If You Read This in Error, Please Forget It

The Economist takes on that most lawyerly of all corporate requirements: the auto-generated email disclaimer. You know, attorney-client privilege, IRS regs, or both. It goes back to the days of fax cover sheets. As an in-house counsel, I was often asked about these, and said it was not necessary. Some clients would actually insert them on their own, cribbed from an email they received from an random attorney or someone who played one on television. The worst thing you can do as an in-house counsel is insist on pointless things. It makes clients tune you out, and then they don't listen to and act on the important stuff. I have to laugh when I get an email from an attorney friend about meeting at some local watering hole, and the blasted disclaimer makes it sound like I should burn the thing. The Economist article now makes this foolishness go mainstream, and they point the finger at us: So why are the disclaimers there? Company lawyers often insist on them because they see others using them. As with Latin vocabulary and judges' robes, once something has become a legal habit it has a tendency to stick. Might they at least remind people to behave sensibly? Michael Overly, a lawyer for Foley & Lardner in Los Angeles, thinks not: the proliferation of predictable yada-yada at the bottom of messages means that people have long since stopped paying any attention to it. Mr. Overly gets a free link for the courage to say on the record what all of us think every time we see one of these. I had better not see an email from F&L with a disclaimer in the footer, though…

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