Monday, February 27, 2006

Smell that? That is your reputation in flames.

A few weeks ago now, I received an e-mail. It was a forward of a forward of a . . . . It had been through a lot of hands. The funny thing was, though, that once I got to the end of the chain, it was a lesson in how not to win friends and influence people. And the e-mail has been all over the world now, especially among lawyers.

Here is the story. Let's start with a backdrop. It seems that Ms. Abdala accepted a job from Mr. Korman. According to a news article on this, Mr. Korman had to hire another attorney, so he adjusted the offer to Ms. Abdala, including a smaller salary. The article does not discuss how much. Ms. Abdala apparently sat on the offer and at the last minute, quit before she started. Here are the e-mails.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Abdala
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2006 9:23 PM
To: William A. Korman
Subject: Thank you

Dear Attorney Korman,

At this time, I am writing to inform you that I will not be accepting your offer. After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living in light of the work I would be doing for you. I have decided instead to work for myself, and reap 100% of the benefits that I sew. Thank you for the interviews.

Dianna L. Abdala, Esq.

OK, your new employee just quit before starting. And you learn in an unprofessional manner. So you fire off a slightly kurt response, and it should probably end there for all involved.

----- Original Message -----
From: William A. Korman
To: 'Dianna Abdala'
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 12:15 PM
Subject: RE: Thank you

Dianna -

Given that you had two interviews, were offered and accepted the job (indeed, you had a definite start date), I am surprised that you chose an e-mail and a 9:30 PM voicemail message to convey this information to me. It smacks of immaturity and is quite unprofessional. Indeed, I did rely upon your acceptance by ordering stationary and business cards with your name, reformatting a computer and setting up both internal and external e-mails for you here at the office. While I do not quarrel with your reasoning, I am extremely disappointed in the way this played out. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

- Will Korman

Now, Mr. Korman let her have it a little, but under the circumstances this wasn't so bad. Moreover, he ended it with the "good luck, kid" good bye. Any professional with good judgment would have let it end here. Ms. Abdala apparently isn't that professional.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Abdala
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 4:01 PM
To: William A. Korman
Subject: Re: Thank you

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

Again, thank you.

Now those are fighting words. Not only do they show a total disregard for one's own word, but they question Mr. Korman's status as a "real lawyer." Every good cross-examination can be destroyed by asking one question too many. This is now the case of one e-mail too many. But it gets worse.

----- Original Message -----
From: William A. Korman
To: 'Dianna Abdala'
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 4:18 PM
Subject: RE: Thank you

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?

Now is the time to say, "You're right. I was pissed. Sorry about that. Good luck, and let's be professional friends." But ... uh ... no.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Abdala
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 4:29 PM
To: William A. Korman
Subject: Re: Thank you

bla bla bla

"Bla bla bla" Are you kidding me?

-----Original Message-----
From: William A. Korman
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2006 7:59 AM
To: 'David Breen'
Subject: FW: Thank you

Did I already forward this to you?

Then, the unfortunate exchange is shared with a friend.

-----Original Message-----
From: David Breen
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2006 9:47 AM
To: 'William A. Korman'
Subject: RE: Thank you

OH MY GOD! Where to begin? First of all, how unprofessional.and secondly, it is "reap what you 'sow,'" now "sew".if she is going to use a clich?, couldn't she at least spell it right? And WTF is with her "blab la bla"? Does she not read your e-mail about it being a small community?! So, finally, can I forward this along to some folks? I am sure they would love to see how the up-and-coming lawyers are comporting themselves! (Clearly she did not go to BU!!!) :-)

This took place in Boston. BU is Boston University law school.

-----Original Message-----
From: William A. Korman
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2006 9:55 AM
To: 'David Breen'
Subject: RE: Thank you

You can e-mail this to whomever you want.

And thus Mr. Breen and the information highway kicked in. This was around the world in less than a week as lawyers (and some lay people) forwarded to lawyers, etc.

When I first exchanged this with some friends, I received a response of how embarrassed Ms. Abdala must be. I responded, "I'd be surprised if she were. Some people don't feel shame or embarrassment anymore."

Then, I read this, from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly:

"This has taken on a life of its own," Korman told me. "The legal community is tiny, and the criminal-defense bar even smaller. They are surprised by this attorney's responses to my simple queries. It's so early in her career to be attacking someone like this. I just wish it had played out better."

Naturally, many people have contacted Korman after reading the e-saga. "I'm hearing from people I haven't heard from in years," he laughs.

Korman even got one email from a recent law-school graduate in Kansas City who wrote: "Though you don't know me, I wanted to extend to you my sincere apologies for your recent encounter with an extremely unprofessional young attorney. ... It is my hope that your opinion of young lawyers has not been too tarnished by your experience. ... I felt compelled to apologize to you on behalf of the community of young lawyers all across the country that are not sympathetic to Ms. Abdala's egoism."

Says Korman: "A lot of lawyers remember what it was like to get their first job."
And although her name has been run ragged across the information superhighway, Abdala does not seem worried.

"I'm not upset at all," she says. "I'm enjoying the notoriety."

Enoying the notoriety, huh? "I'm embarrassed all over the world, and I should say so and just explain I was upset about him changing the job offer. But instead I'll bask in 'notoriety' like Paris Hilton.

