I have often tried to help, particularly when I had the impression that a little help from me can make a real difference.
There were also other cases, though, where I had the feeling that my time was being wasted. For your enlightenment and perhaps amusement, here are some typical samples of e-mails which I do not particularly like to receive. All the following are original quotes (including spelling), not inventions of mine!
Sample 1. The wildly unspecific first year student
Hi,Sample 2. Still undergraduate, still wildly unspecific. And desparate.
My name is ..., and I am in my first year (LLB). I am now taking legal method, criminal law,constitutional law and contract law for my first year. I will appreciate if you will help me to cite some web pages which could be useful for me.
PLEASE I NEED YOUR HELP.
I NEED SOME INFORMATION ABOUT CIVIL OBLIGATIONS OF your country... everything its gonna be great!
PLEASE I REALLY NEED THIS INFORMATION!!! ITS FOR MY FINAL WORK IN THE UNIVERSITY.
Dear Prof. DannemannComments:
I am an italian Law student and, for my exam on international law, I am
a research about cases of " rescissions of contracts for onerousness".
I would be grateful if You would suggest me papers, articles, or
about this specific topic in British Law.
Many Thansk in advance for your attention.
(1) While most academic staff at British universities are quite approachable to students, most will believe that it is primarily the responsibility of a student's home university to provide the student with guidance on his or her research, and that it is essentially the student's responsibility to find the appropriate literature, judgments, etc.
Requests such as the three above give me no idea whether the student, or his or her supervisor, have even started to do their own work. If they have not, I think it is a waste of my time to ask me to do their work before they have done any themselves. If they have, it is a waste of their and my time not to indicate more precisely what they know already, and what they need in addition.
(2) All three
samples above gave me the impression that the student was flame
torching a collection of dozens of e-mail addresses selected at random
rather than addressing me
in any specific capacity.
Sample 4. The prospective student.
Please give me a chance to introduce myself.I am a third-year postgraduate of SiChuan university.My major is chinese criminal law.I want to study in Oxford university this year,but the information in internet is so little.Can you help me by providing more information?It would be my pleasure ,if I heard from you.thank you!
like a person who is savvy enough to sample email addresses from the
faculty website for a mailshot, but who lacks the internet skills
for following links to "prospective students" and on to "graduate
from the homepage of the University of Oxford. These pages not only
provide prospective students with detailed information, but also
tell them how to contact the university if more specific information is
required. And even if that were not enough, I would expect a
prospective graduate student to be more specific about which
information he or she was looking for.
Sample 5. A
very specific request
Dear Mr DannemannComments:
I am a law student at Münster and am looking for an old decision of the Queen's Bench. Unfortunately, I do not have access to decisions from this time.
Monson vs. Tussauds  1 Q.B. 671
I would appreciate if you could do me the favour and send me this decision via:
1. email (...@aol.com) - as jpg, pdf or scanned with OCR or via
2. Fax: 040 ...
Thank you in advance
(1) In this case, I could verify from my desk that the University of Münster library does have the full collection of The Law Reports, including Queen's Bench. I pointed this out to the student, and he confirmed cheerily that he had found the volume.
Admittedly, e-mailing a complete stranger with a request to spend a couple of hours obtaining, scanning and sending a judgment may be easier than checking one's own library catalogue. However, from my perspective, this is a complete waste of my time.
(2) There is such
a thing as inter library loans. If your own educational institution
does not have it, they can get it for you elsewhere.
Sample 6. Both
desparate and wildly optimistic
I am G... from Hungary. I am a student at a university, and I
got a very difficult homework: I must collect the following document: "
the law of the travel agencies and the contract of the travel in
Please, help me!
Please, send it me !!!
It would be good if it will be written in German, or English.
So, please help me, I am waiting for your answer!!
Comment: I sympathise but still wonder what might have given that student the impression that I am an expert in Turkish travel law.
Desparate, and desparately off target
MY NAME IS ... .I HAVE WORKED AT: Porsche AG
I WOULD LIKE TO WORK AGAIN.ALSO,I AM PATRON AT THIS COMPANY.
MR. ... THAT I HAVE WORKED AT THIS COMPANY AND HAS
E-MAIL ADDRESS: ...@dewu.de
ALSO,I TRY TO CONTACT MY BOSS.
NOW I AM IN ROMANIA WITHOUT MY DOCUMENTS.
I WANT TO GO IN GERMANY WITH A PLANE OR HELICOPTER.
PLEASE TELL ME WHERE THE PLANE OR HELICOPTER CAN LANDING.
I WILL PAY ALL IS NECESSARRY.HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON.
MY E-MAIL ADDRESS IS: ...@hotmail.com
Sorry, I am not an expert in helicopter landing places in Germany.