Yes, curse-mail is contagious and many of you have the bug (I myself may just be getting over it).
Social networking has changed how we communicate. Only bold commentary is heard; pleasantries are ignored.
Tweets and status updates are being used as marketing tools to be top of mind with friends and colleagues — and the common measure of effectiveness is when a number of people “like” or retweet the update. So, the lesson learned through effective social networking is to be opinionated with your comments to draw support and attention.
Lawyers are not immune to the influence of social networking on how we communicate. Interestingly, the curse-mail phenomenon does not translate into verbal communications. It must be easier to be an ass in writing than in person. The best way to stop a curse-mailer in their tracks is to pick up the phone and get them live to discuss their e-mail.
Sometimes the offending lawyer avoids verbal communication altogether and declines speaking on the phone. Beware that in these circumstances trying to discourage aggressive e-mails by politely asking the author to temper their response is not an effective solution and will exacerbate the problem (as I recently learned).
There are always two sides to each story and often the curse-mailer will dispute that they started the aggressive tone. It may simply be it is hard to gauge the intended tone of e-mails and many people mistake appropriate comments as offensive ones and respond accordingly.
In any event, lawyers should remember their reputation stays with them and they should strive to develop a good one.
So, next time any of you receive a curse-mail, just flip a link to this article to the lawyer that sent it — they will get the point (and you can laugh at the response that follows).
Darcy Merkur is a partner at Thomson Rogers in Toronto practising plaintiff’s personal injury litigation. Darcy has been certified as a specialist in Civil Litigation by the Law Society of Upper Canada and is the creator of the Personal Injury Damages Calculator.