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« What's In A Name? Not A Number | Main | Happy Pills - not just for failures and weaklings »

February 16, 2006


Here is another paragraph from the Globe article I wish you had included:

"Abdala said she has no regrets about the e-mail exchange. She said she has reported Korman to the Board of Bar Overseers for ''unprofessional and unethical" conduct for forwarding her e-mail to an outside party. She also said she believes that Korman's remark about Boston's ''small legal community" was tantamount to ''threatening my legal career," and that he circulated the e-mails as a ''cheap ploy to bring more business to his firm."

I think both parties behaved pretty badly; is it because she is female that you find her conduct so much more objectionable?

Anonymous Reader, I alluded to that paragraph with mention of her reporting him for an ethics violation. And I don't find her behavior "objectionable" per se so much as shocking and amusing. Gender has nothing to do with my opinion. If anything, I identify *more* with Dianna Abdala than William Korman because I am about to enroll in law school myself, and cannot possibly imagine myself as a young lawyer doing anything so foolish as this. Her behavior reeks of childish immaturity throughout the episode--I can understand turning down the job offer after he reduced the proposed salary, but all the other stuff?

I agree that both parties behaved badly. That said, a critical paragraph I wish you had included, Joe, is the following:

"[After a meeting in which Korman and Abdala agreed upon a start date] Korman then called Abdala to his office to tell her that he had decided to hire two lawyers, not one. As such, he had crunched some numbers and decided he had to reduce the amount of salary they had discussed. Still, he said, he was excited about her working for him. Korman set up computer resources for his new hire and made the other usual arrangements. But Abdala did indicate to Korman that she may have to give the job some more thought."

Korman's behavior here sound S-H-A-D-Y shady. Would you work for a guy who said he was still excited to have you start, but oh by the way, he was reducing your salary to help himself for a 2 for 1 staffing deal?

Moreover, I think Kormans behavior takes away any colorable claim to the existence of a contract. An oral agreement plus reasonable detrimental reliance can create a contract. But Korman in effect rescinded his prior offer and replaced it with one including materially different terms (i.e. a different salary). If you doubt whether this waived any right to detrimentally rely on the first oral agreement (replaced a potential contract with an new offer), ask yourself this: could Abdala have forced Korman to hire her at the previously agreed upon salaray? Had she gone on a spending spree calibrated to the first salary Korman had offered, would that constitute reasonable detrimental reliance? No, she couldn't, because there was no valid contract.

I take Abdala's "a real lawyer would have put the contract into writing" as code for "you are a shady character."

Support for this reading comes from another section you chose not to include, which put forward non "trust fund baby" reasons that Abdala gave for not accepting the new offer:

"[Abdala] was genuinely put off by Korman changing his original job offer; that's what caused her tough tone.

"[He offered] a significant salary reduction, and a number of changes," she says.


"She says she plans on developing her own practice, which was her plan all along."

"'I always had aspirations to work for myself,' she says."

Frankly, I think that if Korman thought he had a real contract, he would have sued Abdala, if only in small claims court, for the cost of the business cards, etc. Her ethics report might well be related to his seeming to try to strong arm these costs out of her by threatened harm to her professional reputation. I think she's unlikely to win on that one-- it's too ambiguous, and lawyers don't like to discipline each other for much of anything, let alone this kind of petty stuff.

If I were Korman, I'd seriously worry about my potential tort liability in this situation: I spot several possible privacy and reputational (depending on how truthfully he prefaced the forwarded email) claims here.

I think I've sufficiently outed myself as a lawyer and a geek, now.

All that said, I'm with you, Joe, on the failure of imagination that blinds people to the fact that publishing something on the internet-- whether in an email or a blog-- is still publishing it, and they should act accordingly.

You're right Anna, I didn't emphasize that point enough (primarily because I thought the post was long enough already). It's crazy to offer someone a job at salary X and then say, "oh, I want to hire someone else, so I want to pay you a reduced salary Y instead." And I certainly don't blame her for turning down the job after that; it's the way she did it, or everything she did/said after that, that strikes me as just... a bad move.

Oh, I should add: thanks lawyer-geek! =)
I didn't *like* the way Korman behaved before, but your interpretation of his actions makes him seem shadier than I had at first taken him to be.

Thanks for the entertaining read. I even forwarded links to the story and to your post to my old Torts professor. With some embellishment, I think the story would make a good fact pattern for an exam. Now, that's really geeky!

"I think it's time we get back to work," he says.


But until then, let us all remember that e-mail ... is e-vil. In a few cruel keystrokes, your offhanded comment may become entertainment to thousands of lawyers with Internet access. Many lawyers will recall that a few years ago, a law-firm summer associate exposed his buttocks to his colleagues while on a Boston Duck Tours outing. His watered-down apology, delivered by email, flashed across the state in no time.

That is the real lesson ...

she had a start date.

she called/emailed the night before the start date to decline.

that's crap - no matter if dude's change in the offer was shady.

she's an ignorant, ungrateful, trust fund baby who should have been happy to have any job in this economy, especially with daddy's money backing her up.

she went to suffolk.

Greetings Joe. I am a recent law school graduate.
I graduated from the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law
in January 2006. I had the pleasure of reading your
post concerning a young lawyer and her recent
e-mail escapade. The post contained a reference to a comment that I would like to ask
you about. It mentioned that the young woman
graduated from a fourth-tiered law school. The reason
I ask is kind of personal. I do not know this young
woman and I agree with your post 100%; however, I
feel who ever described her education as a
fourth-tired education is contributing to a horrible
stereotype that plagues many law school graduates;
particularly graduates from schools that are lowered

I think the time has come for all lawyers to look
beyond the school one has graduated from and look to
the individual lawyer. Is it inconceivable to think
that a Cooley graduate can’t compete with a Harvard
graduate in a court of law? This might sound
conceited but I truly feel I can handle the same sorts
of legal cases that a Harvard or Yale graduate might
encounter. Does the law of property, contracts,
evidence, or criminal law change based on what school
is teaching it? I recently sat for the PA and NJ bar
exams. I have not received my results; however, I am
confident that my school prepared me to pass.

It saddens me when I read posts that mention the
tier of a law school. Many fine lawyers across the country read these posts.
Is it possible you could use your talents and help
start a new stereotype, a stereotype that will end the
vicious world of law school elitism.

Tom: you're absolutely right. While I have little doubt that Abdala did *not* work that hard in law school based on her personality and other comments, I shouldn't have taken a cheap shot at Suffolk. Massachusetts houses plenty of competent attorneys with JDs from Suffolk Law School. I'm sure that plenty of students at fourth-tier law schools *do* work hard--not that anything I say is going to end the world of law school elitism, but that doesn't mean I should publicly denigrate any ABA-approved law school.

Thank you Joe. Who knows maybe one day the words you and I shared will create a stir in the law school world. In a brand name country--I feel my prayer might go unanswered. Have a great weekend!

Re: law schools, it's worth keeping in mind that Ann Coulter went to Michigan law.

And look how she turned out!

Also, Pat Robertson, Clarence Thomas, John Bolton and Sam Alito went to Yale Law.

But Joe does concede that idiocy knows no barriers -even Ivy covered ones.

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