It’s August so that means new law students are arriving, and 2L/3Ls are starting their upper-level classes. (Anyone have anything from this blog on their syllabus? A girl can dream.)

First, welcome, new law students! I wrote a little Q&A last year that may be helpful.

Something I didn’t write about last year was a fairly common phenomenon among my classmates, and I am sure it is common among yours as well—six weeks into law school, people are going to start asking you all kinds of legal questions.

Sometimes, these questions look a lot like what someone with a law license should be answering (because they are):

“Hey, I know you’re not a lawyer yet, but I’m wondering if I should declare bankruptcy.”

“My kid’s mother wants to move to Nevada; do I have any way to stop her?”

During orientation you may have been warned about practicing law without a license—and if not, I am warning you here. I know, it’s really tempting to use those shiny new passwords for Westlaw and Lexis to research the questions and try to provide advice to your friends. The problem here (in addition to the fact you’re not licensed) is that unless you have an extensive background in legal research through a job or paralegal program or other means, you haven’t learned what to do with any of this information.

“Sorry, I’m not a lawyer yet, but my school has a legal clinic/the local bar association has a hotline/my neighbor handles child custody matters” are all valid responses. Practicing law without a license can delay or prevent your bar admission, open you to civil liability, and even potentially result in criminal prosecution.

It’s different, to an extent, when you’re asked for legal commentary, generally. That’s not “law practice” in the traditional sense—anyone is allowed to express their opinions on the rule against perpetuities, or whether it’s appropriate to arrest presidential candidates, or whatever else. But, as I often say, whether something is permissible and whether something is wise can be two different conversations.

When I was a law student, I participated in a local weekly paper’s “Threeview” restaurant column. Sadly the paper is lost to history and has become unfindable on the internet, but the column featured a rotating roster of 20- and 30-somethings, who would go out in groups of threes to review Milwaukee-area restaurants. It was a fun diversion from classes, and I got a few free meals out of it. And hey, as someone who eats food, I felt reasonably qualified to opine as to whether the Reuben rolls at the new bar and grill were up to my standards. (Regretfully, they were cold in the middle.)

What I did not feel qualified to do was opine in the media about legal ethics or really anything else law-related. (That came later, after I’d answered one too many “social media subpoenas” and decided to become the media to opine about legal ethics and other things law-related.)

But some law students choose to comment about legal topics, and there are plenty of avenues to do so—law school blogs and publications, social media generally, even “person on the street” interviews with reporters. And here’s where the “is it wise?” discussion comes in.

Recently, George Washington Law School 3L and frequent Fox News contributor Tahmineh Dehbozorgi went a little bit viral on Law Twitter (Law X?) after appearing on the channel and tweeting (Xeeting?):

“As a law student, seeing attorneys named as co-conspirators and threatened to have their licenses revoked only because they gave legal advice to former President Trump worries me. This is against the very nature of the American justice system I’ve long aspired to be a part of.”

Long-time, and for that matter, one-time readers of this blog know that I strongly disagree with Ms. Dehbozorgi; nobody should be prosecuted or disbarred for “giving legal advice,” even to unpopular clients and causes. But that’s not what’s alleged here; the lawyers were charged with various felonies related to conspiring to illegally change the results of the 2020 presidential election. Lawyers can advise their clients as to the consequences of a proposed course of action (including what might happen if they do break the law), but they cannot counsel a client to engage in criminal or fraudulent conduct. A law license and attorney-client relationship is not a “get out of jail free” card.

Responses to her post were predictable, ranging from gentle instruction about crime-fraud exceptions and staying in one’s lane, to misogynistic insults I will not repeat here, all sprinkled with occasional praise from blue-check subscribers. Some wondered what character and fitness examiners would do with this information if they receive it when she applies for bar membership. (The proper answer is nothing. They should do nothing. But anyway.)

Anyhow, regardless of my disagreement, Ms. Dehbozorgi is an adult who Fox & Friends has decided to platform, and she can say what she wants, regardless of how wrongheaded it is. People shouldn’t pile on with hateful comments (that says more about the commenter than it does about the source material), but at the same time, anyone going on TV and then tweeting about it has to be prepared for blowback.

Law students may not face (and, generally speaking, should not face) educational or admission consequences for being wrong on TV, but that doesn’t mean speaking out will ever be risk-free. The internet is forever. I realize that as a blogger and occasional legal commenter, I’ve also opened myself up to the same sort of blowback, perhaps on a smaller scale. So it goes.

So, again, welcome new and returning law students. If you’re willing, the comments are open. Let me know what you want to hear about.