Email discussion lists are not your gofers

For too long now, attorneys who participate in email discussion lists have been abusing that privilege. Email discussion lists serve as great forums for debating potential changes in the law, policy issues, or even whether a court made the right ruling. These lists are also useful for kicking ideas around on how to approach a case that presents a dilemma. But these discussion lists are not for:

  • Asking list mates for basic forms. Seriously, if you can’t figure out how to draft a motion for a continuance… (If you really need a form to get you started, I’m betting your local law library has some books that may help you out.)
  • Asking list mates to do your research for you. If you have the Internet connection required to post the question to the list, then you have the same connection required to search Google Scholar, your state bar’s research service benefit (such as Casemaker or Fast Case), or Lexis and Westlaw.

The discussion lists can be a great way to connect with people in your practice area in other parts of your state. But they are also a great way to tell everyone in your state that you are lazy or unable to draft basic pleadings. Do I refer people to lawyers who appear to be lazy or incompetent? Of course I don’t. The other thing you should realize is that many times judges that you appear in front of are members of these lists. They see your questions and form opinions about your abilities.

One last note: Be wary of asking “what would you do in this case” type questions. It just might be that your opposing counsel is part of the same mailing list!


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