Thursday, 22 July 2010

Email disclaimers bye bye? Litig counsel's opinion

Hate long disclaimers at the end of emails, texts, IM chats etc from lawyers, or indeed anyone else? (See from as long ago as 2001 the Email Disclaimer Dafta Awards with links to the texts of the winners! None of which were law firms, perhaps surprisingly. I love this spoof. This is good too although, with my securities lawyer hat on, I sympathise.)

Aiming to eliminate or at least reduce the environmental and storage costs of long disclaimers (as well as presumably the blood pressure of recipients), the Legal IT Innovators Group Litig obtained opinions from leading counsel Martin Howe QC.

He concluded that sadly disclaimers at the end of law firm communications can't be killed off in the UK, for regulatory and other legal reasons - but they can be considerably shortened. From the Litig press release -

For a solicitors’ firm which is an LLP, I consider that the minimum information for general use on all emails is as follows:
“John Smith & Co LLP is a limited liability partnership registered under No. OC********** in England and Wales, and is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Registered office: [postal address of reg office]””

Some Litig members are looking into putting the wording into effect. If firms want to rely on these opinions, they need to make their own individual specific arrangements with Leading Counsel - without which obviously he assumes no liability.

Of course the opinions focus on the position of law firms in the UK, but they do contain some points of more general interest.

The first opinion is mainly about whether a link in law firm emails to disclaimer wording etc would be good enough (no, he doesn't think so).

The further opinion also cover issues like -

  • confidentiality notice - with suggested short wording
  • limitations of liability for virus transmission ("pretty useless"), imitation on the ability of the sender to form a contract by email, statement that service by email will not be accepted
  • disclaimers in SMS text and IMs.

The press release says Litig plans to send copies of the opinions to relevant environmental and e-commerce associations "to establish whether they have an appetite to help drive ahead these changes further."

See -

Via SCL.

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