How Not to Turn Down a Law Job Offer
Dianna Abdala, a young law school graduate, was about to start working for William Korman, a criminal defense attorney. Shortly before she was to start, Korman told Abdala that he had also decided to hire another attorney, and as a result, had to adjust her salary lower. She sent him the following email:
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 [sic]. Thank you for the interviews.
Korman called and left a message to Abdala to discuss, but Abdala left a voicemail turning down the offer again. Korman wrote to Abdala:
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 p.m. 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.
Abdala responded with this email:
A real lawyer would have put the contract into writing and not exercised any such reliance
until he did so. Again, 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?
Abdala’s response, via email:
bla bla bla.
Korman forwarded the email exchange to some friends, and soon it had been forwarded throughout cyberspace. It was forwarded to me the other day.
Some thoughts about this saga:
1. Was it appropriate for Korman to forward the snarky email exchange to his friends, especially in this day and age where email can readily take on a life of its own and spread around the world? Many folks in the legal world are well-familiar with the famous email by the Skadden Arps summer associate who accidentally emailed everybody in the firm with an email that began: “I’m busy doing jack shit.”
2. A tip — if you’re going to create a snarky email exchange that might get circulated widely, please run spell check. At least spell “blah” correctly.
3. It seems to me as though Abdala had every right to turn down the job offer when the terms were changed significantly. She may even have been justified in being a bit upset over it, but that doesn’t excuse the unprofessional manner in which she chose to express herself. And Korman’s professionalism is not going to win any awards either.
4. The email is another amazing illustration of social network theory. The email exchange occurred on Feb. 6th, and within a few weeks made it to my email inbox. I don’t know Korman or Abdala, but there are definitely less than six degrees of separation. . . .
For their part, Korman and Abdala seem to be taking it all in stride. According to a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article:
“I’m hearing from people I haven’t heard from in years,” Korman laughs. . . .
“I’m not upset at all,” Abdala says. “I’m enjoying the notoriety.”
UPDATE: Apparently, Abdala is more upset over this than she lets on. According to the Boston Globe:
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 [the attorney'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.” . . . .
”All I did,” Korman 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.”
Hat tip: Marcia Hofmann