Email Scandals

Keith Lee

Email sucks.

Actually, let me clarify that. Email is a fast, open platform that has universal adoption and has changed the world. It’s convenient and probably how 99% of the people reading this conduct their client communications. But email client programs suck. Most of them are horribly designed and have morphed into unwieldy, user-interface nightmares, mostly due to the broken way most people use them.

If you’re like the vast majority of people, your inbox is a source of work. It’s also highly likely that you also treat it as a storage/repository of work. You begin to attempt to organize it. You start flagging things, creating folders, and soon you’re using your inbox as a task management system. Which is horribly inefficient, and not at all what your inbox is designed for. Furthermore, you’ve likely got your email client set to fetch and notify you on some ridiculous schedule, like every five minutes. Meaning that it’s quite possible that you never get more than five minutes into a task before being interrupted!

Stop. Just stop it….

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With all of the recent advances in technology, even doing the simplest of things can be quite difficult for law school personnel. How hard is it to send an email to prospective students without cursing in the subject line? Very. How hard is it to send an email without attaching the admissions data for a law school’s entire admitted class? Extremely.

We’ve got yet another email screw-up for you, and we think you’re going to like it. When the good folks at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles aren’t busy telling women not to dress like whores, they’re emailing students with very private personal information about everyone in the graduating class.

Sorry Loyola, but we don’t think “law school transparency” means what you think it means….

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Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture of an egregious typo sent out by the admissions office of the St. Thomas University School of Law (click on the image to enlarge it):

Now that you’ve voted on the finalists, it’s time to announce the winner of our contest….

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On Monday, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture of an egregious typo sent out by the admissions office of the St. Thomas University School of Law (click on the image to enlarge it):

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and vote on the finalists….

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Who doesn’t love a good typo? We certainly do here at Above the Law (which is why we make so many; we’re just trying to amuse you — and to test the proofreading skills of the commenters).

Typos can be quite funny, especially when committed by leading law firms. As long as they don’t hurt your clients by costing them millions, they generally amount to harmless fun.

Everyone knows that typos happen — like a certain other thing. Which brings us to today’s caption contest….

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How many racist emails does it take to brand someone a racist? My personal rule is “one.” If you send one horribly racist email that actually manages to leak out into public discourse, it’s probably not your only one. Seeing a racist email from someone is like seeing a mouse in your apartment: there’s never just one. I believe in temporary insanity, but I don’t believe in sudden onset racism that magically appears once and only once and then disappears forever.

Of course, whenever anybody gets caught in a racist email scandal, they always say that it’s the only one. It’s always “Whoops, that email was racist, but I’m not racist.” The racist email is always allegedly “out of character,” and the person always claims to have shown “poor judgment.” And that person always has some apologists, as if sending one or two racist emails is just something that “happens” in the normal course of business to non-racist people.

That’s what Judge Richard Cebull claimed. In 2012, he was busted sending around a racist email about President Obama. He claimed that he didn’t mean to be “racist” — he just meant to voice his displeasure with the president (as if it wasn’t bad enough for the judge to be taking public opinions about the sitting president).

Some people bought the Cebulls**t. Not me. And Cebull eventually retired. But the investigation into his misconduct continued, and now that investigation has been made public.

Surprise, Richard Cebull sent a ton of racist, sexist, and otherwise inappropriate emails….

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Email. In the last 20 years it has gone from office novelty to a ubiquitous mainstay of our daily lives. I am not complaining about this; the explosion of email is part of what has fed the growth of document review. Everytime you hit send, a new document is created and a contract attorney gets their wings.

And, oh, the fun of email! Of course there are jokes and forwards, all of which are designed to be entertaining, but there are so many other enjoyable aspects of the medium. Such as the firm-wide screed of a recently terminated document review attorney.

So what Biglaw firm was treated to an angry missive from a fired doc reviewer?

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We’ve extensively discussed in these pages the dangers of “reply all.” As you can see by paging through those archives, numerous members of the legal profession — associates, partners, deans of prominent law schools — have embarrassed themselves, often in entertaining fashion, with one little click of a button. They thought they were sending a private email to one individual, but whoops! They actually just hit “reply all.”

It’s great when hilarity ensues upon (mis)use of “reply all,” but it’s more common for it to be just annoying. In our age of overcommunication, people need to think more carefully about whether everyone on the original email needs to receive your reply. Do all the other people invited to the holiday party need to know when you’re arriving and what you’re bringing?

(In fairness, sometimes the sender is to blame. Protip: use “bcc.”)

But sometimes “reply all” can actually be a good thing. No, seriously….

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Except, apparently, one lawyer in Iowa.

Which is worse: to be unethical or to be stupid — really, really stupid?

Who says you have to choose? That’s the lesson of today’s story about a lawyer who fell for a Nigerian inheritance scam, dragged his clients into the mess as well, and just got his law license suspended by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Dear Friend: Please permit me to make your acquaintance in so informal a manner. This is necessitated by my urgent need to reach a dependable and trust wordy partner. We do not know each other, it does not matter.

My tale will not cause discomfort or embarrassment in whatever form, except to a monumentally moronic lawyer — who got cleared on some (but not all) of the ethics charges against him because he genuinely believed that a trunk full of money was going to magically show up on his office doorstep….

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* In November, Supreme Court justices engaged in the “totally unnecessary” practice of releasing 41 pages of nondecision opinions. In all fairness, we can’t really blame them for enjoying hearing themselves speak. [National Law Journal]

* These D.C. Circuit judges of differing political viewpoints “disagreed less than 3 percent of the time” over the course of two decades. Please, keep arguing about the court’s “ideological balance.” You’re accomplishing lots. [New York Times]

* With more tie-ups than ever before and another record broken, 2013 is officially the year of full-blown law firm merger mania. Query how many more we’ll be able to add to the already huge list of 78 by the end of December. [Am Law Daily]

* Speaking of which, Baker Hostetler is merging with Woodcock Washburn, an intellectual property firm with a name that sounds like the aftercare instructions for a painful sex toy injury. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Of course a fired ADA’s scandalous emails landed on BuzzFeed. This is one more embarrassing chapter in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. [New York Times]

* It’s amazing how things can change in a year. In 2012, New York bar pass rates for in-state schools fell. In 2013, they’re up — except for one school, which is way down. Which one? [New York Law Journal]

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