Now, however, she is changing her tune, according to the Boston Herald:

Dianna Abdala of Newton has been an attorney for less than a year, but lawyers all over the world already know her name. A biting e-mail exchange between the recent Suffolk University Law School grad and a potential employer at a Boston firm reached the inboxes of attorneys from Boston to Berlin over the past week, making Abdala an unwitting butt of jokes in the legal community on how not to get a job.

* * * *

“It really does prove how small the legal community is,” Korman said yesterday, adding that he has since hired someone else.

But Abdala sees it differently.

“This was clearly a ploy to bring more clients into his offices,” she said. She has since started her own practice, saying she will do court-appointed criminal defense work.

But it doesn’t end there: Abdala said she filed a complaint with the state Board of Bar Overseers. “Attorney Korman threatened my career,” she said, “and I don’t think anybody would have been welcoming to such a threat.” BBO officials declined to comment.

Isn't that just a laugh. She goes from enjoying the noteriety to filing a complaint with what I assume is the Massachusetts version of the bar ethics people. I also love Korman's "ploy." He changed a job offer, so she would decline on her acceptance in a poor manner, then he calls her on it, knowing all along that she would send two more unprofessional e-mails that would embarrass her in Boston, and all over the world.

Some people.


At 1:36 AM, Blogger camojack said...

Should I cite Shakespeare?

Nah, wrong crowd... :-)

At 5:32 AM, Blogger Cassandra said...

How much you want to bet "Abdala-ing" will enter the lexicon as shorthand for the graceless turn-down?

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Brad Warbiany said...

I'll bet you on that one, Cass :-)

I remember the high hopes I had for "Don't get stuck on stupid", only to see it disappear quickly (and only net me $12 in my Cafepress store!)

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I'm sure you're right. I was just being facetious. People like simple things. If you have to think about it too much, they can't be bothered.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger spd rdr said...

Attorney Abdala has started her own practice to do "court appointed criminal defense work?"

Anybody know what the going rate is for court appointed criminal defense attorneys is in Massachusetts? How about "starvcation rates." It looks to me like Ms. Abdala is out of a job...again. "Notoriety" such as hers is not something many law firms would appreciate.

Best of luck in your future endeavours, kid.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

She's clearly got the class of a Nicole Richie, but really, it would be kind of a slap in the face if someone interviewed you for a position, offered it to you, then dropped the salary.

Every step of the rest of it is pathetic. The hiring lawyer had no need to school her, and it was unprofessional (and illegal) to share her e-mails the way he did.

Being right doesn't allow you to do foolish, damaging things to others.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Well, tee, as I read it, he advised her well in advance of her change of heart of the revised offer. I'm sure it was disappointing to her, as I said. So they both get one free pissy response. She took it two too far.

I don't see how it was illegal to share those e-mails, though. There was no confidential relationship at that point. They were his property, and she had no expectation of privacy in sending them to him.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger spd rdr said...

KJ, my wife thought that the real "lawyer" was a complete jackass for dropping the salary after the offer, and how can I disagree?

These two deserve each other.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...'s called the Preview button, Cass...

I certainly wouldn't be happy if someone dropped my salary offer after I'd been interviewed and had accepted a position, but I can't imagine responding as she did. The salution (right off the bat) was snarky and the rest of the email was downright snippy.

When you apply for a position you are essentially a supplicant whether you like it or not. When you're straight out of school and have no experience, your position is even more tenuous.

A little tact and the ability to control your feelings in an awkward situation will never steer you wrong. She could have negotiated if she felt that strongly about the salary issue, though her failure to detect a spelling error in a letter that short doesn't suggest she had much to bargain with.

Instead she chose to make an enemy.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger spd rdr said...

Are you calling me a LIAR?
How dare you!
I am both mortally indignant and.. um...immortally offended!
I am speechless! A lot speechless!
A lot, mind you!
A helluva lot!
A lot.

(For the record: What were we talking about again?)

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Attorney rdr:

I am herewith going to forward ur comment to the Va Bar for disciplinary action. I'm feeling harassed by the peremptory tone you took towards me.

Yes. And..and.. marginalized. And... [sob!] TREATED AS OTHER!!!!!

Seriously, I saw several articles about this later, and one of them described Ms. Abdala as a 'trust fund baby'. She doesn't need the money.

That's why she's so cavalier about this whole thing. Daddy's funding her lifestyle.

At 9:23 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

A little tact and the ability to control your feelings in an awkward situation will never steer you wrong

Especially if you want to be a lawyer. Looks like this one'll put that brassiness to use chasing ambulences. Unless the trust fund thing is accurate. Then she'll just release a naughty home video or two, date some Eurotrash for a while, and flaunt her law degree in the discos until someone offers her a TV show.

And I believe two wrongs don't make a right, unless you're applying the new math. Mr. stand-up lawyer shouldn't have forwarded the e-mails, whether they were protected under professional confidentiality or simply as private correspondence, without the other party's consent.

At 2:19 AM, Blogger KJ said...

Well now, I didn't say he should've. Only that it wasn't illegal.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger tee bee said...

You're probably right, or that woman is an even more horrible lawyer than we've taken her for. I'm sure if it had been illegal, she'd be all over him with it.


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