Periscope Depth

sentence begins indented with formality

My friend Tom, a lawyer in D.C., passed me this link last week to a job application gone awry. I don’t know that I’m the intended audience for this sort of train wreck, though. Most of the people who commented on the e-mail exchange were amused / offended at the paralegal’s ignorance (“it’s amazing that the MA bar lets women practice law”).

In my opinion, though, the chain of e-mails should never have got that far. Because someone who writes an e-mail like this has no business working for a law firm:

I do not know why you are hesitant after seeing my work experience, education and with speaking with me? Were my writing samples not to your standard because I did do very well in that class and that’s why I brought them to give you a sample of what I can do. [...]

I can do any type of Motion, and research. I do not think a 30 day trial period is necessary. I would prefer bring me on full time to show you my capabilities.

The first sentence is improperly punctuated and duplicates the word “with” for no reason. The second sentence is three run-on sentences. The third sentence has a needless comma. The fifth and final sentence should read “I would prefer for you to bring me on full time …”; without those three words, it’s gibberish.

If there’s any type of e-mail you’d hope would be written to reverential standards of grammar, it’d be a job application to a law firm. You’re coming to them hat in hand, looking for work. You need to demonstrate that you can represent the firm with a professional attitude. All of this should suggest the need for a clear, demanding style. But even if your writing isn’t exceptional, it ought to at least be mediocre! It ought to at least communicate concepts in a clear way!

After getting an e-mail like that, why continue the discussion? Why would you even consider hiring someone who thinks that’s an acceptable way to communicate to a potential employer?

Then again, the e-mail that the law firm sent the applicant, which prompted this inarticulate response, contains the following:

I have to confess, I am on the fence about offering you a position. This is a thought I had…tell me your thoughts.

I think, if I am right, you would be a good addition to take over the legal flow of work that I don’t have time to get to. As you are a law student, in addition to your experience, I think that it will work. But, while I
looked at your writing samples, I feel the need to see your work product before offering you a position. I guess we could do a 30 day trial period, but I hate to waste anyone’s time.

What are your thoughts with me giving you a few projects and over the next week you could do them here at the office or from home.

Nothing as bad as the law student’s e-mail. But:


  • “This is a thought I had…tell me your thoughts.” That sentence could have used a skeptical glance.
  • “As you are a law student, in addition to your experience, I think that it will work.” I’m not sure what the clause “in addition to your experience” modifies here.
  • The last sentence is clear enough, but an easily avoidable run-on.
This e-mail is from the law firm that the student wants to apply to! These are the supposed professionals! And they’re only marginally better.

I have a sneaking fear that mine is the last generation that will write e-mails in complete sentences. It’s nothing but commas, run-ons, and “????????” from here on out.

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