Important business correspondence is produced daily. What are some of the elements that can help improve your business letters when there is a dispute looming in the future?
Here are four tips you can begin applying today:
1. Spend some time thinking about the main points of the correspondence. Ten minutes now can save hours and days of litigation in the future. In deciding on the main points, ask yourself:
a. Why am I writing this email or letter? Important correspondence serves one or more of these three legal purposes:
1) to request – or demand,
2) to give notice, or
3) to document some fact or situation.
For a request, notice, or documentation, what does my contract require and what facts help me enforce the contract?
b. Is my correspondence consistent with my contract?
c. Have I done everything I was required to do? If so, where is such compliance stated clearly in writing? If no where, you should also document how and when your have fully performed your side of the contract.
d. Is my email or letter reasonable and does it make practical sense? An arbitrator, judge, jury, or governmental investigator will seek to enforce the law as applied to your situation, but they will also try to do what is right.
2. If you might be involved in litigation over the matter in the future, an arbitrator, judge and perhaps a jury or governmental investigators will read your emails and letters to first determine the facts and chronology of the events. Begin with the main point, but then present the remainder of the letter chronologically. Give clear details and explanations of unfamiliar processes. Don’t use jargon or acronyms (DUJOA) unless you also explain the jargon and spell out the acronyms.
3. Your email or letter may be addressed to a vendor or client, but it must be written to be quickly understood by someone who knows nothing of your business or the situation. They won’t know unless you tell them. Your written descriptions written before litigation are far more convincing than your testimony in court a year later.
4. Never be harsh or sarcastic. If you feel like venting frustration or anger, don’t do it in a document that may end up in court — where it will cast you as being hot tempered — even if you have every right to feel that way!