That squarish picture of yourself that you put on web sites like 4Chan is an avatar. Avatars are useful personal and iconic photographs or illustrations that can be distributed across the web, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or through comments you make on I Can Has Cheezburger. It’s often what people associate with your online identity. But increasingly, important big firm lawyers have raised an alarm about avatars gone wild, saying that “the number of businesses that will have employee avatar behavior guidelines and dress codes will grow to 70 percent by the end of 2013.”
Whoa. That’s a concern. No one wants to be in the thirty percent of law firms without an avatar dress code! Worse, an avatar can get you that coveted job, keep you in the know, or get you laid– but only if it follows certain guidelines and wears the right clothing and accessories. Not sure what to do? Here are five key things to remember.
- Review Your Law Firm’s Avatar Code of Conduct and Dress Code. Most responsible law firms have an avatar code of conduct and dress code that provides needed guidance for how attorneys’ avatars should dress, behave, and practice law. Ask your managing partner to sit down with you to review the policy so that you are well-informed and know what your avatar should wear during client meetings, in court, or on casual avatar Fridays. The more information you know up front, the better you can avoid embarrassing situations later. Remember, what’s bad in real life is really not that bad for an avatar. But it sure seems that way.
- Avoid Cartoon-based Avatar Memes. Amy told me to say this, though I still have no idea what meme means, other than it was my grandmother’s name. I think it relates to creating an avatar with Mad Men Yourself or Yearbook Yourself. Some others to avoid are the stop pedophilia cartoon meme (or, conversely, the Pedobear avatar), Fairy Bounce gif, or Habbo Babies.
- Groom Your Avatar Daily. Don’t let you avatar get skanky, which can happen easily if you don’t groom your avatar properly every day. Check your avatar’s hair length, facial hair (both men and women), and armpits. Use appropriate body and hand lotion. If your avatar has teeth (we recommend that they do), consider avatar teeth whitening products to keep them fresh and shiny. Word to the wise, if you don’t check on your avatar regularly, it doesn’t take long for the avatar to gain a mullet, pompadour, or inappropriate tattoos or body piercings.
- Buy Avatar Clothing and Accessories from Reputable Clothiers. Nothing is worse than anavatar’s wardrobe malfunction during a Foursquare update or a federal appellate court appearance. Buy your avatar’s clothing from reputable clothiers, and don’t overdo it with gold chains and bangles. Second Life maintains stores throughout its universe, so check in at one of them for the best professional fashions. While Microsoft is a reputable clothier, its avatar clothing collection, available through the Xbox 360, is generally not acceptable professional dress, except on casual avatar Friday. Reserve most Xbox and Playstation avatars for weekends or for the atypical situation of a gamer client scoping out your commitment to Gears of War.
- Limit the Use of Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol. Nothing can go south faster than an avatar pumped full of methamphetamines and booze and sleeping with anything that moves, including your client. With avatar clubs and speakeasies popping up all over the internet, it’s getting harder to control your avatar’s behavior. Don’t let them become sluts or womanizers. While fun and vicariously exciting, it can take its toll on your online professional reputation. Unless you are a criminal defense attorney, ask yourself this: would granny’s avatar do this?
With careful attention to detail and regular review of your avatar, you can easily comply with most avatar behavior guidelines and dress codes. If you’re still confused, consider abandoning your online presence and renaming your avatar to Alexis Neely or Adrian Dayton. Then let it go nuts.