Dealing with a threat of legal action

To my surprise and displeasure, I discovered 2 of my staff had responded to a letter of complaint threatening legal action this week.  I won’t knock them for showing initiative, but the response was aggressive, verbose and quoted endless contractual clauses.  Life is often frustrating and boring enough for both sides of a disagreement to be ploughing through waffle and obfuscation.

There’s a simple formula for composing a letter, to authority.  An authority can be anything that appears to be a profession, so something from HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) or the DWP, (the Department for Work and Pensions), the police, or in this instance a person who will refer the letter to a solicitor.

Follow these steps:

  •           You bought something from us
  •           We explained the system
  •           You expected something outside of the agreement
  •           We don’t owe you any money
  •           There might be a solution
  •           Contact me for a chat so we can sort something out like sensible people

Then, you put into plain English the points above.  The points can be amended slightly to fit almost every circumstance.  Make one sentence, or at maximum a single paragraph, to make each point.  Whilst writing it, try to imagine you are writing a script for a BBC newsreader.

It should be borne in mind, that even if you (or your company) is not at fault, making a token gesture will not only avoid the expense of management time in dealing with the behemoth of a court system, it will more often than not result in tremendous good feeling from the aggravated party, they’ll probably end extolling the virtues of your brand forever.

If the above doesn’t prompt a dialogue that results in an amicable agreement then the future response is usually along the lines of; “sorry you have decided to go legal…..”


Please note:  This is advice from some bloke off the internet, take it for what it is.  If the threat of legal action is because you’ve done something horrendous, get a lawyer.

About Jase Hargreaves

Designated Partner for Hansonden LLP providing management services for small businesses. Crptocurrency accepted. New blog
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