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February 16, 2006

Latest law jerks

I feel old.

Back in my days in the private practice of law, if you wanted to be a jerk to another lawyer, you had to (a) do it in person; (b) do it on the phone; or (c) write a nasty letter. One of my favorite stories from my firm was the lawyer -- call him "J" -- who, at a deposition, was completely fed up with the other lawyer's incessant objections. Finally, J made a statement for the record and finished by saying that he knew that the opposing counsel would want to respond. But J said he had no interest in hearing that response, so he was going to leave the room. Opposing counsel could say whatever he wanted, and J would direct his associate to tell him when the response was finished. J added that when the transcript of the deposition arrived, he was not going to read the section containing opposing counsel's response. And he left the room.

Nowadays, with instant communications, like email, lawyers can be jerks without having to confront each other. I don't think this is a good change, because it encourages boorish behavior. Just think how nasty people are at internet forums or in blog comment sections when they can say what they want without having to confront each other in person and often don't even know the other's true identity.

The illustration of my point comes from the Boston Globe.

Once again, a friendly reminder: The next time you're tempted to send a nasty, exasperated, or snippy e-mail, pause, take a deep breath, and think again. Then consider the tale of local lawyers William A. Korman and Dianna L. Abdala.

Korman was miffed that Abdala notified him by e-mail this month that, after tentatively agreeing to work at his law firm, she changed her mind. Her reason: "The pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living."

In his e-mail reply, Korman told Abdala that her decision not to have told him in person "smacks of immaturity and is quite unprofessional," and noted that in anticipation of her arrival, he had ordered stationery and business cards for her, reformatted a computer, and set up an e-mail account. Nevertheless, he wrote, "I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."

Her curt retort: "A real lawyer would have put the contract into writing and not exercised any such reliance until he did so."

His: "Thank you for the refresher course on contracts. This is not a bar exam question. You need to realize that this is a very small legal community, especially the criminal defense bar. Do you really want to start pissing off more experienced lawyers at this early stage of your career?"

Abdala's final three-word response: "bla bla bla."

That's when the exchange, confirmed as authentic yesterday by Korman and Abdala, began whipping through cyberspace, landing in e-mail in-boxes around the city and country, and, eventually, across the Atlantic.
I met altogether too many of these people in private practice, and all I can say is "good riddance" to that.

(hat tip: Chris K.)

UPDATE (2/22): CNN has a short video on the incident, interviewing both Korman and Abdala. Go to and click on "Watch: Lawyers' hostile e-mail exchange hits Internet." It should be up for a few days.

UPDATE (3/2): Someone from Korman's firm visits Pillage Idiot. Very creepy.