Internet Divided Over Lawyer Who Replied All to Email, Embarrassing Colleague

One Redditor is asking the internet for advice over a recent possible work faux pas and the internet is divided.

The Redditor, who posted to the "Am I The A**hole" thread under the username Born-Replacement-366 said he's not sure if he did the right thing when handling a defiant colleague, in a post that has more than 12,000 votes.

The poster explained that he works as an in-house lawyer at a Multinational company. He said that someone in the sales department continues to copy him on email chains with "external affiliated companies" asking for legal advice.

"He does this without any courtesy heads-up beforehand, or any context provided," the Redditor wrote.

LinkedIn provides three reasons to use the reply-all function on an email: "You have relevant questions," "your response could have a direct effect on others" or "you're scheduling a meeting with a small group." In a piece featured on The Guardian, the writer cautioned that using the reply-all function is appropriate "mostly never."

"Here's one situation in which I would consider it absolutely necessary to reply to all: just as a company-wide email has landed in your inbox, you've noticed the office is on fire, and you don't have time to compose a new all-staff email ['Subject line: Fire']," Elle Hunt wrote for The Guardian in 2017. This Redditor seemingly had not read Hunt's piece.

The Redditor wrote that initially, he tried to be polite about this indiscretion, telling the colleague that these companies have their own legal departments and advising them that they would be taking on "unnecessary risk exposure" for their company.

"I would also be sacrificing privilege," Born-Replacement-366 wrote. "He said he understood, but after a few weeks would do the same thing."

He said the breaking point was when the colleague copied him on a thread with a company that their company might have a potential dispute with. He said he removed all the external parties from the thread and replied all to the remaining people who worked at their company.

"'Bill [not his real name], you have to STOP dropping your legal counsel into the middle of email threads with external parties without any heads-up or context," he wrote. "My job is to advise our company, and NOT to advise counterparties with whom we might have potential disputes. You CANNOT keep doing this. You are compromising our company's interests. Please tell your team too.'"

He said "Bill" did not respond, though mutual colleagues said he had gone too far.

"I understand that I could have been more civil, but I was frustrated because Bill has been doing this consistently and had not appeared to internalize my more polite previous warnings."

Reddit workplace faux pas
A man took to Reddit to seek advice over a possible workplace faux pas. This stock image shows a person typing on a computer. AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

Commenters on the thread were divided over if the Redditor was within reason to go to such measures with his colleague.

"NTA [well, NTA beyond being a lawyer]—I'm a lawyer too," one person chimed in. "You told him once. He kept doing it. There's completely valid reasons that he needs to stop doing it."

Another commenter started by saying "ESH"—or, "everyone sucks here"

"You intended to shame him and you succeeded—but more importantly you also came off as unduly cruel to some of your other coworkers," this commenter wrote. "You probably could have delivered the same message privately. And at the same time, he had some off ramps to avoid getting to this point. An unfortunate circumstance for both of you."

The original Redditor said he overheard some of his subordinates mimicking the email "with relish" and found out they had experienced similar things with Bill.