Emails

Graduation season is upon us, which means that bar exam craziness will soon follow in its wake. In fact, it seems like that incredibly uneasy time may already be here. Law professors are usually there to support their former students, but at one law school, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

One law professor is absolutely enraged about the number of his former students who continually fail the bar exam. He’s so angry, in fact, that he sent out a school-wide email to vent about the situation. His message probably could have been evaluated for its overly harsh tone before being sent out.

We received an email about it from someone who may or may not be another professor at the same law school, with the following subject line: “This is how professors at [X Law School] treat their bar takers.”

Which law school are we talking about, and what did the angry professor say?

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At a law firm, law matters. Law is the center of the institution’s universe, and it’s all everyone is thinking about.

It’s the other functions that don’t matter: “Another email from IT? Telling me about interfaces and gigabytes? Why don’t those clowns leave me alone?”

“Another email from finance hectoring me about time sheets? Don’t those morons know I’m busy?”

At corporations, law (and compliance) is an “other function.” The businesses are concentrating on their businesses, and law and compliance — along with human resources, information technology, and finance — are, at best, a means to an end. If you mirror the other “shared services” and send incomprehensible communications to the businesses, the businesses will soon realize that you’re just one of the pests, meant to be ignored.

Inevitably, if a business person accidentally steps over some legal line, you’ll hear that the business guy had no clue that the line existed: “Yeah, yeah. Now that you’re telling me about it, I understand that we have that rule. But how was I to know? The rule is buried on the fourth page of some impenetrable policy hidden somewhere in our computer system. I spend my time selling; I can’t waste time trying to make sense of your legalese.”

If you don’t sympathize with that guy, then you’ve been a lawyer for too long. His criticism is not just an excuse for having violated the rules; his criticism may well be the truth. How can you change that reality?

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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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Remember the pushmi-pullyu?

It can teach you a lesson about the law.

Years ago, I heard the frustrated 60-year-old head of an IP department at a big firm complain: “Aren’t there any other IP lawyers at this firm? Why do I have to decide everything?”

The problem, of course, was that his subordinates were on the wrong end of the pushmi-pullyu: They were pulling the senior guy back instead of pushing him forward. My sense is that the average lawyer, either at a firm or in-house, suffers from the same affliction: The average lawyer stands at the . . . er . . . back mouth of the beast.

I recently published a self-assessment test to help you learn whether you were a bad litigator. I’ve cleverly designed another self-assessment test, this one to gauge whether you advance the cause or obstruct it when you work on a legal matter. Here’s the test:

Look at the last email that you sent reporting on a legal development and seeking guidance on the next step forward. How does that email end? For many of you, the last sentence includes one of these two phrases, which prove that you stand at the pullyu end of the beast . . .

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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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In last week’s column, I drew some customer service lessons for lawyers from the way that Disney treats visitors to its theme parks. This week, I want to focus on how Disney incorporates technological advances into its theme parks as a means of enhancing the customer experience.

On my recent visit, I was struck by the presence of two familiar pieces of technology from the “real world” within the Disney parks: (1) Disney’s new smartphone app for theme park visitors and (2) the availability of wi-fi in most areas of the park. Each example illustrates distinct yet relate, approaches to implementing technology for the benefit of the customer. And while I am sure that each took Disney many man-hours to develop, test, and roll-out publicly, it was refreshing for me as a lawyer to see a company of that stature making the investment to do so. It was also a real contrast to my Biglaw experience, where implementing technology in a way tailored to improve the client (and even employee) experience was all too often a low priority….

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Where The Wild Things Are (affiliate link)

Grover Cleveland’s excellent book of career advice for young lawyers has a delightful title: Swimming Lessons For Baby Sharks (affiliate link). It nicely captures the competitive nature of the legal profession today.

But the cutthroat competition isn’t for everyone. One high-powered lawyer, coming up on partnership at a top-tier law firm, decided he didn’t want to swim with grown-up sharks. He’d rather go swim with blue whales — quite literally. He’d rather be where the wild things are — and by “wild things,” we aren’t talking about cute drunken paralegals at a post-closing party.

Let’s look at this lawyer’s departure memo — great opening line, or greatest opening line? — and find out how he made enough money to break out of Biglaw’s golden handcuffs….

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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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