Recently, there has been a lot of coverage, criticism and commentary about an anonymous message board with a sometimes pre-law focus. Leaving aside the very interesting first amendment and privacy issues raised by these types of boards, I thought it might be useful to discuss how an applicant's 'online presence' can affect his or her application.
The recent explosion of MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, as well as blogging and public photo sharing has made a ton of information available about applicants. The 'Googlestalking' of 5 years ago now seems quaint, since we can read poetry, see pictures of weekend exploits, and find out which schools you are really interested in on your blog or MySpace page. I would bet that most admissions officers have, on occasion, looked someone up online after reading their file, so be aware that what you or your friends put on these sites may come back to haunt you. We are also hearing that many legal employers are checking online sites during the employment process to assess candidates' maturity, discretion, and character.
Online message boards are also very popular with applicants, providing access to a community of applicants, law students, lawyers, as well as the randoms that any web community attracts. While most boards require at least a valid email to post comments, others are completely anonymous, allowing anyone to post. As with MySpace and Facebook, I would bet that many, if not all, law school admissions officers have browsed through these boards looking for their school, or applicants. Be careful how you represent yourself on these boards, because even anonymous applicants (and students) reveal themselves inadvertently, or are revealed by others. Message boards can be a wonderful place to meet fellow applicants and exchange information and viewpoints on law schools, but I would also urge you not to substitute internet opinions for actual visits and data.