One of the most common mistakes clients make is to assume that their lawyer is doing a great job because of the number and nastiness of their letters to the other side. I like to call this “litigation by correspondence”. And it is absolutely a waste of time and money.
To be clear:
- A nasty letter will likely cause the other side to dig their heels in more.
- A nasty letter costs you money but does not resolve anything
- A nasty letter prompts a nasty response, thereby escalating the conflict when the goal should be to reduce conflict
- A nasty letter is not evidence and has no value in court.
Most clients pay their lawyers to assist them in resolving a conflict. A nasty letter furthers no resolution and is in fact often counter productive. Rather, effective letters are those that make informational requests or offer solutions to problems. Although it is often difficult to do (lawyers are humans too!), correspondence written in a neutral tone is most helpful and ironically, most persuasive. Think about your reaction when you receive a nasty letter as opposed to a letter written in a detached style! You are much more likely to be receptive to the letter with the respectful tone.
So next time, when you are tempted to ask your lawyer to write a nasty letter, take a deep breath and think about whether that would help you achieve your goals. Similarly, when you receive a nasty letter from your spouse’s lawyer, think about how you should respond without escalating matters. Always keep your goal in mind, and ask yourself whether spending money to make the other side more upset is really an effective use of your resources.