Focus on Ethics & Civility

JurisdictionUnited States,Federal
CitationVol. 36 No. 3 Pg. 51
Publication year2023
Focus on Ethics & Civility
Vol. 36 No. 3 Pg. 51
Utah Bar Journal
June, 2023

May, 2023

Stop CC-ing Your Clients on Emails to Opposing Counsel

by Keith A. Call

What Does "CC" Mean in an Email?

(If you were born before 1975 and don't like love stories, you can skip this section.)

You may have wondered what the "cc" field on your email means. "CC" refers to "carbon copy," a method of making copies of letters and other papers before the proliferation of copy machines and personal computers. In order to make multiple copies of a document, a writer could insert a thin paper coated with a mixture of wax and pigment between two sheets of paper. Then, using a pen or typewriter on the top sheet of paper, the carbon paper would make an imprint of the original writing on the second sheet of paper - a "carbon copy." With a strong hand or typewriter, more than one sheet of carbon paper could be used between more than two sheets of paper to make more than one copy.

Carbon paper was originally invented to help blind people write through the use of a metal stylus or machine instead of a quill. In the early 1800s, an Italian by the name of Pellegrino Turri fell in love with a young woman, the Countess Carolina Fantoni. The Countess had become blind "in the flower of her youth and beauty." To help his lover correspond in private, Turri invented a typewriting machine that used a form of carbon paper. These lovers' use of a typewriter and carbon paper did not become prevalent for another sixty-five years. See Kevin Laurence, "The Exciting History of Carbon Paper!," http://www.kevinlaurence. net/essays/cc.php.

Though carbon paper is no longer prevalent, it has left its mark in our modern world with the use of "cc" on most email platforms.

ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 503

Late last year, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued an opinion about the use of "cc" on emails and other electronic communications. ABA Comm. on Ethics & Pro. Resp., Formal Op. 503 (2022). This opinion provides a warning to any lawyer who includes their client as a "cc" recipient of electronic communications (such as email). The ABA's key opinion is: "[L]awyers who copy their clients on an electronic communication sent to counsel representing another person in the matter impliedly consent to receiving counsel's "˜reply all' to the communication."

In other words, if you send an email or other electronic communication to your opposing...

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