Email Scandals

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Document Review Attorney Was Fired. What Happens Next Will Amaze You.”

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]

Dewey & LeBoeuf: gone but not forgotten.

We recently learned that Justice Antonin Scalia is not a fan of women cursing. What would he make of partners at a leading law firm cursing?

And not just garden-variety cursing, but rather colorful deployment of highly profane language. As Hamilton Nolan of Gawker puts it, “The biggest law firm collapse in history began with ‘f**kwad’ emails.”

Which former Dewey & LeBoeuf partner referred to various former partners as “pathetic,” “little prick,” and “f**kwad”? Let’s take a look at James Stewart’s New Yorker magazine article on what caused Dewey’s demise….

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Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person? I remember sending co-defendant’s counsel a random musing about my office because Microsoft Exchange autocompleted the address to the name partner I was working with rather than the associate sitting down the hall with the same first name. Thankfully, my musing was not damaging or uniquely embarrassing.

The same cannot be said of this lawyer. After a state supreme court heard oral argument on his case, he wrote the lawyers who argued the case and questioned the wisdom of the jurists.

But, of course, he also sent it to the court’s chief justice….

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I think that if they really wanted to do this, [the Technology Oversight Group should have said,] “We’ll buy you guys an iPad. . . . It’s less than my billable rate for one hour.”

– An anonymous associate commenting on King & Spalding’s policy of blocking access to personal email accounts on firm computers, which has now been in effect for several months. The firm ranked 125th out of 134 Biglaw firms in the latest American Lawyer Associate Tech Survey, part of the magazine’s midlevel survey measuring associate satisfaction.

Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

In our last story about Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, we noted the acrimonious nature of the dispute: “The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.”

When we last checked in on the case, Marchuk’s lawyers announced their intent to seek sanctions against the defendants. The basis for that move: the defendants’ counterclaims against Marchuk, alleging that she defamed the defendants by creating or helping to create an anonymous Gmail account that was used to disseminate her lawsuit over email. Marchuk’s lawyers denied that their client emailed her complaint around and said that they would seek sanctions from the defendants for the “frivolous and abusive” counterclaims — which sought a whopping $15 million from Marchuk.

Until now, the stakes have only gotten higher and higher. But today brings word of a possible de-escalation in this hard-fought battle….

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