I don’t get to write real posts. Bitter Lawyer editors instead forward letters and emails to me, typically with the notation “here ya go”—at which point I’m expected to answer them. I don’t answer them all. In fact, I answer a few. Those that get tossed or go unanswered have one of three general attributes, sometimes all three attributes simultaneously:
- The writer is stupid;
- The content is boring;
- The letter is fake.
Sorry, it’s even boring to discuss the boring letters. Mundane stuff, things people figured out by writing the letter. Or won’t ever figure out because they are swimming in the minutiaue of their own juice—like being on Twitter or Facebook. One guy wrote a treatise-like letter with links, an attached Excel spreadsheet, and at least seven exclamation points throughout, all ending in the question “Why do they bill me out at $10 less per hour than my peers?” I wrote back with “I dunno, chum,” a charitable gesture on my part. But someone had used “chum” in an email to me earlier in the week and I wanted to pay it forward.
Other boring letters have related to questions about long-term disability insurance rates, recycling cans at work, the “most appropriate” thing to eat for lunch while at your desk, or what to do about learning the firm’s billing codes. Go to Lawyerist, folks. They own me anyway.
Lawyers do dumb things. Surprisingly, they also write to me about them (or make them up and shoot me an email about them). Unfortunately, the issues are not often dumb and entertaining, keys to getting a letter published and answered. Most are generically dumb. Or stupendously stupid. Like “Can I graduate from law school in one year?” I honestly received that question. Or two or three different takes on stealing or embezzling cash from the firm. Besides also being fake, what do you expect me to say about stealing from the office? Go for it? You go girl, stick it to the man?
The fake are often the best and most entertaining letters but are often so obviously fake that it’s not worth risking my reputation on answering them. Some fake letters I can tolerate, believing that it’s plausible, if not damn entertaining (I suspect the popular “I Have a Case of Crabs” letter was not real, but what the hell, it’s a great title).
The most frequently sent fake letter is the one that begins “I’m Shagging a Secretary.” Or shagging a paralegal. Or shagging a partner’s wife. It’s always some take on sexing a woman who is in a subordinate position. For the most part, I’m not going to publish it. First, it’s fake. Second, it’s old hat, hackneyed, written about so many times that it’s a waste of pixels to keep thrashing around about it and adding to a myth that’s now a solidly overblown bad joke. And third, it’s boring. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not Penthouse Letters. Get your ya-yas off there, dudes. Same goes for punching the clown in the office. Been done. Not by me, mind you.
But, I have to say, if I get a letter from a secretary or paralegal saying “I’m Shagging a Senior Partner,” well, that’s a different story. Still probably fake, but I’m a sucker for the woman bites dog story.
Tips on Getting Published
Starting in 2012, I want more letters. Interesting ones. Scintillating even. Funny. And to help with that process, Bitter Lawyer is offering a $25 coffee or Amazon gift card each month to the best letter we receive that is also published. How do you get published? Some thoughts:
- Read this post. Again.
- Don’t be boring or stupid. I can tolerate some of the fake, so long as it’s entertaining—and surprises.
- Be honest. Seriously, ask something that’s cropped up as an issue in law school, in your career, at the office. Something others may have encountered. It’s not rocket science. Or admiralty. It’s life.
- Read through my past advice to see what I’ve received for questions—and answered— especially in the last year.
- No tomes. Seriously, no Excel spreadsheets or footnotes. This isn’t law review, Chas.
Have a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we do not reveal the writer’s identity, we’ll need a valid email address to verify that you actually exist (and to send a gift card if we pick the letter as the best one in a particular month).