“What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?”
“A good start”

“Why won’t sharks eat lawyers?”
“Professional courtesy”

“Why are there so many lawyers in the United States?”
“Because St. Patrick rid Ireland of all the snakes”

I received an email today with the following disclaimer. I’m sure you’ve all seen it, or something very similar to it.

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential. If you receive this message in error or are not the intended recipient, you should not retain, distribute, disclose or use any of this information and you should destroy the e-mail and any attachments or copies.

I’m probably violating some legal code outside of copyright by reprinting it here, but these disclamiers bug the crap out of me. If you are so silly as to send something confidential to the wrong person, that’s just too bad. It isn’t my problem outside of my obligation not to do anything illegal. You have violated your own rules, so deal with it. Hasn’t Enron, Scooter Libby, or Alberto Gonzales taught you to keep sensitive material out of emails?

I’ve seen numerous examples of these disclamiers ranging from, “Please alert us if you received this in error,” to three-paragraph dissertations about consequences and state codes. If you have any particular favorites laying around, by all means, put them in the comments.

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4 Responses to Legalisms

  1. Tom says:

    My company strongly encouraged (just shy of demanded) that we add these to our company email signatures. Since I do not use my company email for personal use you will never get an email from me with that in it.

  2. Annie says:

    I would have to agree with Tom on the front of not using work email for personal messages. It’s why I maintain separate accounts. (Well, that and it’s sometimes nice to escape from the whiny students that plague my work account.)

  3. pwall says:

    We have it for the same reason you have to have warnings like, “do not iron this shirt while you have it on”!!!

  4. Bill says:

    @Annie, @Tom: You point is taken, but there is still a great deal of traffic over official work communication that does not deserve any sort of confidentiality notice. For instance, I’m in charge of planning a white water rafting trip for one of my professional societies. By the letter of those disclaimers, no one can talk about this trip without my express approval.

    Seems a bit silly.

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