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September 2021


Trigger warning: Reply all email chains

by Jennifer Thompson

0921-Email-Chain-300Can we talk about July 29, 2021? It’s been a few weeks now, and while the afternoon (and the early evening, and the night) were certainly, um, prolific, it’s also true that time heals and by now the wound isn’t quite as fresh. So, let’s unpack the day. 

You remember July 29, right? That’s the day that the MSBA Members News & Notes Community clogged up and bogged down some large portion of over 13,000 member email inboxes. It started as a note to members advising of important job postings, which was followed by a comment responding to the post that was (probably unintentionally) sent to all. And then, slowly, but eventually coming on at a fast and furious pace, hundreds, maybe thousands of follow up responses—to EVERYONE! There were lots of emotions expressed and “tips” offered. It was entertaining and exasperating at the same time. It happened because of a mistake (similar to ones that we have all made) and sincere apologies were given. I hope you extended grace, as well. Goodness knows we can all use some of that—these days especially.

Now that #replyallgate is in our collective rearview mirror, are there any insights to be gained? Yes, most surely there are. Here’s what the responses to the never-ending email chain say about member relationships with the MSBA.

  • Are you a former MSBA president who used your top-secret access to staff cell phones and personal email addresses to plead for the flurry of emails to stop? You’re still a mover and a shaker helping the MSBA serve as a connector and convener. This episode will let you regale all your colleagues with evidence of the (very, very) many touchpoints that MSBA membership provides! 
  • Did you reply all to ask to be removed from the email exchange? You might enjoy the on-your-own-schedule and at-your-own-pace MSBA On-Demand CLE library. MSBA offers hundreds of hours of On Demand CLE programming each year, covering over 25 practice areas. You get the critical updates and developments in the law on your schedule… and without anyone interfering with your inbox. 
  • Did you take to social media to alert your network of the situation? Did you add pictures of the size of your inbox? Or did you quickly set up a rule to route all messages on the thread directly to your Deleted Items folder? You’re a perfect candidate for the Technology Committee and the work they do to study and make recommendations relating to the use of technology in the practice of law.
  • Did you offer assistance to your fellow members on how to stop the continuing emails, possibly even inserting screenshot snips for all the visual learners? Sounds like you’re a problem-solver, looking to do good and help others. The Access to Justice Committee is for you! 
  • Did you use all CAPS or the phrase “for the love of…” and plead for everyone to stop replying all (while you replied all)? Sounds like you might have a knack for coaching. The MSBA’s renowned Mock Trial program could be a great fit for you. 
  • Did you reply all just to watch how others replied, to jokingly register your choice of the fish entrée sans dessert, or because your inbox hadn’t seen that much activity in a while? You appreciate comedy and connection, two important components of lawyer wellness. Make sure to check out the MSBA Lawyer Well-Being Committee.
  • Did you have no idea that #replyallgate was even happening? You are under-utilizing your membership! You should schedule a one-on-one meeting with MSBA staff about member services and resources, including specifically the MSBA communities. In the communities, you may chat, share and build documents, and access other resources (like the practicelaw library). There’s a community for every MSBA section. If you’re a member of a section, you’re already a member of that section’s community. Plus, there are dozens of other working groups and committees already operating online. 

The MSBA has much to offer all its members. Even in the wake of a frustrating professional moment, hopefully, with time passed and a lens of humor, we can all see that perhaps the best part of what the MSBA offers its members is community—a community that shared a wild afternoon one Thursday in July and now, together, can laugh about it. 


JENNIFER THOMPSON is a founding partner of the Edina construction law firm Thompson Tarasek Lee-O’Halloran PLLC. She has also served on the Minnesota Lawyer Mutual Insurance Company board of directors since 2019. 

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