Email Scandals

SMU dedman school of law.gifSMU Dedman School of Law in Texas has turned out at least one charmer. We now have evidence that it can produce the not-so-charming type as well. Multiple readers alerted us to this thread on How to Get Kicked Out of Grad School Before You Even Start.

It’s an email conversation between Jonathan Eakman, an SMU Dedman law school student, and the admissions office of the SMU Cox School of Business. Eakman was supposed to start the MBA portion of a JD/MBA joint program this fall. Before starting classes, MBA students must complete three mandatory online tests. These emails track Eakman’s series of excuses for not taking the tests. They include “having too much fun this summer” and “a car wreck, computer problems, stupid family issues and a kidney stone scare.”

He asks the admissions office to “be cool on this” since, in a previous job, he “dodged having to take responsibility for a billion dollar budget, so [he knows] what [he's] doing.” It only gets more hilarious from there.

We contacted Jonathan Eakman by Facebook. After the jump, we give you the email thread as well as the postscript. SMU Cox Business School did not greet Eakman with open arms on the first day of school.

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Ed. note: This post has been updated from the original version. Please see below.

The only thing worse than being tied to your BlackBerry at all hours is missing something important because you were not tied to your BlackBerry the hour you were needed.

Wait, this just in. There is something worse than missing a crucial request because you weren’t checking your BlackBerry. That would be when the partner you are working for emails all of the firm’s associates reminding them to compulsively check their BlackBerries because of your mistake.

Welcome to the world of a Quinn Emanuel associate. The associate apparently didn’t send a fax because he hadn’t been checking emails after business hours. QE partner Bill Urquhart decided to use the incident as a teaching moment for the entire firm….

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Tom O'Brien Thomas O'Brien Paul Hastings.JPGThomas O’Brien is the former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. He recently joined Paul Hastings, which trumpeted his arrival in a press release. Tom O’Brien is a public figure — he used to be the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate — so he’s used to a little public scrutiny.
But O’Brien couldn’t have been prepared for what happened when his girlfriend’s estranged husband took an unauthorized stroll through her email inbox. The husband found emails between O’Brien and his wife, and they didn’t make him happy.
Instead of handling the situation like a rational adult, the husband — we’ll call him “Ken” — decided to bombard the professional networks of both O’Brien and his wife (also an attorney) with the “pillow talk” emails he discovered. Ken attempted to cast the relationship between O’Brien and his (Ken’s) wife as an affair.
This is not the first time such a thing has happened. Back in 2008, the New York Times reported on a husband’s similar vendetta against a successful Wall Street banker, carried out online. Earlier this year, as Above the Law readers may recall, a cuckolded husband emailed sexting messages between his wife and a White & Case attorney to all of the lawyers at White & Case in Miami.
Ken took this aggressive strategy one insane step further, apparently emailing every lawyer he could think of. You may have already received Ken’s emails, especially if you’re in California, from Ken himself or via email forward.
Is spamming an entire professional network the new revenge of the spurned lover? Are lawyers, as members of a profession that is surprisingly small and highly reputation-conscious, especially vulnerable to this tactic? Does this approach actually work?
After the jump, let’s look at the offense and the (over)reaction.

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(And some reflections on reputation in the internet age.)”

NYSBA New York State Bar Association.jpgA couple of days ago, an attorney sent in an email to the New York State Bar Association listserv. Like many people, the attorney was looking for a job. He decided to ask the listserv for some helpful tips:

Subject: [nysba-nonres] (somewhat) new attorney still seeking first FT position
From: [Redacted]
To: [email protected]
Its a difficult time for new lawyers graduating with gigantic student loan debts and a bad economy. I’ve been searching for two years sending out hundreds of resumes and applying for an online jobs every chance I get but it now seems hopeless.
I’m a Fordham Law School graduate and have an internship working at a small bankruptcy/divorce/immigration firm and also have been doing debt collection in state court and attending 341 hearings as a per diem attorney. I also have an interest in criminal law and litigation and therefore took hands on courses in law school: civil litigation drafting, trial advocacy, fundamental lawyering skills, criminal procedure.
I want a full time position but contract work would be helpful also.
If anyone has any suggestion as to where to apply or what to do please advise.

