Writing a good letter of demand involves professionalism in dealing with people and information. There’s a method that can be illustrated with a fee for service contract that has gone wrong.
Assume things have not gone to plan under that contract. The service was delivered but the fee was not paid. The unpaid service provider has made repeated requests. Harsh words have been spoken and tension has arisen.
The two parties should avoid the slippery slope. They should try to work together to overcome issues. They’ve tried negotiation with no resolution. There’s been haggling and even verbal abuse. A lawyer might have been called in earlier, but as usually, hasn’t been.
The unpaid party now meets with a lawyer.
Having gone to a lawyer, the unpaid party must communicate a story, collect and supply the evidence, and then help the lawyer examine the facts and evidence. If all this is not done the lawyer should not be forming an opinion and giving advice on what to do next.
It helps if there’s a well written contract. But typically in an unpaid money case the contract is a mess.
Today a good letter of demand is not just one on a lawyer’s letterhead that states money is owed and must be paid within “X” number of days, otherwise court action will follow.
Before framing a demand the contract gone wrong needs interpretation.
The contract may be in writing or verbal or it may arise from the conduct or interaction between the parties as the contractual relationship was formed.
Getting the story involves time for the lawyer. The lawyer must collect the facts to assess them. In these cases it always takes time to unravel the jumble of events and put them into a chronological order.
The search to distinguish and test facts and then go onto checking available evidence, opinions, and presumed solutions is common to the professions. It’s also what letter of demand professionalism involves.
The professional methodology is what is expected when professional standards are followed by a journalist, lawyer, psychologist, eye doctor or executive.
For a business lawyer letter of demand professionalism involves applying more than just legal knowledge. It requires examination of the players on the stage to assess what has motivated their contract-related actions, how commercial considerations affect their positions and behaviours, and how to deal with the play of human ego and psychology in the mix. All this helps shape a good letter of demand. There is then a methodology for demand letters.
By definition a good letter of demand states its case in clear language and achieves a defined and clear result, if not immediately then in due course.
A demand letter that responds to a situation intuitively is not enough. Still, instincts are relevant to listen to.
So too is getting on with codification of facts and evidence, writing information down and structuring it in the demand letter, creating a supporting rationale or foundation for each legal demand and testing at all stages.
It’s this method that produces an effective letter of demand and it is being “effective” that makes it good.
Accordingly, if there is not compliance with the demand letter, then the foundation already exists for court action or mediation using the already gathered and organised facts and evidence and legal opinion based on them.
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