A couple years ago, I wrote a post that argued we lawyers ought to dump the various disclaimers from our email signatures. (A few months later I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal in an article on that topic. Who’d have ever thought that would happen?)
Since that post in 2011, my email signature was simple:
William L. Wilson
Anderson • Agostino & Keller, P.C.
I began thinking about this signature a couple of weeks ago, and I have changed it a bit:
William L. Wilson
Anderson • Agostino & Keller, P.C.131 S. Taylor St., South Bend, IN 46601(574) 288-1510
www.aaklaw.com Twitter: @WilliamWilson
I did this for a few reasons. First, some email correspondents like having the postal address and phone number available to them. Second, including the firm’s web site address and my Twitter handle can promote some traffic and build my online brand.
Note that the infernal disclaimers are still missing. I still believe they are useless. Why? Think of it this way. The idea behind the disclaimers is to preserve confidentiality in case the email is sent to the wrong person. But what happens to confidentiality if I write a letter to Client Alice but it gets put in an envelope addressed to Client Bob? None of us put similar disclaimers on our letters—and even if we did, they’d likely be at the bottom, to be read after the rest of the letter is already digested.
Many lawyers include the email disclaimer about the IRS tax-advice issue. But how many emails actually contain tax advice? As one panelist said at the ABA TechShow in April, “Lawyers look like asshats” putting that disclaimer in an email that contains nothing to do with taxes. Besides, if you really were presenting information that fell within the ambit of the tax-advice issue, wouldn’t you want to put that information right up front so the client reads it first? It doesn’t belong in your signature in that case.
Think about the information included in your email signature. If some kind of disclaimer is appropriate for that particular message, then include one. But don’t put it in the signature where it does no good. If it’s important enough to include a disclaimer, it’s important enough to make sure the disclaimer is done right.