One reason many lawyers cite for not participating – or even subscribing to – law-related listserves is the time involved in responding to questions posed by a law. Who hasn’t opened up a mailbox to see a sequence of posts responded to by the same person, a lawyer who has taken the time to answer every single post? Either that lawyer is obsessive-compulsive – or someone hasn’t clued him in that each post does not require his answer. That list subscriber dutifully responds to everything, even if it means looking up the answer, telling the list that he will look up the answer in a day or two, or he might even add, “I don’t know the answer to this one.” And, as time passes by, other list subscribers begin to jeer at him or quietly delete his posts, or the Answer Man simply goes away.
Here’s a little-known secret. You don’t have to answer each post, even if you do happen to know the answer. No one is paying you to respond to mailing list posts. No one will consider you a dullard and slacker if you simply sit back and lurk. Wait for all of the mail to come in on a single subject before responding. In a day or two, when everyone else has discussed the finer points of the Veterans Administration and divorce, then weigh in. And then do so only if your post will add to the body of knowledge. If your answer is desperately needed, and you’re the only one around who knows the answer, someone will nudge you for your response. Until then, it’s all right to keep mum.
Ignore the mail. You’re not playing Jeopardy! – and moreover it’s even not the Final Jeopardy! Round. It’s only a mailing list. There is no prize for being the first to send in the winning answer to a legal mailing list. Just as copyright guru Lawrence Lessig declared e-mail bankruptcy, you can do so too.