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The poetry of a small town lawyer

By August 5, 2005Uncategorized

Let us consider a seemingly absurd question: what is the difference between poetry and legal writing?

Poetry celebrates the sublime, and the poet often seeks to convey as much universal perspective as she can in as few words as possible. Law, of course, is the opposite. Legal draftsmen, er, draftspersons, approach every communication assuming the worst about people. This is why lawyers are compelled to write passages like this:

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e­mail transmission (and/or attachments accompanying it) may contain confidential information belonging to the sender, which is protected by the attorney­client privilege or the work product doctrine. The information is intended only for the use of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying or distribution of or taking of any action in reliance upon this information is strictly prohibited. Furthermore, any unauthorized interception of this transmission is illegal under the law. If you have received this transmission in error, please promptly notify the sender by reply e­mail and then destroy all copies of this transmission and remove it from your e­mail program and all folders on your computer.

A small town lawyer, having a slightly more optimistic view of humanity, wrote a much different passage:

This email is confidential and intended for the addressee only. If you are not that person, please notify me and destroy this and all copies. Thank you.

It’s not poetry, but it’s a lot closer than the first example and probably accomplishes the same objective.  Maybe the big city lawyers would do well to read Robert Frost and take a road less travelled.

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