“Shock & Surprise”

by Richard Tymkiw on July 21, 2016

Richard Tymkiw

Who in the legal profession today is still not the occasional beneficiary of letters from other solicitors which begin testily and rapidly move into overdrive?

A few choice illustrations ought to suffice, as in:

“We are…

  • shocked and surprised
  • quite taken aback
  • irremediably astonished
  • utterly and professionally aghast.”

and so on, so forth.

In fact, the authors of such communications rarely ever are.

Often and regrettably their true aims are to capture the moral high ground and on the road to so doing:

  • create diversionary tactics (solely to deflect and distract from the real questions in the case)
  • attempt to sew the seeds of discord (when your client – naturally being copied with such a communication – questions what on earth you might have said or done to have been the deserving beneficiary of such invective)
  • most sinister of all, portray you as a professional in a less than flattering light (particularly if your opponent should seek to rely upon its content if your client’s case should ever get to Court).

This is not to say that there is not the odd unhappy instance when it is necessary to challenge conduct or attitude which borders on the unprofessional and in forceful terms.

However ready resort to hyperbole or protestations of exaggerated hurt is perhaps best avoided.

After all, we are wordsmiths;  as such we should properly derive genuine professional pride when it comes to the framing of criticisms on terms which do not occasion undue offence but rather drive home our points formidably but courteously.

Eloquent understatement (in contrast to patent outrage and shows of ire) – whatever the perceived provocation – not only subscribes to the professionally fitting, but may prove a more useful tool in creating a climate for amicable negotiation and ultimately commercial resolution.

So, when it comes to the tenor of all communications, whatever the circumstances, far better perhaps to leave the legal loudhailer in a dusty corner… and look to more temperate means of making one’s point.