Staff emails are becoming quite the liability for law firms. There was of course the notorious — and wonderfully bitchy — ham sandwich affair in which Allens Arthur Robinson became embroiled.

Clayton Utz is the latest organisation to fall victim to rabid emailing from a staff member — except that this time it’s a hoax.

On Friday, an email was sent — purportedly by a Clayton Utz lawyer — to lawyers at various major firms, a very senior Liberal party member and Crikey. The email, sent from a Yahoo address bearing the lawyer’s name, read:

You have recently learned that I am a Liar, most disgraceful and disruptive circumstances have revealed the truth. I apologise unreservedly, and have stepped down from my functions with the illustrious firm of Clayton Utz. I have brought myself into disgrace, I have disgraced my company, I have disgraced all of you, I have cast my profession into disrepute. I owe an especial apology to [senior colleague] and to his long suffering wife.

Crikey’s interest was further piqued by a follow-up email, minutes later:

You just got the official version for the press and public. As lawyers you will be well aware that nothing ends so tidily, nor so cheaply. I am of course suing those miserable pr-cks at Clayton Utz, they wanted to hustle me out on the cheap, they taught me, correction indoctrinated me, in the arts of lying and gotta win at any price, now they think I’ll de program, forget it, cheerio & thanks for the fun? I really got it in for that [senior colleague], and will get to show you what a limp d-cked hypocrite he is, unless of course he wises up and pays up. He got 12 hours, if not…..

But the emails were in fact complete fabrications — as a senior member of the firm wrote from an internal email address this morning:

I understand that you have received a number of emails purporting to have been sent by [an employee] Unfortunately, [the employee] is the victim of a campaign of email harassment. As you no doubt assumed, the emails that have been sent in her name are a hoax. We are working to bring the problem to an end although, as others have learnt, it is an extremely difficult issue to address.

Crikey understands that this isn’t the first major Australian law firm to have been harassed by this particular hoaxer. And despite their best legal efforts, they’ve been unable to stop him in his tracks. So if you get an email from a lawyer that seems too juicy to be true, it probably is.  

Peter Fray

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