I Looked at Porn on My Law Firm Computer

Q I am a third year at a mid-size Midwest firm that likes to think of themselves as one of the big boys. We have a decent amount of prestige, and we seem to be weathering the current storm with only a few layoffs. The powers that run the firm are the usual mix of old, conservative, straight-laced white guys, old, socially awkward white guys, and even a few old, womanizing white guys.

So, for about a week or so, when I was working on a late-night document review, I noticed our firm’s firewall was down, leaving the Internet wide open with all of its guilty pleasures. Yes, I did the unthinkable in this economy; I took advantage of the situation and risked my job by looking at porn on a work computer. And not just once. I know. Stupid.

I know that our web history is monitored regularly, but I have no idea if my indiscretion was picked up and reported to the powers that be. No one has said anything to me. Though since then, I think I have had fewer assignments, but that could easily just be my paranoia since I have not yet sought out work.

I figure there are one of four things happening:

  1. It slipped through the cracks and nobody noticed;
  2. It was picked up and reported, but the equity partners are far worse and not about to can me over something that is regularly tolerated;
  3. It was picked up and reported, and they are waiting for the first slip up so they can fire me;
  4. It was picked up, and they are simply laying a record to fire me at review time.

So, what’s your thought?  I realize it was incredibly stupid. But is this a big deal, or should I be getting ready to clean out my desk?

A Unfortunately, I don’t have much to add to your analysis. The four potential outcomes you outlined seem pretty accurate. The real question, however: Why’d you do it in the first place?  If you ask me, you’re quietly hoping to get fired, which is why you starting porn-surfing on the firm’s dime in the first place.

I’m not a prude, trust me. I don’t judge a man (or woman) for indulging in a little Internet delight here and there, but I do judge an associate who checks out the freaky-deaky in the office, especially when said associate KNOWS the firm monitors employees’ Internet activity.  Sounds like self-sabotage to me. Then again, you might just have an irrepressible thirst for porn, a different (but equally troubling) problem.

Look, I understand that working at a law firm is boring, stifling and depressing. I also understand that it’s easy for a man of a certain age to get horny as hell in the middle of some mind-numbing doc review. But it’s stupid. Next time, just run back to your apartment or head over to the local strip club. Because no 48-second slow-streaming sex act is worth ruining your career over.

As for your specific question. I’d wager that the firm didn’t notice your Internet indiscretion and it’s already yesterday’s news. But whatever you do, don’t broach subject with anyone at the firm. Seeking clarity will only make things worse.  Just ask Living the Dream’s Nick Conley.

Good luck!

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

18 Comments

  1. BL1Y

    November 30, 2009 at 7:36 am

    How does he know the firm monitors associates’ web history?  I always figured that associates are online so much, and there’s so many of them, that the firm wouldn’t waste their time monitoring anyone unless they had a specific reason to single someone out.  I don’t know how long it takes to check a single person’s web history, but I think my firm had a ratio of about 40-50 associates for every 1 IT person.  I think most firms’ IT departments are too busy doing other stuff, like convincing older partners that the internet isn’t just a dump truck…it’s a series of tubes.  PS: You can get YouPorn in your iPhone.  PSS: RedTube>YouPorn.

  2. anon

    November 30, 2009 at 8:41 am

    speaking of Nick Conley… are we ever going to get that promised season 2?
    That would be great thanks

  3. JurisDepravis

    November 30, 2009 at 8:48 am

    If someone has not said anything, you are good to go.
    If you wanna talk more about it, e-mail me at jurisdepravis@hotmail.com.

  4. r Smith

    November 30, 2009 at 8:54 am

    You did it because someone you met at Starbucks mentioned his website and you checked it out and being disgusted, decided against pursuing the matter.  You chucked his card.  Subscribe for a year to some internet magazine.  End of story.

  5. JurisDepravis

    November 30, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I like the way you think, r Smith!

  6. Craig

    November 30, 2009 at 9:50 am

    r Smith, I think if you were to repeat that excuse to yourself out loud, you will notice how ridiculous it would sound.  First, this guy should clearly say nothing.  If someone says something to him, just apologize for it if they obviously know it was you.  Going into a whole lie about some guy at Starbucks would be laughable.

