While the legal tech industry debates the repercussions of artificial intelligence upon the profession, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and remember that many, many lawyers lack the technical competence to operate a toaster oven, let alone a complex algorithm. Case in point: Columbia Law School students and alumni, who spent hours last night in a feedback loop of stupid, complaining about an errant listserv email clogging their inbox, and in turn further clogging everyone else’s inbox by replying to all… prompting those people to reply to all to complain about the listerv emails clogging their inbox.
An undergrad TA accidentally copied a listserv of about 4,000 law students and alum on an email about an earth science course. In proof that just because you go to a T14 doesn’t mean you understand how email works, things got out of hand quickly, with hundreds of people replying all in an attempt to “unsubscribe” from the list.
What did this look like for the hapless subscriber who knew enough to just let the mistaken email slide?
As another tipster reported: “Graduates of one of the top law schools can’t figure out how to not reply all, or figure out that a chain of ‘Please remove me from the list. Thank you!’ is just going to create the problem.”
Indeed, it will. As a concept, listservs are about 37 years old, so it’s understandable that lawyers are still struggling to figure out how they work.
One brave soul stuck their head over the trench in an attempt to teach Email 101 to the masses.
Did it work?
Oh, readers… you already know the answer!
And so it went.
This is but a sample of the traffic. If tipsters have any particularly funny bits, let us know and we’ll paste them in (redacted of course).
In the meantime, we leave you with this sobering thought about Columbia Law School:
The worst thing is, this is far from the first time this has happened.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.