Third Time’s a Charm

–From Thomas F. Blackwell, Associate Professor at Appalachian School of Law, Duke University School of Law, Date of event: circa 1985

McClurg note: Professor Thomas Blackwell was shot and killed in January 2002 at the Appalachian School of Law by a disgruntled student. The dean and a student were also killed. Three other students were wounded. With permission, these funny law school stories of his are left up as a tribute:

During the fall interview season, our school had a large bulletin board near the downstairs vending machine area dedicated to “tube letters” (you know, the letters that firms send you to tell you that you’re “down the tubes”). Anyone could post any rejection letter they received that they considered funny, outrageous, poignant, etc. The letters often also included a short commentary from the student. Being next to the vending machines, by the placement office, and just down the hall from some of the offices where interviews were conducted, we occasionally had interviewers discover the board—and they were usually chagrined to some extent to discover that their own letters might well appear on the board.

Some examples I particularly remember include:

The “de facto” tube letter from the Honolulu District Attorney’s office that explained to the student that they didn’t have the budget in their department to fly anyone out for an office interview, but if the student ever happened to be in Honolulu, to please drop in for an interview.

The cruelest tube letter, to a student who had taken the federal civil service exam seeking a government job. They received an envelope containing a photocopy of the front page of their exam with the word “REJECTED” stamped in huge red letters across the middle.

And my favorite: Several guys lived together in a house off campus and had created their own “tube letter” board in their living room. One of them received the standard two-sentence “you were a great candidate, but you really don’t fit our current needs” tube letter from a firm he had interviewed with. Several weeks later, apparently through an administrative oversight, he received a duplicate tube letter (identical text but different date, signed by the same hiring partner) from the same firm. This pair of letters made the wall as the “we really mean it” tube letter.

Ironically, one of this student’s roommates in the house interviewed with the same firm, and was hired for a summer clerkship. He shared the multiple tube letter incident with the attorneys in the firm, and with their help created a third letter to the original student, along the lines of “In case you hadn’t figured it out from our first two letters, we really, REALLY don’t want to hire you — so don’t ever bother us again” and sent it on firm letterhead. The set of three letters made a return appearance the following fall at the school letter board.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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