by James J. Gross

Yesterday I saw an article by @oldladylawyer.  It was about how email and texting are stripping away civility and good manners in communications.  As a writer and a lawyer, wordsmithing is a interest of mine.  I particularly like the well tuned, old-time, polite phrases of my profession, like “May it please the court” or “Further affiant sayeth not”.

  1. Don’t start your letter by insulting me or my client. One letter started, “I’m always amazed by a lawyer whose zeal exceeds his grasp of the facts.”  I rarely read such letters past the first sentence and usually give the shortest response possible like, “We disagree” or “My perception is different than yours.”
  1. Leave the blame out of your letters. Letters are for solving problems.  Don’t respond to blaming in letters your receive.  Say “responding only to the portions of yours which move the case forward…”
  1. Start by saying something nice, for example, “It was a pleasure speaking with you.”
  1. This beginning will focus your thoughts on your reason for sending the letter, keep you from straying off the subject, and help you decide what you want the reader to do: “The purpose of this letter is to…”
  1. Another good beginning is “For the sake of good order, this letter will commemorate in writing our discussions on…”
  1. Always substitute “mistaken” for “liar”. Instead of saying, “You client is a liar,” say “Your client is mistaken.”
  1. End your letter with “Thanking you for your time, attention and courtesy, I remain, Sincerely yours”.