You know how cars can be equipped with an ignition interlock device that prevents the engine from being started if the driver is intoxicated? Can we get one of those thingies for the personal computer, Blackberry, or any other device people can use to send email? Because I’m pretty sure a Northwestern Law student could have used a little technological warning before she logged on to her email this weekend.
Over the weekend we received an email that was (I can only assume) intended for an officer on the Northwestern Student Bar Association. But it was accidentally sent out to the entire NU law school student body. Whoops.
These are the things that happen when you try to email people at 12:30 on Friday night/Saturday morning….
Hello, loyal readers and tipsters of Above the Law. Here at ATL, which recently celebrated its fourth birthday, things continue to thrive in terms of readership, revenue, and other metrics. As always, we have you to thank — for your thoughts, ideas, and criticisms, as we continue to grow and get better.
One of the keys to the success of the Above the Law community has always been the interaction between the editors and the readers. We want to write about what you want to talk about. The best way for us to do that is for you to tell us what you want to read about — and what you know about. Obviously we can’t write about something if we don’t know about it (and you can’t always rely on someone else to let us know).
Today we’ve set up a new way for our readers to get in touch with us. ATL now has a Google Voice account: 646-820-TIPS (or 646-820-8477). Now, whether you are at home or at work, you can send Above the Law text messages from the privacy of your own phone.
While reports of firms tracking associate communications have been ridiculously exaggerated — honestly, guys, they have better things to do — we understand that lawyers are a risk-averse bunch. And the layoffs, for any reason or no reason at all, have certainly put everyone on edge. Hopefully, the Google Voice account will add just another layer of anonymity between your private thoughts or concerns and the prying eyes of others.
Since we have a lot of new readers these days, let’s go through all the different ways you can contact Above the Law….
Here at Above the Law, we like to provide a service to our readers. Sometimes things happen at a law firm that you just can’t talk about to your colleagues. But you can always tell us.
Last week, we corresponded with a frustrated attorney. Despite the fact that he’s quite senior and has changed firms looking for a better situation, he’s still dealing with the kind of casual disrespect most associates all across the land must suffer:
I sit here today at my new law firm, still disgruntled, I find myself writing a fictitious response to a real email sent to me on Monday by my boss. I actually sent the fictitious email to my brother, for pleasure reading, and not to my boss of course. I thought I would share it with you.
The very real email he received from the partner in question seems innocuous enough:
Please let me know if you are licensed in Kansas. I have some work that needs to be done over there.
It’s a harmless enough request, until you learn a little bit more of the backstory that this associate just wishes he could explain to the partner…
Have you had the privilege of voluntarily leaving your Biglaw job? I have, and let me tell you, the last day is a special kind of awesome. You kind of walk around, taking a survey of things you no longer have to deal with. Many of your friends and colleagues look at you with envy in their eyes. Friends of mine outside of the law have told me that leaving a job is bittersweet; but most associates who have left Biglaw on their own terms describe the sensation as “delicious.”
Now, when I left, I said all the right things, said goodbye to all the appropriate people, and wrote a standard, passionless departure memo. No gloating from me, I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. But looking back on it, I wish I had done something notable. Nothing outrageous: boiling the managing partner’s pet rabbit sounds appropriate but is ultimately unsatisfying. I just wish I had taken advantage of my last day in some mildly humorous way.
An associate who left Akin Gump last week will have no such longstanding regrets. Here’s the “seeking contacts” email that was sent to the entire firm once the associate had both feet out of the door:
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 11:59 AM
To: FW ALL
Subject: Seeking contacts
Pardon the interruption. Please respond to sender only if you can recommend a reasonably priced plaintiffs’ attorney in Costa Rica. A friend of the firm has a handful of potential plaintiffs who believe there is a connection between their testicle cancer and a chemical used to make tea bags. They are looking for an attorney in Costa Rica to advise and represent them in this matter.
You know, the lives of Biglaw attorneys are such that on first blush one might think that this message was intended seriously.
But we spoke with the associate who sent out the message. Thankfully, the message was a product of a last day dare.
From: Mark Sargent
Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2009 3:01 PM
To: Wendy Barron; 2010dist; 2011dist
Cc: William James; Doris Brogan; Felicia Hamilton; Lori Bogish; Jennifer Nguyen; Christine Stango
Subject: RE: Work-Study funds for summer 2009
Wendy, we need to be careful with this kind of mass communication, helpful as it is. As I am sure you saw, this ended up on Above the Law. I did not get nearly as excited about it as Maule, and I know other schools will have the same problem, but readersnaturally (albeit idiotically) put a bas [sic] spin on it for us.
