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

MAR 2009

Vol. 8, No. 1


  • MacNotes »
    Post-Steve Jobs offerings at Macworld.
  • SurvivingEmail
    How to become infamous on mailing lists.
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    About time-sites having to do with all things chronological.
  • ProductNotes »
    Lenovo Ideapad S10, Clio, Filemaker Pro 10 Advanced and Cases for Technogadgets.
  • DivisionNotes »
    GP|Solo Spring Meeting - Housing and Registration Deadlines!, Call for 2009 Diversity and Young Lawyer Fellowships Applications, ABA Economic Recovery Resources.


The Drama Queen’s Guide to Infamy on Mailing Lists

It can take months for many list subscribers to work their way up to persona non grata status, but a determined lawyer can go from being completely unknown to batting less than zero in only a few days. With little concerted effort, a list newbie can make a lasting impression upon a thousand or more lawyers who participate in a law-related mailing list to share information, seek answers, network, and socialize. The online behavior of some of these lawyers can make bystanders hope that a poseur has stolen the identity of some poor, misbegotten lawyer.

Let’s explore some of the ways a new subscriber can convince other lawyers on a mailing list that he or she is a complete idiot:

  • Don’t waste your precious time lurking and learning the list culture before posting. Simply hop aboard and interrogate the community before learning its standards and styles.
  • Ignore the list’s rules, declaring that your familiarity with online communities trumps the rules. Flout all rules and conventions.
  • Before introducing yourself, and within only a few days of joining the list, point out to the list all of its failings, from the threads under discussion to the participants’ style and even the mechanics of a list’s operation. Your time is simply too valuable to be spent lurking and discovering a list’s culture.
  • Demand that the list migrate from its time-honored, tried-and-true delivery vehicle to a webboard.
  • Don’t spend any time trying to find answers on your own. Your time is too precious to waste using a search engine to ferret out questions like the capital of North Carolina or who wrote Prosser on Torts. The list exists to serve your every whim and need, just like your personal reference librarian.
  • Don’t lower yourself to exploring and reading the list’s archived messages. The same question may have been asked and answered only yesterday, but you deserve a fresh answer.
  • Draw particular attention to your posts by using ALL CAPS, poor grammar, and inorthography.
  • Distribute every joke that reaches your inbox to the entire listserve. Lawyers lead dull, humorless lives, and they need as many laughs as they can get.
  • Personally attack, insult, and deride one or more of the list’s Most Valued Players.
  • Rebuff all attempts at reason, lobbing taunts of unprofessionalism. Be sure to call your detractors insecure, unsuccessful, and obviously lacking in intelligence.
  • Consider your responses to list posts an opportunity to practice your cross-examination skills. Jump right on to every post, peppering others with challenges and requests for clarification just to keep them on their toes. Consider your participation in a law-related mailing list the cyberequivalent of the Socratic Method.
  • Fire away as many posts as you can, because doing so costs you absolutely nothing.
  • Respond to every post, either on list or off, and then complain that the list’s taking up too much of your valuable time.
  • Deliberately foment discord to draw attention in your direction, and prove that your unwillingness to rise above the fray makes you somehow better than everyone else on the list.
  • Scream “invasion of privacy” if anyone mentions Googled references about you.
  • Threaten legal action against the listowner, the list’s sponsor, list subscribers, and anyone within earshot.

Even those who’ve gone and made complete and total fools of themselves can be rehabilitated. All it takes is an humble apology, forbearance, and a good measure of time.

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

© Copyright 2009, American Bar Association.