When you pay your hard-earned money for specific goods or services, you typically expect to get what you paid for. From time to time, though, things don’t work out the way you hoped. Disputes and disagreements over money, goods or services are a common part of doing business, but sometimes they get out of hand and require more formal intervention. If you have tried to resolve one of these disputes amicably but have not been successful, it might be time to write a legal letter.
The Purpose of a Legal Letter
Also known as a demand letter, a legal letter is a formal notice that you are considering legal action against somebody who owes you money or has wronged you in some way. A legal letter helps to organize the facts of the situation and could save you money in the long run by potentially resolving the situation without having to go to court. Filing a lawsuit is a costly endeavor and unless you win the lawsuit, most of that money won’t be recouped. The goal of a legal letter is to give the person who owes you or wronged you a chance to rectify the situation before it ends up costing either one of you even more time and money.
Address Your Legal Letter Appropriately
First, address your letter to the appropriate person. If your dispute is with an individual, address the letter directly to that person by name. If you are dealing with a company or large business, identify the person or department that can help you resolve your issue and address your letter accordingly.
Identify the Problem and Resolution Attempts
Even if your recipient is already aware of the problem or situation, you should include a clear and concise description of it in your legal letter. Also include a list of attempts that you have made to resolve the matter prior to the letter. Outlining the details of the problem and the ways you have tried to resolve it helps to establish a written record of facts that could be useful if you end up in court.
Request a Specific Resolution within a Certain Time Frame
Your legal letter should clearly ask for a specific resolution. Whether you are asking for money or some other type of resolution, your letter should clearly and specifically state how much money or what type of action would adequately resolve the problem. Set a deadline for your opponent to respond to the demands in your letter. A typical deadline for legal letters is anywhere from seven to 30 days from receipt of the letter.
Conclude Your Legal Letter
Finalize your letter by explaining the reasons why it would be mutually beneficial for the recipient to comply with your demands (settling out of court saves both sides time and money). Your last sentence should clearly state that failure to comply with the demands within the given time will leave you no choice but to pursue more formal, legal action. Close the letter with “Sincerely” followed by your signature. Be prepared to file a lawsuit if your letter goes unanswered.
Tone and Appearance
The tone and appearance of your letter should be as professional as possible. The letter should be typed and your contact information should be included on the letterhead. The tone should be polite and formal. If you are too angry or emotional then wait until you have gotten your emotions under control or have someone else write the letter for you. The only threat in your letter should be the possibility of future legal action. Review your letter for clarity and grammatical mistakes.
Delivery of a Legal Letter
Before you send it out, make a copy of your letter and keep it for your records. Send the original letter by certified mail with return-receipt requested or some other form of verifiable delivery that can later be used as proof that the letter was delivered.