Whether you're a new solo attorney or a fledgling associate, writing a flawless demand letter can not only impress your clients, but also distinguish you as a force to be reckoned with.
Since demand letters are a fine mix of legal arguments and rhetoric, here are five tips for drafting an exceptional one:
1. Provide Organized Information
Not only is this the one of the first big chances for you to impress your client with your legal know-how and ability to create legal documents, but a demand letter can be the first time opposing counsel or an insurance adjuster will get to know you and your client.
Make sure to impress all parties by:
- Including a comprehensive picture of the costs/damages
- Using descriptive and logical subheads
- Attaching medical records, correspondences, and all other documents needed to properly evaluate your client's case
An organized structure will also help your various legal arguments shine amid the dump truck's worth of factual information.
2. Reference Claim Information
Since many civil litigators deal almost entirely with insurance claim adjusters, it is paramount to the writing of any demand letter to include the relevant insurance claim information.
Over time, you will learn more clearly how to format this information to each insurance company's adjuster's preference, but make sure to include the claim/file/policy number on every communication -- including demand letters.
3. Be Clear But Not Threatening
The tone of a demand letter -- for better or worse -- can set the scene for all future negotiations. You want to impress your client as a zealous advocate, but you don't want to accuse your opponent of a crime.
You can write in a forceful tone without being overly dramatic or emotional. While you may hedge or waffle in other instances, this is your time to be certain and resolute.
This especially applies to your demand amount, which should be a clear and non-hysterical punch line to the long list of damages which you've itemized and organized.
4. Give Deadlines For Response
Since you hope that your demand letter will lead to a tiny white surrender flag arriving from opposing counsel, you need to give a time frame for the response to your client's demands.
Something dry and terse like "this offer will remain open for 30 days" should do nicely. Resist the urge to threaten litigation if the offer is not accepted or the deadline lapses. This is obvious to any competent attorney.
5. Email and Mail on Time
If you're holding off mailing the letter because you're waiting for critical documents, email your opposing attorney or adjuster so that they can keep their clients/bosses up to date. Otherwise send your demand letter ASAP.
When actually sending the letter, regular snail mail should be sufficient -- unless the mediator or arbitration agreement requires certified mail -- but send a courtesy email copy to the recipients as well.
And don't forget to send your client a copy -- and bill for all of it.
- Ten Tips for Writing an Effective Demand Letter (FindLaw)
- Clearing Claims: Negotiating Health Insurance Liens in PI Cases (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Non-Engagement Letter: When Do You Reject a Client in Writing? (FindLaw's Strategist)
- BigLaw 101: How to Be a Great Associate (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)