Adding a legal disclaimer to all outbound email is an important task. Thankfully, this is a simple process in Exchange on-premises and Office 365. In fact, the instructions are identical for Exchange 2013, Exchange 2016 and Office 365.
For this article, our example company, Time Travel Research, wishes that all email leaving the organization have a legal disclaimer. Time Travel Research is not concerned about applying a disclaimer if the message remains inside the organization. For example, a disclaimer between two employees is not necessary. However, they would like all external messages, whether it be to a customer or a vendor, to have this disclaimer.
Let’s get started!
Add a legal disclaimer to all outbound email
Log in to the Exchange Admin Center. Once logged in, navigate to Mail Flow >> Rules. Click the New () button.
From the drop-down menu, you will notice several choices. These choices are rule templates. We could just select Create a new rule. That would start us with a blank rule with no conditions. However, to give us a head start lets pick the Apply disclaimers template. This will configure a couple of items for us.
You can see the action (Do the following…) has already been set to Append the disclaimer. This is where the template has helped us as there are quite a lot of options to go through. To the right of the action click the Enter text link.
Paste or type your disclaimer text.
Note: You can also use HTML tags here. This is useful to add typeface to the text, or, to add a hyperlink. In our example, we are just creating a plain text disclaimer. For more info on formatting check this Microsoft article.
We also need to specify a fallback action. This is what Exchange will do when it can’t apply our legal disclaimer. Click the Select one link.
You will notice three fall back actions Exchange can take if it can’t apply the disclaimer to the message. Here is what each does.
- Reject: Exchange rejects the message and sends a non-delivery report to the sender. The message is not delivered.
- Ignore: Exchange accepts the message and delivers it to the recipient without the disclaimer.
- Wrap: Exchange creates a new email message with the disclaimer and adds the original email message as an attachment.
For my example, I am going to choose Ignore. Click Ok.
Next, let’s specify what should trigger this rule. To do this we set a condition through the Apply this rule if… selection.
In our example we only want the disclaimer to be applied when an email leaves our organization. We are not concerned about applying a disclaimer if the email stays inside the organization. For example, an email between two employees.
The easiest way to meet these criteria is to select The recipient is located from the Apply this rule drop-down.
Note: If you need to apply a disclaimer to every email message you can select Apply to all messages. If you need more granularity on who receives the disclaimer, be sure to check the other drop down options.
Click the Select one link.
In the select recipient location dialog, we can pick who will receive the disclaimer. In our example, we will pick Outside the organization. Click Ok.
The New Rule dialog suggests a rule name. Let’s change Name to Legal Disclaimer.
We can also specify whether the rule goes into effect right away by selecting Enforce. However, it is always recommended to test the rule first. You can do this by selecting one of the Test options. Whether you pick policy tips or not will determine if your users see any policy tips in Outlook while you are testing. For my example I am going to leave this at Enforce, putting the rule into immediate effect.
Before we save this rule we also need to drop an exception into place. Our exception will check each email to see if the disclaimer text is already present. If so, it will block the rule from applying another disclaimer. Without this exception, we would get a cascade of duplicate disclaimer text. To set the exception we need to click the More options link.
More options allow you to see more advanced options. For example, adding additional conditions or actions. Or, configuring the rule to expire.
In our case, we want to add an exception. Click the Add exception button.
From the Except if drop-down select The subject or body >> Subject or body matches these text patterns.
In the specify words or phrases dialog, paste the same disclaimer text and click the Add () button.
Note: If your disclaimer contained any HTML markup, CSS, or, Active Directory attribute placeholders you will have to remove those from the exception. They won’t be understood.
You are all set! Our rule is now applying a legal disclaimer to any email that travels outside of our organization. However, our rule also verifies that this particular legal disclaimer has not been previously applied. Without this exception, we would get a cascade of duplicate disclaimer text.
What the other buttons do…
When you create a new rule it is always added to the end of the list. This means it will be processed last by the transport engine. To change the priority or processing order of the rule, select it and click the Up or Down () arrows. You can also edit () the rule to change its Priority. In our example, we will make it number one and click Save. Unfortunately, the priority field is only available after the rule is created. The edit dialog allows you to change all other aspects of your rule.
You can also disable the rule by deselecting the checkbox in the ON column. Checking the box will enable the rule again.
To delete a rule permanently select the rule and click the Delete () button. You will be prompted to confirm.
Finally, you can also copy a rule. Select a source rule and click the Copy () button. This will create an exact copy of your source rule which you can then modify, rename and save. This is especially useful when you need to create a lot of very similar rules and need to ensure a base rule configuration.
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