Via the Society for Computer and Law‘s email newsletter, and this blog post on the SCL website, I’ve been reading some very interesting remarks about email disclaimers.  I’m not a fan (other than for the amusement they bring), and I don’t use one.  My work email signature consists of contact details, and until recently an extra line as part of the Norwich City of Culture campaign (not successful this time, but well done Derry), and now a line about an office move (to save me explaining each time).  No disclaimer though, yet.  This issue was the subject of a lovely column by John Naughton last year, as highlighted at Cearta.

The project that the SCL reported on was in fact that of the Legal IT Innovators Group, who have been trying to find a way to eliminate the email disclaimer entirely.   They went as far as to get the advice of a barrister, and that advice has been published in full on the Ligit website.  Some key points include:

  • A tight form of words that (for the question posed, in respect of solicitors) covered both SRA requirements and other general issues, such as the (regularly ignored) requirements of the E-Commerce Directive and the Companies Act – and the regulations in respect of each.
  • Brief confidentiality notices are argued to be useful, but the other bits of nonsense that keep appearing like virus disclaimers (don’t-open-the-attachment) and standard this-is-not-a-contract verbiage
  • Very fair criticism of the patchwork of regulations and amendments, which make it very difficult to know exactly what is required in particular forms of communication
  • A thorough (but unsuccessful) attempt to find a way to justify incorporation of required phrases through hyperlinks to a web page.

It’s indeed interesting that the waffle that is found so commonly is dismissed quite quickly, whereas the statutory requirements appear, to me at least, to be less common.

Oh and also, on a point not covered in these reports, nobody cares if your email was sent from your iPhone, Blackberry, left big toe or carrier pigeon…