I've often seen the disclaimer "I am not a lawyer" abbreviated as "IANAL".
And I've often seen the disclaimer "this is not legal advice" abbreviated as "TINLA".
Is it legally just as effective to use the abbreviations as disclaimers by themselves, instead of using their full form disclaimers? Or are people wasting space and time by adding "IANAL" or "TINLA" to their writing?
too long; don't read:
There seems to be plenty of debate about whether such disclaimers (either in full form or abbreviated) are even required at all, for example, in these questions. (FWIW, I think equivalent disclaimers apply site-wide within Law Stack Exchange, as stated in the Tour and Help Center.) But I'm probably using the wrong terminology, because everything I find in Internet searches pertains to style/grammar of abbreviation usage generally, or to using vs. avoiding these specific disclaimers generally (regardless of form), whereas I'm wondering about the validity of the abbreviations specifically, as valid legal substitutes for their full forms.
In other words, if someone writes just "IANAL" or "TINLA"...
- Does it have the same legal effect as if they had written "I am not a lawyer" or "this is not legal advice" (respectively)?
- Is it legally equivalent to having omitted the disclaimer entirely, i.e. effectively useless?
Not sure if this rabbit hole is relevant, but thinking about it some more, I wonder if it might boil down to questions of a more general nature:
(A) Within a self-contained written work, does an abbreviation have the same legal effect as its full form (even in the complete absence of the full form or any other explicit definition of the abbreviation from the written work)?
(B) Are there specific requirements regarding which abbreviations qualify to legally represent which specific full forms?
At the time of this writing, Wikipedia's List of legal abbreviations states that:
It is common practice in legal documents to cite to [sic?] other publications by using standard abbreviations for the title of each source. Abbreviations may also be found for common words or legal phrases. Such citations and abbreviations are found in court decisions, statutes, regulations, journal articles, books, and other documents [emphasis added].
Though these statements are currently unsourced and may not represent a worldwide view of the subject, they seem to suggest that (A) might be true. Is there a formal legal definition for this somewhere?
For (B), definitions for "IANAL" and "TINLA" seem to be absent from common legal definitions at this time, for example, Wikipedia's list and some of the online resources linked there:
ALLACRONYMS Legal Abbreviations
Cardiff University's Index to Legal Abbreviations
The Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.'s Common Abbreviations and Legal Citation Examples for Selected Federal Government Documents
Yet definitions for "IANAL" seem to be commonly found online, and similarly for "TINLA" (perhaps less-so, but still common) — so common as to be entirely unambiguous, by my assessment. So is this sufficient for them to qualify as valid legal abbreviations for their respective full form disclaimers of "I am not a lawyer" and "this is not legal advice"?