This week an esteemed colleague said that she really liked the notice at the end of my email signature block, which says:
Unless expressly stated otherwise, this message is not intended to serve as an electronic signature nor as assent to an agreement.
I include this language in my signature block because in the right circumstances, a back-and-forth email thread can be construed as the sender’s agreement to the contractual terms and conditions being discussed in the thread, even without a wet-ink signature on a final document. This is discussed, with a couple of real-world case examples, in the Common Draft annotation on electronic signatures.
My colleague suggested that I delete the “not intended” part and make it an absolute statement: “this IS NOT an email signature.” I responded that, wearing my former-litigator hat, I thought the existing not-intended language was safer:
- If I were a judge, and I were presented with a signature block saying “this is not an electronic signature,” I might react along the lines of, hey, wait a minute, I’m the one wearing the black robe, and I’ll decide whether or not this is an electronic signature.
- On the other hand, a notice saying “this isn’t intended to be an electronic signature unless expressly stated otherwise” should be inoffensive, well-nigh incontrovertible, and perhaps dispositive of the issue.