This is what we get for being transparent and helpful! The internet really is a type of hell!
ing we put on email or elsewhere can go viral almost instantly.
Mark A. Sargent
Dean and Professor of Law
Villanova University School of Law
From a second tipster:
I had to forward this. It is the email equivalent of the scene in Billy Madison where Chris Farley gets on the school bus and yells, “NO YELLING ON THE BUS!”
1. Thanks for the shout-out, Dean Sargent! We’re glad to have you as a reader.
2. You’re right — other law schools arehaving the same problem. For example, there’s no more work-study money at Rutgers – Camden (email after the jump).
3. “[R]eaders naturally (albeit idiotically) put a bas [sic] spin on it for us.” Oh, Dean Sargent, don’t read the comments — they will only cause you grief. We’ve helpfully hidden them, so they don’t display by default; you have to affirmatively seek them out.
Finally, this is not the first time Dean Sargent has had problems with that pesky “reply all” button. Remember the saga of Peanut Girl? Back in the fall of 2007, Dean Sargent complained about having to deal with a student with a very severe peanut allergy — in an email he sent to the deans of all ABA-accredited law schools. In a subsequent apology to the listserv, he described his gaffe as “the oldest mistake in the history of email.”
We reached out to Dean Sargent for comment on his latest email error. Read more, after the jump.
This is, like, WOW. We don’t quite know what to say.
This departure memo, sent by an associate leaving the San Francisco office of Paul Hastings, is extraordinary. It also confirms the rumors — which have swirled about for quite some time, but without confirmation until now — of associate layoffs at PH.
We’re reaching out for comment to the associate in question and to Paul Hastings. But we wanted to put this up ASAP, to break the story first.
Farewell email below (with a handful of minor typos corrected). “Transition Agreement and General Release,” after the jump.
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 10:14 AM
Subject: My departure
The circumstances surrounding my departure from Paul Hastings have been deeply disappointing. It is one thing to ignore an email sent as a colleague is waiting to have her uterus scraped after a miscarriage, but it is wholly another level of heartlessness to lay her off six days after that. [Partner X] is the only one who expressed any sympathy after my miscarriage, and I am grateful to him for that.
A business is a business, but it takes very little to convey some level of humanity to carry out even the most difficult business decisions. We are human beings first before we are partners or associates. Had you simply explained that the department is unable to sustain the number of associates in the office, I would have completely understood. Had you explained that the office had been directed to reduce the number of associates and I was chosen because of my high billable rate and low billable hours, I would have appreciated such directness, even though the consequences of blindly raising billable rates to an unsustainable degree is plainly predictable. What I do not understand is the attempt to blame the associate for not bringing in the business that should have been brought in by each of you and to hide your personal failures by attempting to tarnish my excellent performance record and looking to undermine my sense of self esteem.
The last few months have been surreal, at best. Just last year, I had celebrated my engagement and marriage with many of you. In fact, during the engagement party, the head of the department took my then-fiancée aside to express to him what a great attorney I am and what a great future I faced. Indeed, less than a week before this year’s bizarre performance review, I was again told by the same partner that my work is great and that the slow business in no way reflected on my performance. A week later, I was given a mediocre performance review and told that I should worry about whether I have a future at Paul Hastings. When I asked for specific examples of my alleged deficiencies, I received no response. When I asked for an explanation as to why I had been downgraded in so many performance categories when I received absolutely no criticism throughout the year and my prior year’s review was stellar, I was told that my prior year’s performance assessment may have been “over-inflated.” What a startling response.
After my miscarriage, I had discussed my concern with several associates that Paul Hastings may use that opportunity to lay me off quickly before I have a chance to get pregnant again. Those associates thought it unfathomable that a firm would be so callous and assured me that Paul Hastings isn’t that kind of a place. What a lesson this has been for them – and for me. I would not have anticipated that a partner would tell me one thing and completely renege on his words a week later. I would not have anticipated that a female partner (whom I had looked to as a role model) with children of her own would sit stone faced as I broke into tears just days after my miscarriage. Even a few words of sympathy or concern would have made a world of difference. What kind of people squander human relationships so easily?
If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off. It shows startlingly poor judgment and management skills — and cowardice — on your parts. If you should ever have the misfortune of suddenly losing something or someone precious to you, I hope you don’t find similar heartlessness as I have.
