Saturday, May 3, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

I am not actually asked any questions frequently. But I thought it would be good to have an FAQ post just in case.

Is your real name Isabel?

No. It's a pseudonym chosen in honor of the protagonist of Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, one of my favorite novels. Isabel reminds me of me in a lot of ways. Yes, I realize I don't flatter myself in saying so.

Why the title "To My Parents, Ayn Rand, and God?"

It's an Oxford comma joke. I chose it because:

a)I am something of a grammar junkie. Several of my friends and I have elaborate comma-related in-jokes. No, really.

b)As with many self-identified libertarians, it all began with Ayn Rand.

c)Like many blogs, I expect this one to have quite a tiny readership for a while. Thus, it's as though I am writing for an audience consisting of my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

I came across this blog when doing a Google search about a legal matter. I think I found something that answered my question. Thanks!

Hold your horses there! Yes, I do intend to use this blog as a forum to kick around legal ideas every once in a while; such writing can be a great way to sharpen my analytical skills. That said, laws can change rapidly, and different lawyers' interpretations of cases and statutes can differ. Therefore, please, please do not rely on this blog for legal advice.

If you are looking for legal help, I encourage you to contact the American Bar Association or a state or local bar association. These groups have referral services that can put you in touch with someone who can help you.

Can you help me with my divorce/child custody issue/death penalty appeal?

No. If you attempt to ask me to provide you with legal representation through comments to this blog, I will refuse. You are warned now. I'm probably not competent to help you with your particular issue. Also, this blog is not intended as advertising or solicitation.

Isabel, what are you doing blogging? It's dangerous, highly narcissistic, and unprofessional. You could sabotage your career!

I've laid out certain guidelines for myself regarding what to blog and what not to blog about. Things I will definitely never blog about include my sex life; similarly personal or intimate matters; and client disclosures covered by the attorney-client privilege and/or duty of confidentiality. I also intend to avoid complaining about co-workers, friends, or otherwise writing negatively about specific and identifiable people. Things I will blog about include mini op-eds on political topics, and thoughts on things I'm reading, watching, or listening to.

For what it's worth, I've met many bloggers who work in similar fields and have followed guidelines similar to those above. All seem to have been fine. Nonetheless, I realize that line drawing can be difficult. If you have reservations about the content of a particular post, please feel free to contact me directly about it. I'll be happy to consider deletion or revision. I realize my judgment is far from perfect, and I welcome advice on how to improve it.

I fear that people who criticize bloggers in this fashion overlook the benefits of writing online. As a quotation posted to my Facebook profile reads:

An employer may infer that the absence of an applicant's social networking profile shows 'probity, circumspection, good judgment and discretion,' but it could just as well be evidence of 'technological unsophistication, ignorance, estrangement from the community of one's peers, or an unhealthy absorption with one's own public persona.
-- Ian Byrnside, Note: Six Clicks of Separation: The Legal Ramifications of Employers Using Social Networking Sites to Research Applicants, 10 VAND. J. ENT. & TECH. L. 445 (2008).

Please be clear also that any views expressed here are my personal opinions alone, and are not necessarily those of past or present employers or other groups with which I've been affiliated.

Do you think it's a good idea to let employers know that you're libertarian?

I seriously question the research skills of any employer who can't figure out from my resume that I'm a libertarian. Let's just say that I've been "tagged" for a long time now.

Your writing is atrocious and your reasoning skills are terrible. Has it occurred to you that you're a total idiot? And that stupid people like you should just get off the Internet?

Regarding the first question, on a daily basis. Scratch that, actually: make that on an hourly basis.

I find, however, that sitting in my apartment marinating in my own stupidity isn't making me smarter. Likewise, I fail to see how I can improve my analytical skills by not using them. I've started this project hoping that engagement with other people will help show me where I'm right and wrong. So if I say something unbelievably stupid, please call me out on it.

John Stuart Mill's On Liberty is one of my favorite books. In it, he explains at length the importance of free, open-ended, honest debate in combating error. If done right, blogging can be a good way to create that kind of debate.

While I have a relatively thick skin, I'm more likely to listen to you if your keep your criticisms civil. I don't entirely take kindly to ad hominem insults. Also, be warned that emotional rhetoric doesn't do much to sway me. The more calm and sane you are, the more likely I am to change my mind.