April 24, 2014

Drafting an Effective Demand Letter

Prior to litigation, it is common for an aggrieved party to send the other side a demand letter setting forth the nature of the grievance and a demand that certain conduct “cease and desist” and/or that payment be made to settle the dispute. 

In my experience, while demand letters more often than not fail to resolve the matter, they occasionally can be effective. Every case, of course, is different. Yet it is important to note that a well-crafted demand letter increases the likelihood of effectiveness, while a weak demand letter increases the likelihood of it being disregarded. 

A few observations: (1) Good demand letters set forth in coherent detail the factual basis for the demand. (2) If there are documents that govern the resolution of the dispute, such as a signed contract, those documents are included as attachments. (3) The letters are addressed to a particularly person, rather than to “Dear Sir/Madam”. (4) The letters are sent by certified mail so that there is proof of receipt. (5) Occasionally, demand letters will be accompanied by a Civil Complaint yet to be filed. (6) The letters will require a response by a date certain.

In contrast, when letters are written in a “stream of consciousness” way; when there are no accompanying documents provided to review; when there is no request for a response by a particular date; etc., they telegraph that the writer is hopeful for a resolution but not prepared to litigate the dispute.

© 2014 Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C.

About the Author

Stephen Shannon, Commercial Litigation Attorney, Odin Feldman, Law Firm

Steve Shannon believes the key to being an effective litigator is to be thoroughly prepared and make the complex seem simple. He has the foresight to properly evaluate a case and to provide his clients with realistic strategies to reach their goals through litigation. Steve’s practice focuses on civil litigation, criminal litigation, and administrative law. He regularly appears in federal and state courts throughout Virginia and has handled over 1,000 cases during his legal career.

Steve’s civil litigation practice focuses on representing companies and individuals in...


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