As for your request for a release, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement agreement in return for three months’ pay, I reject it. Unlike you, I am not just a paid mouthpiece with no independent judgment. I will decide how and to whom to communicate how you have treated me. I find it ironic that you would try to buy the right not to be disparaged after behaving as you have. Your actions speak volumes, and you don’t need much help from me in damaging your reputation.
I attach the proposed release for any associate who may be interested in reviewing its details.
And that’s all she wrote. The release that Paul Hastings wanted this associate to sign, after the jump.
Update (5:10 PM): We have heard back from the associate in question, who had no additional comment.
Update (8:20 PM): Previously posted in the comments, but now we can bring it up to the main page. Here is Paul Hastings’s statement, from Eileen King, Global Director of Public Relations:
“We disagree with the person’s description of what occurred, but unfortunately we don’t comment on internal employment matters.”
Update (5/6/08): Blog reactions to this story are collected here. Additional discussion of pregnancy discrimination cases appears here. Lawyer layoffs at Paul Hastings are covered here.
Further Update (5/9/08): The author of the email, Shinyung Oh, has gone public and given an interview. See here.
It’s not just Pepper Hamilton. Email screw-ups are committed by even the most renowned lawyers — like longtime Skadden Arps partner Sheila Birnbaum, a living legend of the product liability defense bar. As we previously wrote, “Birnbaum, who heads Skadden’s Complex Mass Tort and Insurance Group, has a nickname reflecting her expertise: ‘The Queen of Toxic Torts.’”
Some of [Mississippi Attorney General] Jim Hood’s proneness to gaffes must have rubbed off on Sheila Birnbaum of Skadden, Arps, a lead counsel for State Farm, when she was down in Mississippi to hear Hood testify February 6….
Birnbaum accidentally replied to all the people on the distribution list for an e-mail Hood’s press spokeswoman sent out this morning to a number of people, including reporters. Birnbaum thought she was responding to other State Farm lawyers.
Ah, the perils of “reply all.” Perhaps a CLE course should be given on how to use it properly?
(Part of the class could be devoted to client confidentiality issues. I Can Haz Ethics Credits?)
P.S. Birnbaum, by the way, does very nicely for herself. Back in May 2001, Forbes published an interesting list of some of the country’s highest-paid corporate lawyers. Birnbaum reportedly earned $3.8 million a year — and that was back in 2000-2001, before the latest Biglaw boom.
For whatever reason, Quinn Emanuel — the highly prestigious, super-profitable litigation powerhouse, with offices in California and New York — has received a disproportionate amount of coverage here at ATL. As we previously wrote, “we have a lot of tipsters over there. It seems that QE associates love to talk about their firm, for good or ill.”
And it’s not just associates. Last night we received an email from John Quinn, the “legal titan” and “known litigation genius” who founded Quinn Emanuel. In his long and detailed email, Mr. Quinn addresses several of the criticisms of QE that have surfaced on ATL. This was our favorite part:
it has been suggested that i do not use capital letters in my typing in an effort to be “cool.” i am not cool; wish i was, but after 56 years i don’t think it is going to happen. the fact is i am not coordinated enough to hit the shift button with one hand and a letter with the other.
Check out his complete email — in which he addresses a whole host of topics, including billables, bonuses, partnership decisions, partner compensation, and even office supplies — after the jump.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
The proper hair styling product might just be the only thing standing between you and your dream job. And the best way to find what works for you is to try the best stuff on the market. Join Birchbox Man for $20 a month and you’ll get customized shipments of the best grooming and lifestyle gear on the market every month—everything from haircare and shaving supplies to style accessories and tech gadgets.
As the leading discovery commerce platform, Birchbox is redefining the retail process by offering consumers a unique and personalized way to discover, learn about, and shop the best grooming and lifestyle products out there. It’s a full 360-degree process: try, learn, buy. Once you sign up and fill out your profile, head over to Birchbox Man’s online magazine to find article and video tutorials on how to get the most out your monthly box products. Pick up full-size versions of anything you like in the Birchbox Shop and earn points for every purchase.
We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
The traditional job application and interview process can be impersonal, and applicants often struggle to present themselves as more than just the sum of their GPAs, alma maters, and previous work history. ATL has partnered with ViewYou to help job seekers overcome this challenge. ViewYou NOW Profiles offer a unique way for job seekers to make a personal, memorable connection with prospective employers: introduction videos. These videos allow job candidates to display their personalities, interpersonal skills, and professional interests, creating an eDossier to brand themselves to potential employers all over the world. Check it out today!