IT WILL go down as the email exchange of the year, and possibly the decade. Allens Arthur Robinson was last week embroiled in an email stoush between two secretaries in the Sydney office that was soon forwarded around the world.
“I am in a happy relationship, have a beautiful apartment, brand new car, high paid job … say no more,” one secretary wrote. “Oh my God, I’m laughing,” the other replied, “beautiful apartment (so what), brand new car (me too), high paid job (I earn more) … say plenty more … I have 5 guys at the moment. Haha.”
The email exchange that had begun as a search for sandwich components that had disappeared from a fridge on level 19 soon turned into a personal attack. The emails were forwarded by one of the women to a lawyer within the firm, and soon ran out of control and outside the firm.
Entering the inboxes of people at Deutsche Bank, Macquarie Bank, Queensland Government, law firm McCullough Robertson, Gadens Lawyers, Phillips Fox, BT Financial Group, Westpac Institutional Bank and others, the email was forwarded between the states and territories. Recipients added their comments and forwarded them on.
“So this is what happens in those posh Sydney firms,” one person wrote. “This just shows how bitchy the Big Law firms can be. Wow. A must read,” wrote another.
Newspapers across the globe last week reported that the two women had been sacked, a UK news site, The Register, reported: “[The secretaries] were duly sacked for their efforts, and a hunt is underway for the culprit who released the material into the wild.”
Unions have criticised the law firm, assuming that the women were sacked solely because of the email exchange. “I just hope this hasn’t happened because they are women and clerks rather than lawyers,” president of the United Services Union, Michael Want told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Allens was forced centre stage in the virtual scoop, and it became an accepted notion in the press that the women has been fired because of the email exchange. Lawyers Weekly understands that there is long held animosity between the two women.
When pressed about the fate of the two women earlier this week, Allens Arthur Robinson refused to comment. The firm warned instead that it is a lesson to all companies and individuals about the improper use of email. “Employees have been reminded of the appropriate use of email as a result of an unfortunate email exchange last week. The email exchange serves as a salutary lesson to all organisations and individuals about the potential consequences of inappropriate use of corporate email and intranet services,” a spokesperson said.
The rate at which emails can be sent was illustrated last week on the user hits on auction site eBay, which was auctioning off “one pack of ham, some cheese slices and two slices of bread, perfect for that tasty lunch sandwich, especially if your (sic) short of change. Found in fridge on level 19 of an undisclosed building in the Sydney CBD.”
On Friday last week, a link to the site was forwarded across the country, the hits on the page being proof of the speed of this viral marketing. At 9.45am last Friday, the site had received 260 hits, and a bid for the contents of about $1. An hour later, at 10.45am, the site had received 643 hits. Fifteen minutes later, at 11am, 898 people had clicked on to the site. By 11.05am there had been 1,023 hits, and by 11.30am the same day, there had been 1,940 hits. About half an hour later, at 12.05pm, the site had received 4,305 hits. By 2.30pm, the link had been removed from the site.
Comments appeared on the eBay site, including questions about the contents for sale. “I’m recently unemployed … will I be able to pay in instalments? If not, maybe we can go on a ‘date’. I have two free nights per week,” one asked. “I’m sorry I’m unable to accept instalments. And as for the date, this seems pointless as everyone knows you can’t keep a man,” the seller replied.
“In terms of quantity: is there enough to cater for myself and, say, 5 guys?” one prospective buyer asked. “I think you and 5 guys would be sandwiches a plenty already,” the seller replied.