You Can Rarely Go Wrong With Saying Too Little

If you aren’t sure if you should say something, the advice I received from the Chief of the Violent Crimes Division of the Pittsburgh United States Attorney’s Office was simple: don’t.

This isn’t bad advice in life in general, but in the legal profession in particular, you can never go wrong with saying too little. Unsure if telling your friend or parent an amusing antecdote from work could compromise a case? Don’t do it! Will mentioning a colleague’s peccadillo to a third party in passing reflect poorly on them and you in turn? Don’t do it! Is it devastatingly relevant to something you aren’t even aware of that you ran into so-and-so when they weren’t expected to be in town? You just don’t know, and safe is so much better than sorry/fired, even if it means having to be frustratingly vague about your work life and keep some fantastic seemingly-harmless details to yourself.

If something hilarious happens in open court -and things frequently do- it’s technically of public record, but does it reflect well on your office for you to recount it on the bus, or even worse in the courthouse elevator in earshot of who knows? It does not.¬†Pro-tip: Just don’t speak in courthouse elevators at all ever, odds are far too high that jurors or opposing counsel are crammed in there with you, soon you’ll get used to just pausing conversations for the duration of your lift.¬†

So who can you confide in? With occasional exceptions, your coworkers are probably a safe bet if there aren’t other conflicts of interest involved. Or, can you craft a hypothetical that shares the best part of your story without disclosing¬†any of the incriminating details? Maybe! But if not… well, by now you know what to do.

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