have faced backlash from colleagues who think that a lawyer should not also get the privilege of “looking hot in a bikini.”
Unlike the case with primary and secondary school teachers, where a published presence on the web that is sexually provocative can interfere with a healthy student-teacher relationship, there is no automatic impediment to a lawyer client relationship posed by the lawyer moonlighting as a bikini model, a fold-out, or even a porn star. The profession acknowledges this in several legal ethics opinions affirming lawyers’ First Amendment rights. Lawyers can express themselves any way they choose, provided that it does not undermine their ability to represent their clients in any way.
The question is, might a lawyer who plasters her comely form in seductive poses around the web undermine her effectiveness in some cases? If McCarthy is doing patent searches or writing appellate briefs, nobody should care how she appears online. But Cathy’s decrying biases, stereotypes, intolerance and cognitive dissonance doesn’t make them go away. Lawyers dress professionally because it bolsters trust among clients, juries, opposing counsel and judges. Lawyers who allow images and activities that many people deem incompatible with their personal concept of a competent, trustworthy lawyer will reap what they sow. I can think of some cases in which I would not want my lawyer making certain arguments to a jury while they were downloading bikini photos of her when court is in recess, and I bet you can too.
I think McCarthy faces some of the same issues faced by Brian Zulberti, who preened in male stripper mode to advertise his legal skills, and published a screed that pronounced the legal profession’s traditional bias for decorum as outmoded and ridiculous. Of him, I wrote in part…
Lawyers indeed present themselves to the public as possessing competence, candor, and professionalism, not to mention honesty, diligence, and good judgment. This is because, above all, lawyers, as professionals, must be trusted, and worthy of such trust. Part of that trust arises from a perceived willingness to accept personal sacrifices in order to fulfill the vital and demanding job of a lawyer in a society that is dependent on the rule of law…It is not a “nonsensical belief” that employers have the right to deem all of their employees as the face of the company, because the public will often also see employees this way, and it makes perfect sense. A law firm that hires law grads who present themselves as immodest, preening clowns will be, quite correctly, regarded as a firm that either has no other options but to do so, which is not a good thing, or one that prefers immodest, preening clowns to professionals who present themselves appropriately, which is worse. Faced with an inconvenient fact of human nature and relationships, the mature and rational individual accepts reality and adjusts his or her conduct accordingly. The individual who refuses to accept reality and instead declares it “nonsensical” is called “deluded.” The individual who dedicates himself to changing what not only isn’t going to change but can’t and shouldn’t is called a fool.
The expectations that one’s private life, which is to say the part of one’s private life that is made public, will be appropriate to one’s employment varies vastly according to the job involved. Lawyers are trained to understand that they are, in fact, lawyers forever and always, and that their conduct reflects on their profession no matter where or how it occurs. Why? Because a lawyer who lies, cheats and betrays those who trust her in the non-professional side of their lives is a likely candidate to do the same to clients and colleagues in the professional aspects of her life. …This is common sense, life, and truth. Mean people make mean lawyers; uncivil people make uncivil lawyers; liars make dishonest lawyers; and stupid people make bad lawyers. Occasionally there may be an exception, but no client, and no law firm should have to bet on one.
And narcissists make untrustworthy, well, everything, including lawyers.
Is McCarthy a narcissist? I don’t know, but some will assume so. If it is so important to her to maintain a dual professional life, then she should do it, but she should also accept the fact that she will pay a price for being different. I respect that choice—I’ve made it myself, and I’ve paid the price too.
What I can’t and won’t respect is deliberately engaging in conduct that always has and always will be viewed by some, or many, as a sign of flakiness, lack of seriousness or absence of commitment, and playing the victim.
Pointer and Source: Above the Law