Friday, January 29, 2010

Professionalism alert: Should lawyers use emoticons in emails?

In an interview with the New York Times, Bryan Cave managing partner Don Lents advises young lawyers that emoticons should not be used in client correspondence.  Emoticons, as we know, are often used to compensate for the shortcomings of email which are so easily misinterpreted due to the lack of visual and aural cues like body language and intonation which help establish meaning.  Young lawyers have grown up using emoticons as a normal and regular part of their drafting lexicon and thus may not recognize there are some circumstances when clients will look askance at their use:

Emoticons may work in personal communications. But [Mr. Lents] . . . doesn’t like seeing them in business communications. If you’re depending on a smiley face to communicate a thought to a client or a distant colleague, he tells young lawyers in his firm, you should probably step away from the keyboard, get on a plane and communicate in person. Especially if the communication involves any kind of dispute.

. . . .

“In texting and e-mails or even videoconferencing, you can’t always gauge the reaction and sometimes things can have a tendency to be misunderstood, or they can ratchet up to a level of seriousness that you didn’t anticipate,” he added. “In person, you see that somebody reacting in a way that you didn’t expect. Then you can stop and figure out what’s going on, and adapt.”

You can read more about young lawyers' use of emoticons here courtesy of the New York Times.

Big hat tip to the online ABA Journal blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


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Hmmph. All I've got to say is ":p" to that.

Posted by: Fan of the Blog | Jan 30, 2010 6:49:18 AM

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