  7. JurisDepravis

    November 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

    We are missing the big question here: how did he dispose of the other “evidence?”

  8. BL1Y

    November 30, 2009 at 11:54 am

    (Regarding today’s poll) I’m surprised so many people think a national bar exam is a bad idea.  Yes, states have some differences in laws, but they’re pretty minor; different age of consent, small variations in what counts of a burglary, etc.  If you know the multistate well enough, you can assume the state laws are the same and only miss a few points (and your high multistate score should make up for it).  That’s how I passed in NY.  Taking multiple exams is just a waste of time.  States should treat a national bar like they do the MPRE.  Give everyone the same test, but allow states to set their own minimum score.  This would make the recession a lot easier for some of us who are forced to move to another state but have to wait 6+ months before we’ll be admitted.

  9. JurisDepravis

    November 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Sorry to hear you may be one of those forced to relocate, BL1Y. I agree completely on the farce that is the state-by-state approach to bar exams (like Kansas and Missouri are THAT different!).
    And I agree completely that Red Tube is a much better site as well.

  10. Lady lawyer

    November 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I am sorry but after reading about Thedora with cancer getting fired (Bitter News 11/30) and reading your poor tale of searching for porn, I can’t really feel any concern of your plight.  If you survive, lucky you.  Now zip up your pants and get to work.  Don’t you have a computer at home to play with?

  11. R Smith

    November 30, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    JurisDepravis, I like your name! What a great license plate!  What a great book title!  Craig: I didn’t mean he ought to volunteer it; but if confronted, its a perfectly acceptable, credible and near impossible to disprove excuse, even if it was erotically named. I meet people with nascent businesses (and websites) all the time. They always want you to check out their website.

  12. BL1Y

    November 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    One of my buddies (JAG lieutenant at the time, captain now) was involving in prosecuting a colonel.  The colonel’s computer crashed and he sent it to IT, which discovered some porn he’d downloaded.  Nathan Jessep managed to make an entire plane flight disappear, but this colonel couldn’t work over a couple tech guys?  Deserves to be kicked out.  At my mom’s office (government contractor), there was a meeting where a laptop to be hooked up to a projector, and apparently the last person to use it had forgotten to close the porn they were looking at.  You can fill in the hilarious conclusion yourself.

  13. BL1Y

    November 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Yeah…I see the mistake.  Saints touch down, got distracted.

  14. JMavis

    November 30, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Dude, bad idea. do that web searching at home.

  15. Carl

    December 1, 2009 at 3:28 am

    Normally I would condemn looking at video pornography at work, but if you are working long days and nites at work, and have only very fat and ugly women to look at in the office, there may be an exception carved out for finding some pretty women to look at.  Now I am not sure why there needs to be pornography — there are some wholesome places where you can see women without looking at their boobies, but I think there can be an exception if a red blooded fella has to visit one of these cites.

  16. JurisDepravis

    December 1, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Good point, Carl. A man’s gotta do….
    R Smith, you can be my literary agent and entertainment counsel!
    Saints = Red Tube; Pats = You Porn.
    jurisdepravis@hotmail.com

  17. Guano Dubango

    December 1, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    I do not like the women in porn.  They are too plastic for me. I prefer a woman with a little more meat on their bones.  My Aunt Ooona says for me to get a heavier girl because she will better be able to carry my children, so I will do so.  Right now, I have met a nice woman who is not a lawyer, but who treats me very well. For the time being, I will pursue whether she is interested in visiting my Aunt Ooona in Ghana.  If she is, I may well have to sign off here, I only hope my Aunt Ooona will not scare her off.

  18. cuervolinda

    December 13, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Opinion from someone on the tech side of the firm: You’re being paranoid. If that firm has more than 20 employees, you aren’t the only person looking at porn when the opportunity presents itself. I work in IT/Litigation Support, and we found porn on every machine in the labs, and many of the partners’ as well. Yes, even those uptight, older, straitlaced white guys’ machines.

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