American Bar Association / ABA, Email Scandals, listserv, Small Law Firms, Technology

Last Friday’s Lesson In Unwanted Email

Were you part of that email catastrophe this past Friday? It seems that the American Bar Association added the world to one of its email listservs, and the crowd went wild.

No? You weren’t? Here’s what happened.

An email arrived from a 2007 John Marshall Law School graduate (that’s how we’re supposed to refer to lawyers here because when and from where they graduated means everything in the world, right?), via an ABA listserv:

Just as a reminder, the YLD Antitrust Law Committee, the Section’s Joint Conduct Committee and Distribution and Franchising Committee will host a live webinar entitled “Antitrust Fundamentals for Distribution and Franchise Practitioners” this coming Monday, September 9th.

It had one of those typical endings about how to get off the list — email or call the ABA. Or, of course, email the whole list…

So on a casual Friday afternoon while you were still crying about not having a job, crying about how much you hate your job, or like, me, getting ready to arrive in East Lansing Michigan to watch my University of South Florida Bulls take on Michigan State, my thoughts were: I didn’t subscribe to this list, I don’t do distribution and franchise law, I’m not a member of the ABA, I’m not a young lawyer anymore, and I’m probably not going to attend this webinar.

My overriding thought was “yawn, delete.”

I’m one of those odd birds who has more important things to do than let everyone on an email listserv know that I never asked to be on the list and want off, now!

Not you. You got mad. You made your positions known. You made sure everyone knew you were worse off having received the email. This ruined your day. Who would do this to you? Don’t they know about “do not contact” lists, and harassment, and spam, and how easily your educated lawyer head explodes at the “ding” of a new unwanted email?

This was the opportunity to show how calm, cool, and collected we all can be as lawyers, ignoring the irrelevance of an errant email.

Instead, we made clear that it is not judges, or opposing counsel, or clients, or deadlines, or making the monthly nut (Biglaw lawyers can ignore that last one) that warrants our precious time, it’s that random email sent in error.

One fellow wanted to make sure his desire was heard:

UNSUBSCRIBE.

Another seemed like he was getting ready to write a demand letter:

Please remove me from your distribution list. I do not wish any further contact.

A third did one of those famous “oops, hit reply before I said anything” empty responses. I love those.

Yet another lawyer thought this was like a DJ at a bar mitzvah and had a request:

Hi, [Redacted]. I’m interested in a foreclosure prevention CLE.

And then we saw the comedy that is out of office auto-replies. Someone clearly unaware that the date was September 6 had this one:

I am not in the office at this time and will return on Monday July 23 2012 after court.

What time does court end on July 23? Because I need to know WHEN I’M GOING TO GET A RESPONSE TO MY EMAIL.

Oh, this lady is having a baby!

[Redacted] is currently out of the office on maternity leave and will not be back in the office until mid-October 2013.

(Congratulations on the baby!) By the way, you need to call and speak to another lawyer at her firm instead, and the way you do that is by asking the receptionist to transfer your call to his attention.

Seriously, it said that.

This guy wasn’t upset he got the email, but probably got another tongue lashing from his colleague:

For some reason your listserv is directing copies of emails to a different email address at my law firm other than my own. Could you please discontinue sending emails to [WrongGuy@lawfirm.com]. Any emails regarding this membership number should only go to [RightGuy@lawfirm.com].

It looks like NO ONE IS LISTENING to this lawyer:

I have previously asked that you remove me from each and every ABA distribution list of every kind. Thanks.

And this attorney didn’t take too kindly to the whole thing, noting its legal flaws, and saying he wants to be “pleasured” off it, now:

I never asked to be added to your spam marketing email list. Please me off it asap. And it’s ironic that an email spam campaign that addresses legal issues is actually legally flawed and not compliant with the law (in that it doesn’t have an opt-out option).

Maybe the last guy and the demand letter guy are going to be co-counsel on this bad-boy class action.

Hundreds of lawyers got that email last Friday afternoon, and most ignored it, but privately wound up talking about the lawyers who couldn’t — some of the same ones who can never understand the concept of sending a private email when they’re on a listserv. I know, I know, it said you could email the list. I know.

Maybe the social media gurus could put their guru-ness to work on a social media platform that lawyers actually need a lesson about: email.


Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at bt@tannebaumweiss.com.

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