We all know that clients can be difficult at times. But do lawyers have to be difficult too? Here are a few reminders about what not to do when communicating with another lawyer.
Being a lawyer is a tough job. Your client can be difficult. The other side’s client can be difficult. The one thing that doesn’t have to be difficult is how lawyers treat each other.
Let me give you 3 tips about what not to do.
First, don’t use “all caps” in your letters and emails. This photo shows an actual letter I got from an attorney. Sending a letter like that is not helpful. When your clients see a letter like this, it not only upsets them and makes them feel like the other attorney has some kind of personal – as opposed to professional – stake in the case. Your client’s confidence that they will get a fair hearing is undermined by an attorney personalizing the issues.
Second, don’t use exclamation points or change the font color. If something needs special attention, just say in the email or letter, “I would ask that you take special note of …” or simply click the button that indicates the email needs immediate attention.
Third, there are 4 simple words to use in a letter or email when you’re trying to address the conduct of the other lawyer’s client … those four words are “MY CLIENT REPORTS THAT …” By adding those words, you indicate that you are relaying the information. You weren’t there. You don’t know what happened. At least entertain the idea that your client gave you only a portion of the story and that maybe there were some things – either intentionally or unintentionally – that were left out.
And, finally, let me give you a quick tip about what you should do … there are times when you should pick up the phone and call the other attorney. Too often the tone of emails and letters are misinterpreted and the correspondence gets a little tense. The clients are the ones in conflict – not the attorneys. You can be both a zealous advocate and a respectful colleague.
Check out the webinar that Karen presented for ALPS on 10 Things I Wish I’d Learned in Law School.