February 19th, 2006 19:57 EST
Three Words To Infamy
When young lawyer Dianna L. Abdala turned down a job offer from senior attorney William A. Korman, little did she know that she would become infamous. Of course, that`s not the whole story. After all, people turn down jobs everyday. But what makes Abdala`s case newsworthy was how it was done.
Dianna, a graduate of Suffolk University Law School, was seeking employment and interviewed at Willam`s local Boston law firm. Upon accepting the offer, Korman went about ordering business cards, stationary and setting up the computer system. Abdala began having second thoughts, however, and decided to go into business for herself. She expressed her decision to Korman " in an e-mail. And the plot thickened.
In her first correspondence she wrote, ``The pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living." Korman, perhaps puzzled by the method of her message, wrote back how her actions were immature and unprofessional, yet wished her well: ``I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."
Instead of letting bygones be bygones, Abdala chose to respond: ``A real lawyer would have put the contract into writing and not exercised any such reliance until he did so." Korman informed her of the poor attitude she had taken regarding the whole situation, and asked her to ponder the repercussions of her actions: ``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?"
Did Abdala ultimately let it go? Of course not. Her three word response have become more of a joke than Seinfeld`s "yadda, yadda, yadda`. Dianna Abdala`s law-educated answer and final remark: ``bla bla bla." This is the stuff of urban legends.
Several thousand e-mail forwards later, both lawyers have found themselves a small bit of infamy, and as examples of cautionary correspondence within the workplace. As the saying goes, never write anything down that you wouldn`t want read. Well, update that with never type anything you want kept private, either.
Who`s right and who`s wrong? Unfortunately neither lawyer stuck to the cardinal rule " putting it in writing. Abdala insists that she never actually accepted the position, she needed more time to consider the job offer and no actual start date was established. Korman`s story is that a start date was given during the second interview, where she accepted the job, but doesn "t blame her for declining the offer. What remains as the stand out offense was the way it was handled and the insulting attack on Korman`s legal skills. Apparently, an oral contract means nothing to Abdala " if one was given.
Korman, 36, is an experienced criminal defense attorney, a former Suffolk County prosecutor; Abdala, 24, graduated in 2004, is admittedly a "trust-fund baby` and is following her father`s footsteps, just beginning her career in law. Dianna is now renting space and taking on private criminal defense work and court appointed cases. Meanwhile, Korman continues in his practice and has been reported by Abdala to the Board of Bar Overseers for unprofessional and unethical " conduct for forwarding her e-mail, also claiming her legal career was threatened. Korman responded that he meant they may well run into each other again in the small community as peers.
``All I did," he added, ``was forward a non-privileged, non-client communication to somebody who then chose to forward it along. I really don`t see where the ethical breach is." The forwarded e-mail was originally sent to a colleague of Korman, who then sent it along to others, reaching all over the Boston community, as well as overseas and news networks.
The moral of the story? Put things in writing " just don`t forward it in an e-mail.