General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

Nov 2008

Vol. 7, No. 4


  • MacNotes »
    Mac security and the law office.
  • SurvivingEmail
    How to look like an absolute fool on mailing lists.
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Find out where to shop for new hardware.
  • ProductNotes »
    Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Mini Stick, The Chillow and Sound Oasis Sound Systems, and Sony’s eReader and Amazon’s Kindle.
  • DivisionNotes »
    Cost Recovery, Call for 2009 Solo and Small Firm Program Awards Nominations.


How to Look Like an Absolute Fool on Mailing Lists

More than a dozen years ago, The New Yorker ran the Peter Steiner cartoon featuring two dogs in front of a computer, one carefully instructing the other that “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” While pseudonyms and cute handles might still work well for posts to,, and hobby lists, mailing lists designed for lawyers generally require that participants disclose their real names. But revealed identity still doesn’t stop many from looking like complete idiots on law-related mailing lists.

Let’s explore some of the ways that you can convince the world that you should stay off mailing lists:

  • Asking the entire list to “unsubscribe me right this very minute” when the instructions for leaving the list are prominently displayed at the bottom of each message.
  • Persistently engaging in off-topic, inflammatory, and controversial discussion, even after being asked to stop.
  • Posting a client’s personal information to a mailing list.
  • Using an autoresponder to advise everyone on the list over and over again that you'll be out of the office until 6 July 2005. Using the wrong date will make you look even more negligent.
  • Responding to every message with “I agree,” “Me, too,” or “I don't know.”
  • Not trimming an overly long message or a digest of messages.
  • Using a ridiculously long signature file, including quotes, a favorite poem, a mission statement, a slogan, and ASCII art.
  • Spewing diatribes, political infective, and venom at individual list members.
  • Beating dead horses into the ground.
  • Distributing to an entire mailing list messages that are better saved for offlist and private email.
  • Crossposting from another list without permission.
  • Using a mailing list as personal bully pulpit.
  • Harvesting other list subscribers' addresses for mass mailings.
  • Harassing list subscribers, either on- or offlist.

Nearly every human on earth, lawyers included, has done something remarkably stupid in face-to-face interactions, but memories fade. Akin to the much-feared permanent record, mailing list archives outlast human memories, and the acts of a buffoon can come back to haunt and humiliate lawyers for a long time.

jennifer j. rose is Vice-Chair of the GP|Solo Division and receives her email at in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.

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