Sometimes, you just feel for people. Even though you know that most BigLaw partners are huge pains in the tookus, when one screws up so majorly and publicly, you feel something. Gratitude, if nothing else, that it wasn’t you who did it.
It’s the worst nightmare of every attorney: an email goes astray to a reporter. Sending stuff to a reporter means buh-bye to attorney-client privilege, of course, because reporters, unlike opposing counsel, don’t have clawback agreements.
Without saying who, Portfolio.com reports that a woman partner at Pepper Hamilton accidentally sent an email to Alex Berenson at the New York Time–berenson@– rather than to Brad Berenson–bberenson@–co-counsel at Sidley Austin.
There’s been speculation about why a reporter’s email would even be in the partner’s address book, but I think it’s a red herring: all it would take is one “no comment” reply to a query from Alex Berenson, and boom! there it would be. Speaking as one, reporters send email queries all the time to set up interviews and such.
Here’s a guess: Auto-complete has been disabled in every attorneys’ email program at Pepper Hamilton, and probably a lot of other BigLaw firms. Hell, I would disable it, because I’m just the sort of person who gets ahead of herself and forgets to double-check those autocompleted names. Even without external email to blame, I once managed to fax a document to opposing counsel, rather than a client. Fortunately, it was only a case, and opposing counsel agreed to tear up the fax. All was forgiven. And let’s get real, sending opposing counsel a case is pretty small potatos compared to sending a document detailing the metes and bounds of a settlement agreement.
Eli Lilly has said it’s not firing Pepper Hamilton. No word on whether the partner who goofed is still working on the settlement, or has slept much in the interim. Maybe Eli Lilly gave her some Prozac, Cymbalta, or Darvocet samples to help.