Writing Legal Content

MailChimp publishes many kinds of legal content to protect ourselves and our users around the world. Most of our legal content is written by the legal department with help from the communications team. This section gives a general overview of the types of legal content we publish and how those documents are written.

For information about laws that apply to non-legal content, see the Copyright and trademark section.

Basics

The way we write, review, and publish legal content is different than how we do many other kinds of writing at MailChimp. The most important difference is that all legal content either starts with or passes through the legal team.

But that doesn't mean legal content has to be difficult to read. We try to present our legal information in the most pleasant way possible. Our goals for MailChimp's legal content are:

  • Accuracy. Our first and foremost concern is that we present the correct information in a truthful way.
  • Clarity. We try to avoid legal jargon and overly formal wording. Our users need to understand the agreement they’re making with us.
  • Succinctness. We want our users to read and understand our legal documents, while also respecting their time.

We publish several types of legal documents, each with their own writing processes and goals.

We keep these in one place on our legal page:

These policies apply to all of MailChimp’s users. The legal and communication teams work together to make them as transparent and easy to read as possible. When someone signs up to use MailChimp, they must agree to all of those terms.

All of our public legal documents, and any changes to those documents, are drafted by our in-house legal team. When new legal documents are published or edited, we notify all our users of the updates and provide a window for them to object before the new terms go into effect.

We also publish guides and technical articles about legal concepts that may affect our users. Here are some examples:

The legal team performs periodic reviews of all marketing and technical content to make sure all related links and information is up to date.

Customer service messages

We respond to legal questions from users every day. We answer common CAN-SPAM inquiries, like “Why does my mailing address have to appear on campaigns?” We also see questions about our practices and policies, like “How long is data retained?” and “Where are your servers located?” and “Why is my industry or content prohibited?”

Our support team handles the majority of user communications. If a user raises a legal issue, a support agent will send the proposed reply to the legal team for review. Users may also contact the legal team directly.

Common issues can be reviewed and sent by a paralegal or other legal staff member. More complex issues, or issues threatening litigation or criminal wrongdoing, will be drafted by a paralegal and then escalated to a lawyer for review.

Public communications

Occasionally we may have to publish communications about security, privacy, and other corporate issues. This could come in the form of an email to users, a blog post, a public statement, or a press release.

The communications team works with the legal team to write and publish these documents, and the executive team reviews them.

Guidelines

When writing legal content, generally follow the style points outlined in the Voice and tone and Grammar and mechanics sections. Here are some more general considerations, too.

Start with the facts

We have some standard language that we use for common issues or requests, but since legal content is so fact-specific, we start there before getting into structure and format. That’s why you won’t see many templates for our legal content.

Use plain language

Legal content is serious business, so the tone is slightly more formal than most of our content. That said, we want all of our users to be able to understand our legal content. So whenever possible, we use plain language rather than legal jargon.

Instead of: “If an individual purports, and has the legal authority, to sign these Terms of Use electronically on behalf of an employer or client then that individual represents and warrants that they have full authority to bind the entity herein to the terms of this hereof agreement”

We say: “If you sign up on behalf of a company or other entity, you represent and warrant that you have the authority to accept these Terms on their behalf.”

There are some legal terms we have to include because either there’s not a sufficient plain language alternative, or case law or statute dictates that term has to be used for the contract to hold up in court. For example, sometimes we need to say “represent and warrant” instead of “confirm” or “agree.” If we use those terms, we can provide an example or quick definition to help people understand what they’re reading. We can't avoid all legal terminology, but we can pare it down to what's necessary.

Some companies have complicated terms and write plain-language summaries so people can understand the agreement. We don’t summarize our legal content, but instead try to write the terms themselves in plain language. We use a sidebar to provide examples or links to further reading for people who want more context.

Definitions

Using plain language for the terms you define up front can make legal documents easier to read. You’ve probably read contracts that say something like “The Corporation” or “The User” throughout, instead of “we” (meaning the company) and “you” (meaning the user who is agreeing to the terms). There’s a quick fix for that. At the beginning of the document, say something like:

  • MailChimp is owned and operated by The Rocket Science Group, LLC d/b/a MailChimp, a Georgia limited liability corporation (“MailChimp,” “we,” or “us”). As a user of the Service or a representative of an entity that’s a user of the Service, you're a “Member” according to this agreement (or “you”).

After that, you’re free to use “we,” “us,” “you,” and “your” throughout the rest of the agreement. That simple change makes the document much friendlier to read.

Contractions

We use contractions in many of our legal documents, which makes them sound more human and flow better with the rest of our content. Contracting words doesn't affect the validity of an agreement. Following our internationalization guidelines, we avoid contractions if we're writing legal content that will be translated.

While we want to inform our users about legal issues related to their use of MailChimp, we can’t offer them legal advice. Sometimes it’s a fine line. The legal department will check for this in their content review.