Etiquette for automation

When is a solicitor's letter not a solicitor's letter?

I have just received a fax from a firm of solicitors which bore the message that it had been created by an automated system and 'may therefore be unsigned'. This was followed by the caveat that no engagements were entered into by the firm unless the fax bore a partner's manuscript signature.

In these days of increasing use of automatic fax software it appears easy for solicitors to be caught out, either by sending out a fax which has not been properly approved, or by relying on an assurance which appeared to emanate from a solicitor's firm and was on a letterhead, but which the sender then disavowed because 'the computer did it'.

Perhaps it is time for the Law Society to give consideration to the etiquette of communications in electronic form, whether those emerge at the other end as e-mails or computer-generated faxes.

Susan Hall

Taylors, Blackburn.