It has become routine for attorneys to include a disclaimer in their emails. But like anything else that becomes routine, some attorneys have lost track of the purpose of the disclaimer and could benefit from a little thought on improving its language and placement. If that’s you, take a look at your disclaimer and compare it to our sample.
Attorneys use email disclaimers for two main reasons:
- To reinforce the confidential nature of an attorney-client communication when sending an email to a client; and
- To guard against the creation of an attorney-client relationship with a potential client or other individual based on the information communicated in the email.
The purpose for using the disclaimer will determine the language to include. Review this sample disclaimer language and consider how it compares to what you’re using:
THIS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION IS PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO EMAIL RECIPIENTS:
- DO NOT read, copy, or disseminate this communication unless you are the intended addressee. This email communication contains confidential and/or privileged information intended only for the addressee. Anyone who receives this email by error should treat it as confidential and is asked to call (collect) _ _[name of law firm]_ _ at _ _[phone number]_ _ or reply by email: _ _[law firm’s email address]_ _; or by fax: _ _[law firm’s fax no.]_ _.
- This email transmission may not be secure and may be illegally intercepted. Do not forward or disseminate this email to any third party. Unauthorized interception of this email is a violation of federal law.
- Any reliance on the information contained in this correspondence by someone who has not entered into a fee agreement with _ _[name of law firm]_ _ is taken at the reader’s own risk.
- The attorneys of _ _[name of law firm]_ _ are licensed to practice law ONLY in California and do not intend to give advice to anyone on any legal matter not involving California law.
Where you place the disclaimer in your email can make all the difference as to whether it’s read. Many attorneys place it at the end of their emails, but this may not be ideal because the reader may not see it or may just stop reading once they’ve got the substance of your message. By contrast, inserting a disclaimer at the beginning of an email is often more effective because it precedes the content and alerts the reader that confidential information may follow and should be treated accordingly.
If it’s time to make changes to your disclaimer, hopefully this sample will help you craft one that meets your needs. Get many other sample forms to use in your practice in CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms.
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