How To Respond To A Legal Letter Like A Lawyer
If you have ever had a person serve you Court documents at your home or in public or you have ever had a legal letter sent to you out of the blue you know it can be an unnerving experience.
Very often it catches you by surprise and elicits feelings of surprise, anger, disbelief and often leads to a stressful time ahead. How do you respond to a legal letter?
Your first responses to receiving the service of a Court process or threat of being involved in a legal process can set the path to success or destruction. Follow the rules and heed the tips in this article and you will be on your way to set yourself up well at the start of your legal journey and you may not even need a lawyer to get the ball rolling.
The first thing to understand is that although it is a shock to you, it certainly isn’t for the person who sent you the letter and most certainly not for a lawyer if they prepared it.
Some lawyers rely on structuring a letter to give maximum impact at first instance to rattle the recipient and can use this to illicit a response they are looking for that can put you on the back foot in a legal sense. If you respond with emotion, many of the things you say may be used against you later.
Step one: Take your time….. but not too much.
While at first, you may be anxious and not know what to do, the best thing to do is breathe and find a quiet place to read the letter / Court documents. Read it once for initial meaning and then put it down for a while and come back and read it again. Try and understand not only what the content of the document is saying or meaning but what your response to such content could mean to someone who is trying to work against you.
You will quickly know if it is way above your head or whether you can respond to it by yourself or with the help of friends or family. If you know a lawyer who might give you a hand they can help or may at least be able to point in the right direction to someone they know who can.
Remember when responding, that there may be strict time limits involved so stick to them and know the difference between a time limit imposed by a lawyer (which might have no effect on you at all) and those set by law. The ones set by law should be strictly adhered to.
Step two: Don’t’ give away too much and respond with questions of your own.
If you feel you are being bullied and are being asked a lot of questions that require a specific response within a short time frame, these may also be tactics to elicit particular responses favouring the lawyer’s client on the other side.
Be wary and ask your own questions. You need to understand the process and get the information you require from the other side also.
Step Three: Try to keep emotion out of it.
Most situations that are worthy of taking legal action are either related to money, family or both and can involve one party trying to blame another to obtain a benefit of some kind. They are usually highly emotive topics and can bring up all manner of emotions.
You will serve yourself best if you are not drawn into an emotional state when dealing with the issues.
Lawyers will often receive defensive or abuse phone calls or letters after the first contact. This type of emotional reaction either; (i) does not help solve the problem at hand, or (ii) gives the lawyer the upper hand as they know they may be able to manipulate emotions to get results they want for their client.
Step four: Always have your response tested by someone else first
Once you have written a response or prepared a verbal response always run it past someone you can trust who is as far removed from the situation as possible.
Close friends and family will almost always take your side and/or tell you what you want to hear. Get an impartial observer you may know to help you out and make sure they are the type of person who likes to tell it like it is. These people may not tell you what you want to hear but they will probably give you a good idea if your judgement is clouded by emotion and if you are on the right track.
Final consideration: If you can’t do any or all of the above call a lawyer in the field. They don’t always charge you for their time.
If you just can’t get it together or the stakes are too high to go through the legal process without a lawyer then you should use one in the appropriate field of law.
Many lawyers work for free for community organisations (for some or all of their time) who help those in need and cannot afford legal assistance. Do a search online for such local legal community centres.
In Australia state based legal aid organisations funded by the government are set up for this purpose also and if you meet their criteria you may get a good lawyer for free.
Sometimes it just is not worth risking a loss you might incur without the help of a competent lawyer so make sure you weigh your options carefully, and as set out above, talk with those you trust to help you make the right decisions.