Saturday, September 12, 2015


The recent spat between a young woman barrister and older male lawyer about his comment on her profile picture has reminded me that the online professional network LinkedIn is a rather humourless place. I can't recall having read one memorably amusing post on the site, although it's possible that I'm just in the wrong sort of networks. Having said this, the people in my Google+ and Facebook communities display no shortage of humour, even it they have very serious points to make.

Doing very little these days, I wonder if contemporary face-to-face business networking is equally po-faced, and if so, I'm glad to be out of it. Modern professional self-marketing, at which some people are undoubtedly very good, reminds me of New Labour, right down to the fake sincerity. You also seem to need a touched-up (or even air-brushed) image for your online profile - particularly if you are a middle aged woman - which I don't have.

I note that Cherie Blair CBE has a profile on LinkedIn in which she also appears as Clerie Booth QC. Amongst her experience is listed that of Downing Street "Spouse" 1997-2007. I wonder what a younger Ms Booth, also a human rights barrister like the young woman mentioned  previously, would have done had a male lawyer commended her profile picture on LinkedIn, or indeed, what she would have done to her husband, also a lawyer, had he complimented an attractive younger woman online.

As a non-lawyer, I tend to regard the profession as something of a "conspiracy against the laity", to quote George Bernard Shaw. In my experience, lawyers tend to take themselves rather too seriously (although I'm sure this is a professional requisite). Indeed, I wonder if at the core of many a legal dispute is a sense of humour failure. It is also not without irony that much of the self-importance that attaches to such disputes is widely regarded as a joke by outside lay observers.

Therefore I'm surprised that many people apparently seem to take LinkedIn and what goes on there so seriously. It also seems to me that young women should worry less about whether men find them too attractive, because they will all too soon find that this ceases to be an issue in life and that the main problem for many older women becomes one of feeling a need to look younger and more attractive. Such is life, and the best way to get through it is not take places like LinkedIn too seriously.

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