Keep Yourself Out of Trouble: Don’t Use a CMS for Legal Content

4 Min Read By: Brian Powers

IN BRIEF

  • Most content management systems benefit the marketing and sales teams within a company, but are not necessarily useful for hosting any type of legal content.
  • Companies would better protect themselves by utilizing software solutions designed with the legal team in mind.

Businesses often operate with their legal departments as an afterthought. This obviously isn’t ideal in that legal issues can cost businesses thousands of dollars, but there are much cheaper ways businesses can protect themselves on the front end, especially when it comes to the legality of online marketplaces.

Many companies produce a lot of content and save time by using a content management system (CMS). These systems allow businesses to easily update content from blogs to landing pages, but they aren’t great for everything—specifically, hosting any type of legal content.

Most CMS tools benefit the marketing and sales teams within a company, but the impact of using them for legal content can affect the entire organization. Although the legal team usually does not provide input in purchasing new tools or software, especially those primarily used by marketing and sales, it matters at the end of the day. If a legal issue arises and you end up in court, a judge or a lawyer will not care that your company’s legal team wasn’t involved in purchasing a system or a tool like a CMS.

“Legal content” is a broad term, but some common areas where it appears on a website are terms of use, disclaimers, privacy, and refund policies—all of those boxes you probably click without reading. These may seem like a nuisance for consumers, but they are necessary for businesses to protect themselves from unnecessary risk. The protections they provide, however, are only as good as the format and presentation. These are some major reasons why a CMS is not the ideal platform to host legal content and terms:

  • It is difficult to keep a record. A CMS will track changes made to a website over a certain period of time, but changes made to legal content often fall outside of what is tracked because it typically is kept in text files. It is difficult to keep track of records that are not there, and staying up to date on all changes made to legal content is crucial to protect yourself if you end up in a courtroom. Fortunately, there is software that allows businesses to better track the changes made to hosted legal content.
  • It is difficult for consumers to find your legal terms. All legal content must be disclosed to every customer. Although a CMS can certainly present the legal content, the design and placement usually make it difficult to find, let alone navigate. A hard-to-find tab might lead to another window that displays a link to “Website Terms,” or the legal content might end up buried in the footer of the website in a color that matches the website background, making it virtually impossible to read. This is important to note because burying your browsewrap or clickthrough might leave them unenforceable, which could land you in some pretty hot water. Lack of constructive notice that the use of a website is subject to legal terms can be disastrous for your company.
  • It is difficult to show proof. Should the unfortunate need arise for a company to enforce its legal terms, the company will be expected to provide evidence that a user accepted its legal agreements. A CMS will not be able to produce a listing of who signed the legal agreements, which can end up being a nightmare. Even if a CMS does a decent job of hosting legal content, it certainly is not going to create any type of self-contained, durable record of consent. Businesses need a solution that will store and allow easy access to the signed legal agreements so they can defend themselves if needed.
  • It is difficult to stay updated. The best place to present legal content and have it accepted by a user is during a clickthrough process (think: registration forms, opt-ins, check-out flows). A CMS is of little help when integrating legal content into this type of clickthrough process, and there is no fast or efficient way to make regular updates to legal content, which must be a priority. The legal team can save time, money, and resources by finding a better host that allows it to easily update the content of the legal agreements without having to involve developers.

CMS tools are undoubtedly useful for most businesses, but they just are not the best option for hosting legal content. It can lead to a world of trouble for a legal team and ultimately puts your business at risk—something to avoid at all costs.

Utilize solutions designed with the legal team in mind and built specifically to manage and track website legal content. These tools will implement best practices for design, assist in publishing legal content, and store information from clickthrough agreements, allowing businesses to obtain the contract acceptance they need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Powers

Brian Powers is the founder and CEO of PactSafe and a licensed attorney. As the CEO, Brian leads the strategic vision of the company’s high-velocity contract…

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