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Website: Terms and conditions vs. disclaimer

By Peter LaSorsa Most lawyers have a presence on the Internet in the form of a website. Of course a website is a form of advertising and therefore the rules regarding advertising must be followed. I did a recent random survey of websites in the Chicago area (checking out the competition) and found an interesting trend. On the front page of many websites there is a form that the user can fill out and send to the law firm. Most have a place for name, address, phone number, email and a brief synopsis of what the issue is. At the bottom of the form by the submit button there is a box that the user checks agreeing to the terms and conditions as defined by the law firm. There is usually a hyperlink on the words terms and conditions, which allows the user to view the actual terms and conditions prior to checking the box. On my website instead of terms and conditions I utilize the word disclaimer. The same action takes place, as the word disclaimer is a hyperlink that takes the user to a page or two of information regarding the disclaimer. I actually chose the word disclaimer instead of terms and conditions for the following reason. The language of most legal websites starts with something to the affect that by visiting the website or sending in a form with your name and address the action does not imply or infer a legal agreement or contract of any kind with the firm. In my opinion the problem with utilizing words like “terms and conditions” are that those words are inherent with agreements and contracts. I mean terms and conditions to what? To an agreement or contract that you are then denying has been formed? For that reason I chose the word disclaimer instead of terms and conditions. I believe that by having the user check off the box saying they have read my disclaimer, there is no inference that a contact has been formed and I am getting in the same language that those who utilize the words terms and conditions, without the connotation that an agreement has been formed. I know it seems like small potatoes but I think it’s an easy fix and the change makes more sense. I would be interested to know the opinions of other attorneys on the issue. Peter LaSorsa can be reached at lasorsalaw.com. He also publishes a blog at www.illinoissexualharassmentattorneyblog.com
Posted on April 21, 2011 by Chris Bonjean
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