Everybody tells you to network to find a job in this economy. But what if you don’t know anybody? One can understand how the state bar association listserv could seem like a viable option to a recent Fordgam graduate.
Were the employed attorneys helpful to the young Fordham ram? What do you think?

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Stepford Secretary Bingham McCutchen.JPGI’m sure you all remember the Stepford Secretary. She is the secretary that praised lawyers at her firm for their CHARACTER. She was fired, and then she lawyered up.
But the President’s speech on health care last night inspired her. Well, at least it inspired her to email Above the Law:

In his speech tonight the President made reference to the “character of our Country.” I chuckled and said “Watch it, Mr. President, using the word character got me fired.”
Tonight after sitting and watching the President’s address I thought it would be time to give you an update.
I went to [my firm] asking graciously for six months severance (approximately two weeks salary for each of my ten years there). The firm’s decision to terminate me for an attempt (albeit, poor judgment) at giving certain props to colleagues was not persecution enough. They denied my request (shocking) and offered a twisted view of both me and the reasons for my termination. Sadly, there is no hope of taking these well educated, uncouth individuals to Court. I just do not have the bank roll or emotional tolerance for the extended crap they will surely put me through. I know that my original statement came from a place of despair. For now, there is just a file containing numerous accounts of misconduct on the part of the company, and the facade continues.

You lie!
Seriously though, emotional bankroll is something that a lot of people are losing during the recession.
Earlier: Stepford Secretary Responds to Above the Law
Stepford Secretary Lawyers Up
Bingham McCutchen’s ‘Stepford Secretary’ Has Left The Building

Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to [email protected].

pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL -
I will soon leave my biglaw job for greener pastures. My time at the firm has been awful — soul-crushing work, very low morale among associates, distrust of management, and stealth layoffs (luckily I’m not one of those). Recently a lot of those given “forced attrition” have been leaving, and they all say goodbye with falsely upbeat, suck-up emails, full of “I have been grateful for world-class colleagues,” and “I have grown into a well-trained attorney,” and even “I’ll miss my time here.”

I would like nothing better than to send a real, honest email — calling management out for their greed and mismanagement of the firm, stealth layoffs that decimate careers and reputations, and the low morale fostered by bad leadership. Is that career suicide?
Blazing Saddles

Dear Blazing Saddles,
Messages of rage, despair and other unseemly emotions clog the draft sent box of nearly every person’s email account. Most people have the self-restraint to “save as draft” the please die/FYI you were horrible in bed anyway emails. Others have learned from their accidental send mistakes and now draft all break-up and rot in hell emails in MS Word. And still others — the Jerry Maguires among us — press send, and set into motion a parade of horribles.
Let’s say you send a firm-wide email, informing the firm that they’ve robbed you of 5 years of your life and that you’ll see them all in hell. For about 3 seconds, you’ll feel liberated. You sure showed them! Unfortunately, the flipside of liberation is exile. You won’t be seen as a folk hero, carried out on the shoulders of paralegals because even your co-workers who share your FU sentiments will perceive the mere act of sending the email as 100% insane. They’ll immediately forward it on to everyone they know with captions like “HAHA – OMG,” and “Bellevue.” ATL will procure a copy, we’ll do an entire post on it, and then your law career will really be over. The minute you send the email, you’ll be liberated, alright — from your next prospective job, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on and so forth until a thousand years have passed.
You don’t have to be a complete nerd and send one of those ludicrous “I feel privileged to have worked here/I hope our paths will cross again/please keep in touch” eulogy emails. Don’t send anything at all and proceed immediately to a pub where you turn your rage inwards and abuse your body with alcohol and onion rings.
If you do send the email, pls bcc [email protected].
Your friend,
I reprise the role of Elie, who’s on vacation, after the jump.

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Jones Day Logo.jpgJones Day has escaped a lot of the worst side effects of the recession. The firm hasn’t had massive layoffs, it hasn’t cut associate salaries, it hasn’t canceled its summer program. That is something to be proud of.
And Jones Day seems very proud. Above the Law has obtained an internal newsletter from Jones Day that was aimed at its California office. The message was written by partner Joe Sims and it’s slated as a “midterm report” about the firm. Much of the letter is the kind of standard stuff you are used to seeing from slick, firm sponsored content:

The reality is that we are feeling the same reduced demand that is facing all law firms; I think it is clear — and as the results from other firms become visible, it is going to be even more obvious — that we are dealing with those circumstances better than most. So we have our challenges but, ironically, this difficult economic climate is also producing the best opportunity we have ever had in California to really separate ourselves from most of our peer competitors, and to move toward the position we aspire to — being universally recognized as one of the leading firms in California.

