A major international law firm has apologised to its own staff after some reacted badly to an April Fool’s Day memo saying they would no longer be sent emails in the evenings and weekends.
The April Fool’s message, titled “Important New Email Policy”, was sent out on Wednesday morning to employees of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, which boasts 1,200 lawyers in 20 offices around the world.
The firm, which has expertise in corporate, finance and bankruptcy law, is headquartered in New York but has a large office in Holborn, central London.
The prank email on 1 April stated that, in a drive to improve work-life balance in a notoriously demanding industry, email would “not be transmitted” between 11pm and 6am, at weekends or while staff were on holiday.
“All emails during this time will be automatically responded to with a message that the recipient is on vacation and not receiving emails, and the name, email address and telephone number of a designated substitute for the duration of the vacation,” it added. “We are proud to be taking a leadership role in caring about our colleagues’ quality of life.”
Best historic April Fool's hoaxes
Best historic April Fool's hoaxes
1/11 Stringy theory
The BBC's 1957 Panorama programme about harvesting spaghetti from trees in Switzerland showed women carefully plucking the strands from trees and laying them in the sun to dry. It has gone down in history as one of the most believable April hoaxes. It was presented by the very believable Richard Dimbleby, after all.
2/11 Left-handed whopper
Burger King launched a marketing campaign for its 'Left-handed whopper' on April 1 1998. A press release sent out at the time estimated that nearly 11 million left-handed customers visited the fast food outlet in the UK each year. A spokesperson from the Left Handed Club is quoted as saying: "We are delighted that Burger King has recognised the difficulties of holding a hamburger in your left hand that has a natural right bias to it. We urge all left handed hamburger lovers to visit their nearest Burger King and taste the difference for themselves."
3/11 Alarming underwiring
In 1982 the Daily Mail reported a series of signal interferences in fire and burglar alarms, television and radio broadcasts due, it claimed, to the manufacture and sale of bras containing extremely conductive copper underwire. The report claimed that the combination of body heat and nylon caused the copper to produce static electricity which interfered with signals.
4/11 Licking it
The Sun made newspaper history with the world's first flavoured page. On page 17 a white square carries the words "Lick here" and an arrow advises viewers where to place their tongues to experience the flavour. It carries the warning "May contain nuts." The report reads: "Our ink-redible printing breakthrough comes after we teamed up with Brit boffins. It means that readers can lick this page to reveal a hidden taste. The revolution follows TV chef Heston Blumenthal, 43, unveiling lickable wallpaper." Sadly it doesn't work online.
5/11 The magic of colour TV
In 1962 colour TV seemed like a magical thing in Sweden. So when its one television channel broadcast an advisory by the station's technical expert Kjell Stensson telling viewers that they could manually convert their black and white sets into colour by covering the screen in a nylon stocking, thousands of people gave it a try. His technical explanation for the peculiar activity was that the fine mesh of the material would cause a reconfiguration of the light particles emanating from the screen. Viewers were advised to tilt their heads from side to side to help with the readjustment process.
6/11 Sighing over Gordon
"He thrilled them with his constitutional reform statement in 2007, he made them sigh at the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference, he made them clap at the St Paul's Institute," reported The Times this morning, revealing the much anticipated news that a collection of PM Gordon Brown's speeches is soon to be available in all good bookshops. "The Change We Choose; Speeches 2007-2009 contains the Prime Minister's most exciting speeches from the past three years. Those who seek inspiration in the oratory of Gladstone, Disraeli and Churchill will now be able to turn to Mr Brown's discussion of the Millennium Development Goals, his appeal for global solutions to global problems and his promise of a points based immigration system."
7/11 Wife not?
Wikipedia is widely regarded as the font of all knowledge for journalists, students and, well, pretty much anyone who's ever used the internet. Shocking then for the feminists among us to discover that the comprehensive encyclopaedia condones wife selling. A recent entry states: "The English custom of wife selling was a way of ending an unsatisfactory marriage by mutual agreement that began in the late 17th century, when divorce was a practical impossibility for all but the very wealthiest. After parading his wife with a halter around her neck, arm, or waist, a husband would publicly auction her to the highest bidder. Wife selling provides the backdrop for Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which the central character sells his wife at the beginning of the story, an act that haunts him for the rest of his life and ultimately destroys him."
8/11 Star turn
Well-known television astronomer and national treasure Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 on April fool's in 1976 that due to an unusual alignment of planets, known as the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect, Earth would have a temporary reduction in the gravitational pull. He urged listeners to jump at exactly 9.47am to experience weightlessness. Thousands called in to say they'd felt the decrease in gravity and one woman even claimed that she and eleven friends "wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room."
9/11 Just my type
On April 1 1977 The Guardian published a seven-page supplement on the semi colon-shaped islands of San Serriffe, situated somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and the editorial was littered with other puns and plays on words relating to typography. The islands were used for subsequent hoaxes in 1978, 1980 and 1999 and they often turn up in the paper's cryptic crossword.
10/11 Less fun for blondes...
Stuffy global agencies aren't known for their jokes. Which made it all the more believable in April 2002 when the World Health Organization released a report claiming that natural blondes were likely to be extinct within 200 years. It said that due to the proliferation of dyed blondes and a genetic weakness, the last natural blonde would probably be born in 2202. The study was revealed to be a hoax and the WHO denied conducting the research.
11/11 Pinana colada?
One April 1st Waitrose supermarket announced it was stocking an exotic new fruit: the Pinana, a hybrid combination of a pineapple and a banana. The advert read: "Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50% off our essential Waitrose strawberries."
The implication that work-free weekends and evenings are a laughably absurd idea – and therefore a suitable subject for an April Fool’s spoof – did not go down well with some hard-pressed staff.
The memo was leaked to US legal website Above The Law, which quoted several disgruntled Weil’s employees. Some reportedly believed the email to have been genuine at first – only to react with fury when they realised their employer was making light of their out-of-hour workloads.
One described it as “the worst joke of all time… especially to someone like me who has been billing 12 to 16‑hour days recently and gets a lot of late-night and weekend emails”.
Another unnamed Weil’s lawyer accused the company, which boasts an annual revenue of more than £1bn (£673m), of “making a mockery of our hard work”.
It did not take long for Weil’s executives to realise they had misjudged the mood of their workforce. At 3.11pm, Barry Wolf, the firm’s executive partner, sent a message to all staff again to apologise for the email; he insisted the firm was committed to managing their work-life balance.
“This email was the firm’s annual April Fool’s Day message and was intended to be humorous. We obviously got this wrong and we sincerely apologise,” he wrote.
“We know and appreciate the hard work that all of you do. We have to continue to take work-life balance seriously and are always evaluating ways to improve the quality of life here, given the intensity and demands of the profession.”
Many City law firms are starting to take steps to reduce staff stress and burnout, amid growing concern about the impact of the sector’s culture of long hours. Research conducted by Lawyer 2B last year found that stress was endemic in the profession. A Weil’s spokesman declined further comment.Reuse content