“Dear Prospective Defendant:” …

Having practiced enough years I should be able to say I have seen it all, sadly, I realize I never will.  Today is no different.  Today I reviewed a letter to one of our clients with the salutation of “Dear Prospective Defendant:”  It struck me immediately – was this necessary?  Do lawyers need to be so antagonistic, bombastic or just plain abrasive, to start a letter this way?

Talk about sending the wrong message.  The sender of this letter wants something from our client (money).  They clearly wanted to signal they were willing to take additional action, but really, is it not better to ask nicely, even in a dispute?  I did not even get to the first sentence of this letter without having formed a negative opinion of the sender.  A person so insecure in their position to start a letter this way cannot possibly be taken seriously can they?

The letter also reminded me immediately of the direct opposite – a firm that from top to bottom is run by the most respectful, honest, trustworthy just plain good  people you could ever find.  The title of the person that greets you at the door to this business and answers your calls is the “Director of First Impressions” – and she is fantastic at her job (of making good impressions!).  Leadership runs here from top to bottom.  And yes, I will name them:  Brooks Financial.

I never really put much stock in a person’s title – to me you have to earn it, so titles in many businesses are hollow and meaningless.  But this one title has stuck with me because if we were all better at being directors of first impressions, we would all be better people, and most likely get a lot more of what we want from others.  We would also be much better at resolving disputes.

We lawyers are called on often to deal with stressful situations where two or more parties are fighting – claiming one or the other violated some law or breached some agreement.  Even in a dispute it is important to remain cordial and civil, doing so will be more likely to get the result you want.

– Mike Oliver