Thursday, January 12, 2012
For those teaching letter writing in the spring semester, Legal Week (UK) put out a nice piece this week, Taking Out The Heat -- Key Points to Avoid in Legal Letter Writing. It looks like many of the same pitfalls exist on both sides of the Atlantic:
- Do not accuse people of crimes. It only winds them up.
You really don't want to be defending a claim for defamation either.
The better way may be to write to your landlord saying you are concerned that your respective accounts do not tally and that you need a breakdown of how he has calculated your arrears so you can check if his records are correct - rather than accusing him of "stealing" or "fraud".
Are you so convinced a crime has been committed that you've called the police? Well then, leave it out of your letter.
- Don't threaten people. It only makes them want to call your bluff.
Think about it. You'll only feel sheepish if they tell you to, "go ahead and take this to the Supreme Court/European Court of Human Rights/Anne Robinson".
It is always better to be seen as the reasonable and slightly bemused guy who's trying to sort this problem out rather than ranty man who people can't have a conversation with without police intervention.
Maybe Anne Robinson will be the final arbiter of your complaint. At least you will be able to show her that you've tried to do everything possible to resolve it before having to involve her.
The article goes on to include additional solid advice. Students might enjoy seeing the universal nature of problems that lawyers in both countries face, and the vocabulary in the piece might be a jumping off point for a discussion about the differences between our systems.