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What To Do After You Send Your Demand Letter

The timeline, the process, and 3 things you should not do

· Demand Letter,FAQs

Maintain control and keep your credibility

We almost always allow other people to train us how to act, and most of the time, this happens without any consequence. But once you send someone a demand letter, there is a consequence--if you allow the letter's recipient to prompt your every move. The consequence is that you lose control of the demand process, because you lose credibility as an opponent.

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Here is a common example of how you could lose credibility once you send a demand letter. Your letter was clear on all of the important points:

  • The facts that led you to make the demand.
  • The specific resolution you are demanding.
  • The deadline by which you are demanding that resolution.
  • How you wish the letter's recipient to communicate with you moving forward.
On the last point, you were smart to insist that your opponent only communicate with you in writing, and you even specified the address (whether a physical mailing address or an email). Your opponent received the letter a few days ago, and today you discovered a voicemail from the opponent: they are asking to speak with you by phone.
Having handled thousands of these cases, we generally advise people not to comply with that request (and not because we are your attorney or are offering legal advice, but because we have thousands of these cases under our belt and quite simply know what works and where people new to the demand process tend to slip up): do not speak with your opponent by phone merely because they ask you to.
Remember, you requested in your demand letter that they only communicate with you in writing and at a specific address. There is a reason they are ignoring this request and are reaching out to by phone instead. They are trying to train you. They want to find out how committed you are to the terms of your demand. And insofar as you deviate from a given term of your demand letter, it suggests to your opponent that you are similarly flexible on the letter's other terms.
In yoga and in life, being flexible is good; in demand letters and the subsequent demand process...not so much. Stick to your demand.
Thing # 1 that you should not do: do not deviate from the terms of your demand letter (and this includes not speaking by phone if you have requested only written communication).
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Stick to your 30-day timeline

Many states have specific requirements for the number of days you must permit your opponent to resolve your demand before you proceed to something like a legal proceeding. And even though not all jurisdictions have this requirement, or require as much as 30 days, we have seen from handling thousands of cases that 30 days is a good timeline to stick to. Why?

Well first, if you happen to live in one of these jurisdictions that requires 30 days, you can make sure you are complying with it without having to invest too much upfront research to find out what, if any, your jurisdictions requirements are. Generally speaking, if you err on the side of 30 days, you should be in good shape and excuse yourself having to wade through as many upfront details.

Second, 30 days allows plenty of time for both sides of the dispute to communicate, consider your options, and negotiate a resolution. Here are some data points we have seen in the course of handling thousands of these disputes:

  • 1-2 days = average time it typically takes a given opponent to respond to a demand letter they receive it.
  • 8-9 days = average time it typically takes a given opponent to propose a resolution or refuse yours.
  • 30-45 days = average time it takes a given complainant to "proceed to next steps" when a resolution is not reached.

So given these average timelines once you send a demand letter, 30 days is simply a sensible number of days to permit--no more and no less. These are only estimates, of course, but hopefully they give you a good idea of what to expect once your demand letter is sent.

Lastly, if your demand letter says something like, "if this matter is not resolved as I have requested within 30 days, I will proceed to next steps," you should be willing to actually proceed to next steps. You, of course, can define that however you like. But there is no magic here: generally, the most effective next step will be an unambiguous demonstration of your willingness and ability to initiate a legal proceeding against the opponent. And what is more unambiguous than actually initiating that legal proceeding.

Thing # 2 that you should not do: do not demand timelines or promise next steps that you are not willing to stick to. If you say that you are giving your opponent 30 days, be patient, and actually give them 30 days. You do not need to proactively reach to them to ask how things are going (this tends to suggest that you are nervous about the outcome of the demand period, and nervous people tend to not be the ones who follow-through on promised next steps).

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What to do if your opponent tries to outsmart you?

Let them try. Do not feel obligated to respond to each and every (or any) attempt by your opponent to prompt you to do something counter to the terms of your demand letter. And there is an economic reason for this.

The more time you invest playing those back-and-forth games, the thinner your margins become as you hold out for a win. And opponents know that complainants with wafer thin margins are easily deterred, because you reach this place in the dispute where you take inventory of all of the time (and perhaps even money) you have invested so far, and you ask yourself, "can I even afford to continue this dispute?" Do not let your opponent whittle you down to this place.

More legal disputes are won or lost due to economics than legalese. Inefficiency is the enemy, and if you are using Veeto and your opponent is not, you have the edge. Keep it by letting your demand letter speak for itself.

Oftentimes, if your dispute is with a large company, the person responding to your demand letter is someone whose time is worth less than yours--someone in customer service perhaps. When this is true, the opponent knows that the more they can trick you into going tit-for-tat with that customer service rep, the less gas you will have left in the tank to continue pursuing your demand. So, if you prefer to respond to an opponent to who contacts you but does not appear to be offering a resolution--say, just to talk--here a one-liner you can use to maintain your control and credibility:

"I have already described my complaints and stated my desired resolution. I do not wish to communicate further unless [opponent] wishes to resolve the matter as requested, and I wish to only communicate about this matter in writing, to [your email address]. As stated in my letter, I will only wait for a limited time before I take further action."

You, of course, can take poetic license here to say whatever you like, and however you prefer. The point is to not let them rope you into a rabbit-hole conversation that wastes your time and does not get you any closer to resolution.

Thing # 3 that you should not do: do not let your opponent's representatives waste your time by talking about anything other than a resolution; and so one thing that obviously follows from this is that you should therefore not waste time talking to people who lack the authority to offer your desired resolution. Insofar as your demand letter was clear and complete, there is no additional exchange of information that is necessary for your opponent to decide whether to resolve your dispute as requested or not.

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You do not see too many doctors performing surgeries on themselves, but you can be sure that they, more than anyone, are choosing their personal physicians wisely. And maybe there is a similar reason why so many attorneys use Veeto to solve their own legal problems.

But if you are not yet a Veeto member, you should sign up. There is a reason Veeto has this track record, and there is a reason that about 20% of our members are themselves attorneys who use Veeto to resolve their own legal disputes.

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