Alright, Fine, I’ll Add a Disclaimer to My Emails.
[Originally published September 29, 2011.]
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This email does not create an attorney-client relationship. Probably. If it does, it will have said it does. Although it could have created an attorney-client relationship without explicitly saying so, because the law is tricky like that, and the authoritative statements in this disclaimer are not as authoritative as they look. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t absolutely certain about whether or not an attorney-client relationship exists between yourself and the sender of this email, you should probably hit “reply” and ask for some clarity.
This email may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information. If it does, and you are not the intended recipient, then the sender hereby requests that you notify him of his mistake and destroy all copies in your possession. The sender also concedes that he is very, very stupid, and obviously should not be operating an electronic-mail machine without supervision.
The purpose of this disclaimer, in theory, is to protect the sender from whatever liability may result from the sender’s own failure to communicate clearly or properly send an email, even though the sender, having obtained a formal legal education, is well aware that a generic email disclaimer, even one written with that ominous language of which lawyers are so fond, is unlikely to be enforced against a party lacking a sophisticated understanding of the legal principles surrounding said disclaimer, and that in the case of a party who does understand the legal principles surrounding said disclaimer, the disclaimer merely restates what said party already knows. This disclaimer is a catch-22.
This disclaimer is not unlike the ceaseless blaring of a distant car alarm—a once-sincere warning that has evolved into an unpleasant nuisance, rendered meaningless by its own ubiquity. This disclaimer exists in a country where the demand for legal services is substantial enough to provide gainful employment for more than one million lawyers, virtually all of whom make liberal use of disclaimers purporting to protect themselves from the very litigiousness that pays their bills. You do the math.
This disclaimer is not especially concerned with intelligibility. Unlike the sender of this email, this disclaimer has no qualms about indulging in the more obnoxious trademarks of legalese, including but not limited to (i) the phrase “including but not limited to”, (ii) the use of “said” as an adjective, (iii) re-naming conventions that have little to no basis in vernacular English and, regardless, never actually recur (hereinafter referred to as “the 1980 Atlanta Falcons”), (iv) redundant, tedious, and superfluous repetition of synonymous terms, (v) ENTIRE SECTIONS OF FULLY-CAPITALIZED TEXT, PRESUMABLY INTENDED TO SAY TO THE READER, “HEY! THIS IS IMPORTANT! YOU SHOULD READ THIS PART! AND REMEMBER IT!”, AS IF NO ONE HAS EVER NOTICED THAT PHYSICALLY ENLARGING TEXT WITHOUT INCREASING THE AMOUNT OF SPACE AVAILABLE FOR SAID TEXT TO OCCUPY CREATES THE VISUAL EFFECT OF A SOLID RECTANGULAR BLOCK OF LETTERS, ROUGHLY AS CAPABLE OF IMPARTING A COHERENT THOUGHT AS A TIGHTLY-PACKED SCRABBLE® BOARD, and (vi) lowercase Roman numerals.
This disclaimer exists for precisely one reason—to make this email appear more professional. This disclaimer shall not be construed as a guarantee of actual professionalism on the part of the sender. Any actual professionalism contained herein is purely coincidental and is in no way attributable to the presence of this disclaimer. While the sender of this email likes to think the professionalism with which he approaches his work speaks for itself, this disclaimer constitutes (i) begrudging acquiescence to the industry standard, or at least a superficial imitation thereof, and (ii) begrudging acceptance of the paradoxical reality that people who exchange emails with lawyers both expect to see, and pay no attention to, legal disclaimers. If you aren’t reading this, then this disclaimer has done its job. Its sad, pointless job. THIS DISCLAIMER IS NOT INTENDED TO BE IRONIC.
SUGGESTED READSLaurienzo Peewee Hocky League Disclaimer
by D. Byard Cox (2/6/2004)
I Have a Few Disclaimers About My New Short Story
by B.R. Cohen (3/20/2013)
Letters for Martha
by Ben Greenman (3/30/2004)
RECENTLYI Feel Like NPR Doesn’t Like My New Radio Show Idea
by Dan Kennedy (4/24/2015)
How to Find Love: Lessons from an Old Maid: Letter to Adults Who Are Also Having Zero Sex
by Connie Sun (4/24/2015)
Open Letters: An Open Letter to the Former Owner of My Queen-Size Bed
by Catherine Tung (4/24/2015)