Sorry I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, but I have been debating how to best deal with the e-mail described in this post. I have decided that this post will probably be enough of a response to the person that sent the e-mail.
I was recently contacted by an attorney that works for a major firm. This attorney (staff or associate) was clearly one who was upset by a characterization of him/her on this website. S/He felt that the use of full names accompanied by a negative review constitutes “libel.” S/He felt that I should remove the names of any Associate or Staff Attorney in the comments section of the blog because s/he felt that “dragging their names through the mud” in a public forum is wrong and could harm their reputations. This attorney goes on to threaten that further action will be taken if such “libelous” behavior continues. While asking me to do this, this attorney also stated that s/he respects the rights of everyone to express their own opinions. I would like to post the entire e-mail, however, the attorney did not give me permission to do that. If the person writes in again to give me that permission, I would be more than happy to do this so that his/her full message can be clearly heard on this blog.
I realize that libel issues have been discussed extensively on other blogs, though this will be the first time here. So please, indulge me.
My sense is that all of the comments that have been made have been opinions that are based the commenter’s experiences, and therefore not libel under most legal uses of that term. Unless I am mistaken the First Amendment protects our rights to freely express ourselves and our opinions. Opinions in and of themselves are not false or incorrect; therefore I believe that no libel has been committed. Please provide your own analyses as you see fit.
Incidentally this brings up another issue for contractors. Even if you love contracting, there is no system to complain about the job that your supervisors are doing. Your Staff Attorneys and Associates are evaluated for further work based on their production, and their relationship with the associates and partners with whom they work, not on their relationship with some of the people that they work with most extensively, the contract attorneys. What this has led to at some firms (and it can clearly be seen in NYC) is that the Associates and Staff Attorneys treat the contractors like 5 year olds or like they are nothing.
Many law firms have review procedures for their associates and partners, it is what helps them to determine who should move up the partnership ladder, and who they will have to let go. Any mid or upper level associate or partner can tell you that they are evaluated from both above and below, and usually by anonymous evaluations. Some firms even go so far as to solicit the opinions of paralegals, secretaries, and other administrative staff as to how an attorney is doing. Contractors, however, do not get a say in the evaluation of Staff Attorneys and Associates, and these are the people that Staff Attorneys and some younger associates spend the most time with.
So, to the Staff Attorney/Associate that wrote me this e-mail, consider comments that you do not like as informal performance evaluations from your subordinates. Yes, you will always get a few people who are disgruntled, but with some of the rules that I have put in place, I am hoping for some fairer assessments.
There are a couple of more posts that I am planning to do in the next couple of days. I will be reaching into the mailbag for some topics, and I hope to get a post up about what the Supreme Court has been doing lately (Drug and Medical Device cases) which might reduce the need for contractor work. I also hope to get another union post up soon.
Until then fellow contractors and sheep,
The Black Sheep