Should companies prohibit the use of texting acronyms and emojis in business communications? That was a topic of debate at the “People’s Court” argument capping off Exterro’s XChange Global Conference in New Orleans last week. Scott Milner of Morgan Lewis was assigned to argue the “Pro” position, while yours truly was tasked with arguing the “Con” side.
The thing about the XChange People’s Court is that it is not just a straight debate – advocates are encouraged to inject some humor into their arguments. In the inaugural People’s Court, pre-COVID, I argued in favor of “BYOD” policies explaining why it is a good thing to “bring your own dog” to work. Last year I argued that litigants should not be forced to disclose “modern attachments” because their personal relationships are none of anyone else’s business. So what twists could Scott and I bring to this issue about texting acronyms and emojis? Scott got the laughs started in his opening, using several funny PowerPoint illustrations while making his main points that the use of texts can create confusion and ambiguities and create problems when trying to monitor communications or find and interpret messages needed for e-discovery.
In response, I argued that these communication methods developed for good reasons—they foster more interesting and creative expression while also adding efficiency. Why be forced to type 20 keystrokes for what you can say in 5? But my argument quickly devolved into increasing use of acronyms in the argument itself. By the time I got to the end it was “NGL with ED, everyone has FOMO but WTF, EOD OTT ED is a CWOT. TBH it's NP BC YGWYN (IKR SSDD) and YOLO so IRMC.” For the sake of audience members over 29, the argument was accompanied by PowerPoint slides spelling out the acronyms. The above translated to “Not gonna lie, with e-discovery(?) everyone has a fear of missing out but what’s the fear(?), at the end of the day over the top e-discovery is a complete waste of time. To be honest, it’s no problem because you get what you need (I know right, same stuff different day) and you only live once so I rest my case.”
Scott ad-libbed his rebuttal without the assistance of further PowerPoint slides, which left me with a clicker, and an opportunity for more mischief. While Scott was rebutting, on the screen mysteriously appeared some disapproving and bored emojis.
All that was left was my rebuttal, starting with the question of why Scott wants more people to suffer through additional keystrokes. The answer, projected onto the screen in the form of a newspaper headline allegedly found by ChatGPT, revealed that Scott recently became a major shareholder in “Neurorelief Corp,” a company pioneering new treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Having stooped to that “fake news” attack, there was nowhere to go but further downward, so I argued that the proposal to ban these forms of expression was an affront to the First Amendment, and therefore no less than an attack on freedom, democracy, and the USA itself. As I was speaking, the Star Spangled Banner began to play, shades of the fraternity disciplinary hearing scene in the classic film “Animal House.” My closing echoed a line delivered earlier in the day by our keynote speaker, the New York Time’s Assistant General Counsel, David McGraw: “Stand by our Founding Fathers.” When it came time to choose the winning side in the debate through audience applause, the predictable result was a resounding victory for free speech and the American way!
Anyway, it was a fun way to close the XChange Conference. Thanks to Scott Milner and the conference organizers for their good humor, including enabling/playing along with my bits.