Is it any surprise that mailing lists geared toward lawyers tend to be rule-heavy? A list’s culture and audience determine its rules and expectations, but there’s wide variation among the kinds of rules and attitudes towards those rules. Even the debate among the list’s leaders differs.
An open mailing list for more than 2,200 solo and small firm practitioners – the kind of lawyers who don’t play well in the sandbox with others – may require more narrowly-defined rules than a list designed for military lawyers. Some rules seem simple enough, e.g. disallowing attachments, yet others would tax the minds of Talmudic scholars. Deciding whether political posts should be allowed, and, if so, when and how to shut down the conversation perplexed those leading the list.
Last month, when I was asked to manage a new mailing list for military lawyers, it seemed easy enough to simply adopt and slightly modify the rules that had been crafted for the larger solo and small firm lawyers’ list. The military lawyers had absolutely no quibble over a political ban, but they insisted upon allowing attachments. No amount of explanation about why mailing lists often disallow attachments would satisfy these soldier-lawyers; they were adamant about attachments. So the “no attachment” rule went by the wayside. Surprisingly, when new members on this list introduced themselves, they simply attached a paragraph to their e-mail instead of pasting something onto the body of e-mail. The style of officers and gentlemen was markedly different from those lawyers who merely considered themselves gentlepersons and scholars. Military lawyers must be better at dealing with and following rules than solo and small firm lawyers.
The polestar of rule-making for legal mailing lists is MacLaw,
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MacLaw/, a large, very active mailing list for MacIntosh-using lawyers. Perhaps it’s simply a personality trait among MacIntosh folk, but this list has raised rule-making and democracy to new heights. And they seem to play well together.