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Kinder & Gentler ... No Less Assertive

You may be interested in a secret. The standard lawyer demand letter, aggressive, threatening and often obnoxious, no longer works. There is an alternative approach, however, that succeeds over 90% of the time.

The purpose of a legal demand letter is to get another party to take a desired action or at least to make contact to begin negotiation a resolution. The letter usually comes after the other party has ignored attempts to resolve the matter.

The typical attorney demand letter causes others to harden their position, to justify that they are correct or that they are the party that has been harmed or to become overwhelmed and take no action at all. The result is that the matter does not move toward resolution. Accordingly, the letter failed.

A different approach is needed. An approach that recognizes that collecting debts or resolving disputes is a process and not a one step demand. An approach that lets the other party know that you want to talk and resolve the dispute, not simply beat up on them.

In 1991, I gave up the traditional lawyer one-step demand letter. Instead, I began using what I call my "Kinder & Gentler But No Less Assertive Demand Letter." With this new approach, in over 90% of the cases, the recipient of the letter pays, takes the action requested or calls to begin working on a resolution. That is a successful letter.

The week before last, a client called regarding a substantial five figure debt that was passed due for two years. The other party had ignored all of the client's communications about the debt. I sent one of my new-style letters, the recipient called the client right away, acknowledged the obligation due and is currently in the process of refinancing assets to pay the debt in full.

What did the letter say? It speaks as to how the matter had been referred to me for collection and how this was a difficult action for the client to take, particularly in the recipient's case. It talks about how their good will (and in the appropriate instances) friendship, has been important and how the client is reluctant to take any action which might jeopardize the recipient's credit standing, cause embarrassment or cause added expense. It then points out how the client's position is a fair one and how the client extended credit based upon the other party's promises. It concludes by stating the recipient must take action by a date certain otherwise a decision must be made that neither the recipient nor the client wants.

The difference is in tone and respect for the recipient. As you can see, however, it is just as insistent on payment as the "traditional" demand letter.

If you have customers, clients or others that owe you money, do not wait two years. Instead, take action now to move the matter to resolution. With the Kinder & Gentler But No Less Assertive Approach, you  might be able to resolve your collection problems.

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Reader Comments (1)

Thank you, this is true in almost all scenarios. Very good blogs, by the way!!
June 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Holo

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