Gossip

Ed. note: Please welcome Jenny M. Brandt, who will be covering celebrities and the law. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

As an attorney, I have noticed how obsessed other attorneys are with boxing in our identities. Either you’re a plaintiff’s attorney or a defense attorney. A prosecutor or a public defender. A Biglaw sell out or a public interest bleeding heart. Everything about you can be learned from which area of law you pursued. To some degree, these stereotypes ring true. I could never be a prosecutor, and there are few I’d like to have a drink with. They are a certain kind of person. But, in many ways, these boxes restrict us from living life free to enjoy all that is out there for consumption.

I view the aversion to celebrity gossip among attorneys as a byproduct of this black and white thinking. What does it say about you if you actually care that a criminal defense attorney allegedly slept with Lamar Odom, a Kardashian husband? Attorneys like to sound smart and believe the same about themselves. Consuming celebrity gossip with the masses means that you are a commoner, lowbrow, lacking in sophistication, or just plain dumb. Right?

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Last week, I wrote about how gossiping at the office can indicate that you’re in dire need of soft skills training or may be a pathetic, passive-aggressive coward. Or, more likely, both. After I submitted the post to ATL, David Lat (aka The Legal Gossipmonger Grandmaster) reminded me that hey, gossip can be positive too! The Grandmaster was absolutely right, of course, as my article had really only focused on the type of gossip where people whine and complain about their coworkers.

I thought, hmm, true — gossiping at work can definitely have a positive impact on you if you’re gaining information that will be useful to you on the job. Like finding out about which IT dude won’t treat you like the complete tech idiot that you are. Thanks to one of the commenters, I decided to dig a little further into what some of the other positive effects of gossip could be. And I was surprised by what I learned….

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So, OMG you seriously haven’t heard that Brittany likes Mark, but Mark likes Claire even though he’s flirting with Brittany? Yeah, Mark — the guy who’s so dumb that the last time he cheated on a test he still failed… I know right, he’s so hot!

High school gossip can cover many aspects of life. Sometimes the chatter is about school and tests. Sometimes it’s about who got invited to the cool parties and got sick on the street later. But most often, it’s about juicy dish. (Kind of like ATL, pimply puberty-style, except… hmm, never mind, it’s just like ATL.)

In-house gossip is thoroughly less satisfying. It’s more about who ticked off whom a couple of years ago, who’s slacking off and getting away with it when the rest of us can’t, and who could vie for the gold if kissing up to senior executives were an Olympic event. The juicy stuff that I used to get wind of once in a while from law firm peers seems rare in an in-house setting. Little did I realize that I was giving up such a quality of life factor when taking this job. People really need to give you a heads up about these things.

Seriously though, kids who gossip in high school are immature. But, well, that’s just about everybody in high school, so it’s all good. (The mature ones are the weirdos — avoid them like the plague, high school kiddies.) Gossiping at work, however, is viewed as less acceptable and is instead indicative of needed soft skills improvement…

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The hot topics in jury misconduct these days are mostly about jurors who over-share or over-research cases on the internet or social media. Everyone is legitimately concerned about what jurors find online about the cases they hear. Sometimes big-time attorneys even get lambasted by judges for allowing certain information to be published in the media — even though jurors have already been instructed not to look at at any press.

But that doesn’t mean old-school water-cooler gossip has disappeared from the list of headaches uncooperative jurors can cause. In Florida this week, a high-profile, extraordinarily slow-moving murder case was delayed yet again after the judge dismissed the entire jury selection pool because of excessive pick a little talk a little cheep cheep cheep

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Thoreau admonished us that we cannot “kill time without injuring eternity.” But what did he know? That proto-hippie pond-fetishist could not have imagined today’s world, where our collective attention spans have shriveled to goldfish levels and so much actual productive white-collar labor can be, to an observer, indistinguishable from simply loitering in front of a computer screen. Unless someone is looking over your shoulder, nobody knows whether you’re on PACER or playing Angry Birds.

We asked you, the ATL readership, where you turn for distraction when you don’t feel like billing or studying. The results of our research poll, after the jump….

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