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Durham: Return to Sender; Address Unknown

  • State: Tennessee
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As a judge, I appreciate the opportunity this blog affords me. It gives me a chance to vent to the world at large (or at least, the tiny part that cares about Tennessee workers’ compensation) about some of my pet peeves. Today’s pet peeve: email addresses.

Judge Robert Durham

Judge Robert Durham

As you might know, the judges in the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims are tasked with writing orders — all sorts of orders — every day. Part of that task involves completing the Certificate of Service where we identify who’s getting the order and the method by which they’re receiving it. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but it’s an inconvenience sometimes and occasionally a downright hassle. And it’s all because of email addresses.

Let me give an example. I recently wrote an order granting a motion to withdraw that was filed before a dispute certification notice was issued. The attorney filing the motion didn’t include an email address on the signature line, although he did have his physical address and a fax number. 

A fax number. And he’s not the only one; we see it all the time. Seriously, when was the last time you received anything by fax? It’s time to let the 20th century go, people.

Anyway, I thought, “I can handle this. I’ll just look at the petition for benefit determination.” However, when I brought it up, I saw that it was filed before an attorney became involved. Thus, no email address.

I sighed heavily and then Googled the attorney. After scrolling through a bunch of attorney reference sites, I unearthed his website. I clicked on it and then spent several more minutes trying to locate an email address. I’m happy to report that I was finally successful.

Of course, that wasn’t the end. I now had to find the defense attorney’s address. Since I knew it wasn’t on the motion or the petition, I went straight to the internet. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that his established, respected, multi-attorney firm doesn’t even have a website, much less available email addresses.

Wow. I guess they already have as much work as they need.

So there I was, contemplating calling the attorney’s firm to get his email address, when I remembered the fount from which all knowledge comes: my administrative assistant.

When I asked her if she could find it, she simply rattled it off from memory. Nice. I then finally sent off an order on which I spent more time trying to find where to send it to than I did actually composing it.

Why do so many attorneys not include email addresses in their signature lines? Email is surely the way most folks in the legal community correspond with each other. It’s certainly true for us. I can’t imagine anyone practicing law without email, but if they are, I doubt they’re reading this blog or even know what a blog is. So, I’ll just have to live with their fax numbers.

Perhaps some are concerned with giving their addresses to the general public. Of course, motions and business correspondence aren’t for the general public. But if that’s a concern, they could use an assistant’s email address or even a general office one.

However, I suspect the real reason they don’t include it is because their signature lines haven’t been updated since Y2K. (Probably some attorneys out there are too young to get that reference. Sigh.)

So sometime in the near future, I would appreciate it if you or your staff could take a few moments and update your signature lines. Not only would I appreciate it, but my assistant would as well. It must be tough keeping all those email addresses in her head.

Robert Durham is a judge in the Tennessee Court of Workers' Compensation Claims, Cookeville. This entry is republished with permission from the court's blog.

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