IANAL is a Usenet and chat abbreviation (acronym) for "I am not a lawyer."cite journal
title=Taking the case: is the GPL enforceable?
author=Jason B. Wacha
date=February 1 2005
journal=Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal
publisher=University of Santa Clara, School of Law
] A similar abbreviation, TINLA, stands for "This is not legal advice."

One or both of these abbreviations usually precede opinions about law. The use of these abbreviations serves as a warning for the reader not to take the opinion as professional legal advice. Many jurisdictions have legal restrictions on actually giving or even appearing to give legal advice, or otherwise practicing as a lawyer without legal qualifications and official registration. Rendition of legal advice by a person who is not licensed to do so can be the basis for a charge of Unauthorized practice of law. [cite web
title=Unauthorized Practice of Law Pamphlet
publisher=Washington State Bar Association
quote=A person who provides legal services, who is not a licensed lawyer, or who is not otherwise authorized by law to provide legal services, may be engaging in the Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL). In Washington UPL is a crime.|format=DOC

The expression is one of "the most popular" internet acronyms. [cite book
title=PCs: The Missing Manual
author=Andy Rathbone
] The origin of the term is in a 1980s commercial for Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup, in which two spokesmen successively pitched the over-the-counter medication with the line, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."cite web
title=Playing One 2
author=Arnold Zwicky
date=October 13 2005
publisher=Language Log
] The spokesmen were soap opera actors Chris Robinson (who played Dr. Rick Webber on "General Hospital") and Peter Bergman (who played Dr. Cliff Warner on "All My Children"). The transfer from "doctor" to "lawyer" is an example of a snowclone. The term IANAL is reported to have been "common on Usenet by the late '80s and early '90s." [cite news
title=Readers Parse Text-Message Slang
author=Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry
work=Real Time Exchange
date=April 27, 2005
publisher=Wall Street Journal

A variant of IANAL is IANYL ("I am not "your" lawyer"). The term may be used by a lawyer posting comments on a message board to indicate that the commentator is, in fact, a lawyer, but to emphasize that the commentator does not represent the reader, and to indicate that the comments are neither protected by attorney-client privilege, nor may be the basis for a malpractice lawsuit should the suggestion be followed with undesirable results. IAAL ("I am a lawyer") is sometimes used as well, usually with an explicit disclaimer such as "IAAL, but I'm not your lawyer".

The case law standard for determining what comments cross the line is generally "the application of law to facts specific to an individual seeking legal advice". Attorneys may use a disclaimer to reduce confusion, and "I am not your lawyer" is part of a typical disclaimer. [cite news
title=Attorney Internet Ethics
author=John Steele
date=April 2002
publisher=California Lawyer
quote=An attorney who wants to respond to a chat room question should not give legal advice until the attorney and would-be client have explicitly discussed or created an attorney-client relationship.... Otherwise, the attorney needs to use a written disclaimer in the chat room, stating something like, "This information is given for legal education only. It may not work for your specific situation. It is not legal advice, and I am not your lawyer. You have to find your own local lawyer to get legal advice and help with your problem."
] There are "weighty obligations" that go along with the creation of a lawyer-client relationship, particularly if an "online exchange includes legal advice relating to the client's specific facts". Courts have held that (in the case of 900 numbers) boilerplate disclaimers without clear actions to indicate assent may not avoid the creation of a lawyer-client relationship. [cite news
title=The Ethics of Practicing Law in Cyberspace
author=Jennifer P. Hopkins
date=June 1, 2002
publisher=New Hampshire Bar Association

Other variations of IANAL refer to different fields, such as IANAMD for "I am not a Medical Doctor." These serve the same general purpose as IANAL — to discourage the use of the information as actual professional advice.

A very common usage on Slashdot and Digg is IANAP, or "I am not a physicist," in discussions related to scientific breakthroughs and their implications.

A Christian variation is IANACL, meaning "I am not a canon lawyer."Fact|date=August 2008


External links

* [http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/I/IANAL.html IANAL] at the Jargon File

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