But what makes this newsletter extraordinary is that the message gets very specific about just why Jones Day is poised to separate itself from its peer competitors. And the newsletter offers Sims’s analysis of precisely where the firm’s California competitors went wrong.
More details after the jump.

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Winston Strawn LLP logo Above the Law blog.JPGLast summer, Winston & Strawn only had a 90% offer rate for summer associates. Last year, that was worrisome. This year, summers would likely injure baby seals for a 90% offer rate.
Summers are getting nervous, and it appears that a video conference from Winston’s managing partner, Tom Fitzgerald, didn’t help matters. Here is one tipster’s report of the proceedings:

The entire Winston summer class watched a video-conference speech given by Tom Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald explained that we would be notified of offers during Labor Day weekend. We were also told that the demand for legal services has plummeted, and that we were very talented and would do well no matter whatever field or firm we joined. He even talked about some past Winston summers who went on to do great things … Overall Tom seemed to be preparing us for a slaughter come September. He also mentioned at the end of his address that those who did get offers would start January 2011 at the earliest. Needless to say the summers were feeling pretty s****y.

We haven’t been able to confirm that Winston & Strawn will be instituting a mandatory deferral for summers that receive an offer to return full-time.
Of course, it’s not all bad news for the firm. Just last week, Winston hired Thomas Cottingham III and a number of other attorneys from Hunton & Williams. The move should bolster Winston’s Charlotte office — good news for the firm, as well as the city of Charlotte.
But expanding during a recession is always a difficult thing to do. After the jump, take a look at one attorney’s thoughts about how Winston’s expansion in China is going — thoughts apparently intended for the firm’s former and current chairmen, but accidentally disseminated firm-wide.
UPDATE AFTER THE JUMP (1:00 P.M.): One Winston tipster says the “attorney” weighing in on the Chinese expansion is just a spammer.

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Here’s a blast email that went out last night to journalists who regularly receive updates from the U.S. Department of Justice. This particular press release was issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana.
Pay special attention to the subject line.
DOJ press release screwup.jpg
Fifteen minutes later, a corrected version went out. It was identical to the original version, except for a new subject line: “CORRECTED: FEDERAL GRAND JURY RETURNS INDICTMENT ON INTERNET BOMB THREATS.”
If you’d like to read the full press release, notwithstanding its manifest suckiness, we’ve posted it after the jump.

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University of Illinois College of Law logo.JPGThis morning, we mentioned the University of Illinois College of Law admissions scandal. It appears that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich pressured the University of Illinois Chancellor, Richard Herman, and Heidi Hurd, former dean of the University of Illinois College of Law, to admit underqualified students who were politically connected. In exchange for admitting those students, university officials attempted to obtain jobs for graduates of the College of Law.
The Chicago Tribune reports the results of its investigation into the law school:

The documents show for the first time efforts to seek favors — in this case, jobs — for admissions, the most troubling evidence yet of how Illinois’ entrenched system of patronage crept into the state’s most prestigious public university.
They also detail the law school’s system for handling “Special Admits,” students backed by the politically connected, expanding the scope of a scandal prompted by a Chicago Tribune investigation.

The paper has published the incriminating emails (PDF) it has uncovered. Warning, these emails are not safe for naive people who are unaccustomed with the “Chicago style” of getting things done. Here’s an exchange between the Chancellor and the Dean about what jobs would be appropriate in exchange for admitting politically connected students:
Thumbnail image for Illinois Law incriminating emails 1.JPG
I suppose there are worse things than a dean trying to aggressively secure employment for her law graduates can’t pass the bar and can’t think. Of course, you’d hope that the dean would be even more focused on educating students so that they can pass the bar and, you know, think — but why cry over spilled milk?
In fact, some Illinois law graduates we spoke with had a very positive impression of Dean Hurd. Depending, of course, on what you mean by positive.
Some student impressions of the dean, and more emails, after the jump.

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