Get off my web

November 26, 2014

I get frustrated when people criticize lawyers for not understanding technology. That’s just mean.

And then I happen to read the terms of use for the website of a major AmLaw 50 law firm:

We prohibit the use of any links to the Site from any other Web sites unless establishment of such a link is approved in advance by us in writing.

I won’t mention the firm. Apparently I can’t link to it since I don’t have advance written approval. But this is a firm that boasts one of the largest tech practices in the United States. Typically, they don’t do stupid things.

So I dug a little deeper to try to figure out why a law firm website might try to prohibit the world from linking to it. Turns out this phrase is quite common, particularly among law firm websites. It seems to have its roots in theories of copyright and trademark law that perceive(d) unauthorized linking as infringement.

For the most part, those theories have generated lots of lawsuits and legal fees but failed to persuade anyone. Thankfully. Yet this is a post about lawyers, not law, so I’m happy to suppose these provisions rest on valid legal doctrine.

Still, the question remains: why?

Why does a law firm with a giant website, a host of active blogs, an internal PR operation, an active social media presence, hundreds of attorneys and offices all over the world want no one to visit, except by invitation?