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TO WRITE LETTERS NONLAWYERS WILL READ (来源:英语麦当劳-英语快餐EnglishCN.com)

  Note: This article is for background purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

  Why do people hate to get letters from lawyers? They carry bad news. They mean serious business. They're hard to understand. They use strange words. They carry the inherent threat of suit.

  Why do lawyers send such letters? They mean serious business, and they intend to sue.

  But must they use those ancient, strange words and be so hard to understand, or can lawyers express serious business and imminent suit using words everyone knows?

  Whether writing a demand letter to a contract breacher, an advice letter to a client, or a cover letter to a court clerk, the letter fails if the person receiving it cannot understand what it says.

  All of these letters have one thing in common: They are not great literature. They will not be read in a hundred years and analyzed for their wit, charm or flowery words. With any luck they will be read just once by a few people, followed quickly by their intended result, whether that be compliance, understanding or agreement.

  Lawyers are Letter Factories

  Lawyers write many, many letters. An average for me might be five letters a day. This includes advice letters, cover letters, demand letters, all sorts of letters. Some days have more, some have less, but five is a fairly conservative average, I would think. Five letters a day for five days a week for fifty weeks a year is 1,250 letters a year. This is my 25th year in practice, so it is quite conceivable that I have written 31,250 letters so far.

  Why do lawyers write so many letters? A primary reason lies within the ethics of our profession. Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 4-1.4 says:

  “A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.”

  “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

  While clients can be kept informed and given explanations orally, lawyers certainly know the value of the printed word over the spoken word: it is not as easily forgotten or misunderstood. Letters also create a record of advice given, which is useful to both the lawyer and the client. That is why letters are the preferred method of keeping clients informed and giving clients explanations.

  Some Things To Do Before Writing

  Before you start writing the letter it makes sense to do some preliminary background work.

  Find a letter form. Find a similar letter you have sent in the past, or see the Appendix to this article for sample engagement, cover, demand, contract negotiation, contract advice, and fax letters.

  Review prior letters to this recipient. In a busy world, it is easy to forget. Review prior letters to remind yourself where you are in the work process, what has already been said, and what remains to be said. This will give your letter direction and purpose.

  Do not send a letter to another lawyer's client without that lawyer's consent. Before sending the letter, find out if the nonlawyer is represented by someone else. Start by asking your client. Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 4-4.2 says:

  “In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer.”

  Outline your thoughts in a checklist. Before turning on your computer or dictating machine, pull out a yellow pad and jot down the main points for your letter. List what you want the letter to say. Write the points in any order; write them as they come into your mind. You can rearrange them when you write the letter. Right now you're just making a checklist for writing the letter.

  Keep the legal pad close at hand. When you run out of ideas for the checklist, put the pad at the side of your desk. New ideas always spring forth when writing. Jot these down on the pad as you write the letter; they are easily forgotten.

  Simple Stuff That Will Make You Look Dumb If It's Wrong

  Letters begin with boring things like the date and recipient's name and address, but if any of these are missing or wrong the letter writer will look pretty careless, to say the least. So be careful when starting the letter, and you can even include some extra things that will make the letter even better than the regular letters the recipient receives.

  Date your letter. Date your letter the day you write it, and send it the same day. Undated letters are difficult to reply to. I usually reply to them by saying, “This is in reply to your undated letter that I received in the mail on 24 June 1999.”

 
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