You’ve Got Mail – Legal Correspondence (Part 2)

In addition to knowing the structures and formalities of a business letter, a paralegal or legal assistant, must be familiar with the types of legal correspondence common to the field or practice of law in which he or she is working.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of the types of correspondence that you might run across in a civil litigation practice:

  • Transmittal Letter - letter used to send documents or information to the client.  It is relatively short and should include a description of whatever is being transmitted or sent to the client.
  • Confirmation Letter – letter used to confirm information, conversations, and/or important dates to the client.  Typically it will follow a conversation or meeting with the client.
  • Demand Letter – letter used to outline the client’s claims/demands for settlement.  Typically such a letter will provide detailed information about amounts incurred, injuries sustained, damages or other information relevant to the client’s claim.  The letter will also outline the relevant law and the client’s rights arising out of the law/legal relationship.  Often a demand letter will include a dollar amount or other terms of settlement.
  • Notice of Termination of Relationship – this letter is used by the lawyer to send notice to the client that he or she is no longer the attorney for the client.  This may be sent after a meeting with a potential client during which the lawyer determined he or she was unable or unwilling to represent the client.  It may also be used where the relationship between the lawyer and the client has broken down, and the lawyer is no longer ethically able to continue the representation.
  • Conflict Letter – this letter may be used by the attorney to notify potential and/or prior clients that a potential conflict of interest exists between the clients that may impact the attorney’s representation of one or both of the clients.  Typically such a letter will include a waiver of the potential conflict for the parties to sign.

Legal Writing – What’s it all about?

Many paralegals (and even some lawyers) report writing as the weakest skill area, especially legal writing.

Legal writing (writing done most often by lawyers and paralegals) breaks down into the following categories:

  • Correspondence (letters, emails, inter-office memos regarding facts)
  • Declarations (used as factual support of motions or other documents files with the court)
  • Memoranda of Law (persuasive or objective analysis of a legal issue with supporting primary sources of law)

These categories cover about 90% of the writing done by lawyers and paralegals.  Each of these categories of writing requires a slightly different set of writing skills in addition to the basics of spelling, punctuation, grammar, structure and style.  Mastering all three is essential for a successful paralegal.

Several upcoming posts will go into more detail about each type of writing.  Feel free to post specific questions if you have them.

Great tips on Email

The following is a recent post of the Continuing Education for the Bar (CEB) which discusses some important safety tips for using email in a business environment.  These are equally applicable to the law office or other legal environment as well.

How to Avoid Six E-mail Mistakes

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