Why are litigation letters often so dreadful?

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  • Well said. I'll never forget the response of Private Eye's lawyers a few years ago to a vexatious libel lawyer claiming his letter was 'urgent'. They pointed out that the alleged libel had taken place weeks before and that the'urgent' claim was merely a tool to artificially elevate the importance of what was being claimed. It was a fantastic dismissal.

    Michael (@michael_taggart)

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  • "It is easier to justify charging for a longer letter than a shorter one."

    Spot on. Recently I had to engage a solicitor's services for a stern letter.

    I was shown four pages; I edited it down to one. "There," I said, "I'm really only purchasing your letterhead for effect. Charge accordingly."

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  • David,

    I am dismayed and surprised to read this post. The allegations are bewildering when they are not misconceived and illiberal.

    I await your response within fourteen days.

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  • For theatrical effect! Spot on.
    If only lawyers had the imagination to realise the audience before which they were performing had no interest in their show. As paid communicators we are, as a whole, woefully inadequate.

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  • Woefully?

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  • A very interesting article which made me squirm a little. It is true, I was trained to be more aggressive and emotive when the merits of the case or issue were weak ! A meritorious letter before action stated the fact and law and no emotion. We were successful on a lot of weak cases by using aggression so is it what the client's pay for?

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  • I well remember the judge who told the opposing barrister who had expressed surprise at something or other that I did not find remarkable "Well that all depends upon your capacity for surprise Mr Barrister" The judge went on to find for my client but that was because we had a strong case for repayment and not due to flowery language.

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  • As a client, I hate the approach my solicitors so often take. We just want something resolved, they seem to want a fight - and the language is part of that pre-match braggadocio ( or a poor substitute for actually sorting the issue ).

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  • This might be an interesting subject for a student of language. There are clearly aspects of jargon in this, where words and phrases have specific technical meanings, and it might shade into argot, if these letters are not meant to be read by outsiders. The problem is that somewhere in the process a layman has to communicate with a lawyer. What, one might wonder, are the lawyers trying to hide?

    Some of this verbiage may be a replacement for the other cues of personal contact. They replace the arched eyebrow, the sharp intake of breath, and the other signals of a negotiation. Is it fanciful to think that there might be a gradation of the intensity of the reaction? How much should a judge care about that process?

    Sometimes the law is astonishingly simple. Are the letters in a quickly-resolved dispute simpler than those in case which drags on? Which is cause and which is effect?

    And, wild speculation, when I hear of people doing business in the virtual worlds of the internet, and seen the ways in which a smiley-face can be added, I wonder if this process has been an un-noticed virtual world for as long as lawyers have sent letters, and these phrases started as the LOLs and ROFLMAOs of the quill-pen era.

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