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Boilerplate language

Boilerplate language is to a lawyer as a sidearm is to a gunslinger.  The origins of the term ‘boilerplate’ are interesting but irrelvant here.  The thing you need to understand, in case you were carried away by aliens and haven’t been on Earth in the past 100 years, is that boilerplate language is intended to bore you and intimidate you at the same time.

You’re supposed to feel like the language is so ‘official and important’ that you have no right to question it.  And, since it is written by lawyers, boilerplate language is like a hypnotist’s finger snap, which is to say it puts you into an immediate hypnotic stupor.

Lawyers love to create boilerplate language.  They will spend hours carefully arranging multi-syllable words to achieve the precise balance of confusion and torpor.  Like witches creating magic potions for various types of spells, lawyers have an arsenal of boilerplate language for use in any given situation.

I like to collect boilerplate language, but I specialize in the ones that get placed in lawyer emails.  For example, ones like this:

This communication is from a law firm and may be privileged and confidential (we are too busy to check each E-mail we send out so we’re placing the onus on you to read this crap and figure out if it applies to you).  If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender by reply E-mail (which may include spoof E-mail generated by computer viruses) and destroy all copies of this communication.  Seriously, we mean ALL COPIES, so if you get an unintended E-mail you should march right into your IT department and insist that they delete the backup tapes and stand there to make sure they really do it.  Lastly, you should know that the sender’s name and other information in this E-mail are for informational purposes only and are not to be considered electronic signatures. 

It kind of makes you wonder: how much additional overload is placed on the Internet’s traffic by the inclusion of this sort of language that no one reads?  Whatever it is you can be sure that most lawyers think this hidden cost is well worth it.   Cover your ass at all costs, that’s the essence of boilerplate language. Any questions?


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.
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