Job application etiquette: the polite rejection letter
A lawyer I know sent me the following email exchange relating to an interview for employment at a trusts & estates firm in Boston. I verified its authenticity from both ends of the exchange, but have taken pity on the law firm, and will withhold its name and that of its administrator. The exchange demonstrates the importance of examining email addresses closely for unexpected things like middle initials or appended numbers. (For ease of reading, I've rearranged the thread so you can read from top to bottom.)

From: [A.L.]
Date: February 14, 2007
Subject: Law clerk position
To: [Samuel F.]

Hi Sam,

I am in touch with you regarding your email to M[.] L[.] about employment with our firm. We are currently looking for a temporary law clerk.

I'd be happy to meet with you. Please let me know when you're available.


A[.] L[.]
[Law Firm and address omitted]
Boston, MA 02108

From: Samuel F[.]
Date: Feb 20, 2007 6:25 PM
Subject: Re: Law clerk position
To: [A.L.]

Dear Ms. L.,
Your message was a pleasant surprise. Regrettably, I must decline. My schedule as a second-grader is quite hectic already. Moreover, I am very busy planning my eighth birthday party next month.
I will of course keep you in mind when I graduate from law school in 2024.

Samuel F[.]

Yesterday I spoke to A.L., who said she'd meant to write to a different Samuel F.--a recent graduate of American University Law School who had submitted a resume to the firm--but had inadvertently omitted a character from the email address.
Since the Samuel F. who received the email also happens to be the son of a lawyer, I have my suspicions that his father may have lent him some assistance with his reply.
Posted by Roger Parloff 6:12 AM 5 Comments comment | Add a Comment

A second-grader has an email address?!
Posted By John Eisleis, Jackson, Missouri : 11:38 AM  

Yes, John. In fact, you may remember that that was one of the problems the Recording Industry Association of America encountered when it began to sue people who were uploading large numbers of copyrighted songs to peer-to-peer sites. The RIAA obtained information about the email account owners from their ISPs by subpoena, and then sued the account owners. So they ended up suing some children who happened to have broadband accounts in their own names.
Posted By Roger Parloff NYC : 12:04 PM  

Funny as this is, I thought it might be prudent here to advise people not to respond to unsolictited emails. Quite often the results aren't so hilarious.
Posted By James Mcgovern, Boston, Massachusetts : 10:03 PM  

I have to say, this points out a disadvantage of using a popular e-mail service such as yahoo, cox, or aol. A unique domain name costs a little bit, but you can get a simple and memorable address which is not likely to be mis-typed. Also, if it is mis-typed, the sender would be likely to get a bounceback rather than send to a valid address.
Posted By ken zirkel, providence, ri : 11:32 AM  

I think the 2 second grader should have just accepted the job offer. A law firm job is a pot of gold at the end of ladder of "institutionalized education" if that pot of gold is delivered to him in 2nd grade/ bottom rung, why climb all the way to the top!

Morever, if he accepted and dropped out of second grade, you might have a cause action for damages/ restitution and reliance.
Posted By Sonny, Lawyerville, NC : 3:54 PM  

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This blog is about legal issues that matter to business people, and it's geared for nonlawyers and lawyers alike. Roger Parloff is Fortune magazine's senior editor (legal affairs). He practiced law for five years in Manhattan before becoming a full-time journalist. To join in the discussion or suggest topics, please email