Law Life: E-mail war between lawyer and paralegal goes public

Daily Record Newswire

A week after thousands were privy to their contentious e-mail exchange, one can only assume Jesse J. Clark, a Massachusetts College of Law student, and Auburn lawyer Rosaleen J. Clayton wish they had never met.

The bad blood started when Clark interviewed for a paralegal position at Clayton’s firm. Clayton then e-mailed Clark, stating that while she thought he would be “a good addition,” she wanted to test his work product before hiring him full time. She proposed a 30-day trial period during which Clark would be paid to research caselaw and write briefs on a freelance basis.

Clark wrote back: “Were my writing samples not to your standard because I did do very well in that class and that’s why I brought them to give you a sample of what I can do. As I am unemployed, I want to get to work as soon as possible and I need that sense of stability.”

Clayton replied that she had some concerns over an apparent error in one of Clark’s sample pleadings. “... the thought to do a few projects over the course of a week seemed like a good idea to me,” she wrote. “I am sorry, I did not mean to offend. Best of luck in your job search.”

End of story, right? Not exactly.

Clark shot back: “I am sure if I was wrong, my professor would have corrected my [sic] on it since he has been practicing for 35 years, whereas you have only been practicing since 2002.”

He added that he intended to contact one of Clayton’s receptionists and inform her that Clayton had asked Clark to call the office and pretend to be a prospective client in order to test the receptionist’s phone manners.

At that point, the e-mails turned increasingly testy, with Clayton defending her practice of “secret shopping” her employees while Clark bragged about receiving a high grade from a law professor who is also a judge.

Clark ended his last e-mail with this paragraph: “However, I just do not want to waste my time on a women [sic] attorney who thinks she knows it all. It’s amazing that the Ma Bar lets women practice law. Shouldn’t you be home cleaning and raising children? As for your practice, its [sic] just Bankruptcy. It’s not difficult, and many Petitioners file pro bono and get discharges. I haven’t found you in Lawyers Weekly as a ‘Super Lawyer’ so stop acting as one.”

Clayton was stunned. To vent, she shared that paragraph with her colleagues on the Mass. Forum, an e-mail listserv for local attorneys sponsored by Lawyers Weekly. Despite requests from several attorneys, Clayton refused to divulge Clark’s name, though she did honor one request to post the entire exchange on the forum, but only after redacting the names. She also allowed Lawyers Weekly to post the exchange on its news blog, The Docket, provided no names were revealed.

The Docket item was quickly picked up by other legal blogs, including, with some commenting on which party came across as less sympathetic, while others took shots at the attractiveness of Clayton’s office staff.

Not long after, Clark revealed Clayton’s identity in a reply to a help wanted ad she had placed on Craigslist that warned others to steer clear of the lawyer.

Clark’s identity came to light after a commenter reading the Docket item referenced Clark’s personal blog and a remark he made in which he called a female Realtor a “broad.”

A reporter from Lawyers Weekly called Clark, who confirmed the e-mail exchange with Clayton, but backtracked from his statement that women should be banned from the bar. He declined to answer any further questions, saying, “I don’t want to give my side of the story” as he hung up the phone.

Now publicly named, Clark went on the offensive. He made a YouTube video (which has been taken down) to demonstrate his apparent passion for the law by showing his home office filled with law books, a gavel and the scales of justice. “I have it all,” he said, proudly.

On his blog, Clark claimed that Clayton had altered the e-mails to make him look bad and that while he conceded making a “sexist remark,” it was aimed only at Clayton, not all women attorneys.

Clark turned his own online modeling portfolio into a fake nude modeling ad using the name and photo of the Lawyers Weekly reporter who called him, a page he offered to remove if the paper deleted all mention of him.

An editor who also refused to delete posts about Clark found her photo and cell phone number listed in a phony Craigslist personal ad seeking a “casual encounter.”

Finally, four days after the e-mails first surfaced, Clark announced on his blog that he had “decided to not become a member of the bar, at least not in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This decision is based on the lack of professionalism by the bar community here, and especially the lack of judgment by Attorney Clayton by publishing the personal emails. What will I do now? Will I ever go back to law school and obtain my J.D.? who knows. I will let the cards fall where they land.”