Lesson 8 – Legal Correspondence
Introduction and Objectives of the Lesson
Most people can hardly remember the last time when they sent a letter. E-correspondence has taken the world by storm and changed business communication from upside down. Still, legal professionals can't say goodbye to classic letters, because that is exactly the form they use when they communicate with institutions or opposite parties. That is why this lesson is dedicated to the layout and phrases of business and legal letters.
The first chapter explains the structure of a typical legal/business letter. However, the main focus in this lesson is on phrases, since they are the foundation on which you can build any text. They are divided into categories according to ideas we intend to express.
Moreover, we have included a brief description of some common legal correspondence documents such as letter before action or court petition. To conclude with, you will learn (or repeat) how to use conditionals and how to substitute if with should or provided. To apply it in practice, provided you are ready to study, please read further.
Letters and E-mails
A letter should begin by stating the sender's address on the right. Name does not have to be included.
Date is written below the sender's address. There are differences between writing dates in the US and UK:
UK: day/month/year – e.g. 15 January 2015 or 15th January 2015
US: month/day/year – e.g. January 15, 2015 or January 15th 2015
It is possible to abbreviate dates just like in the Czech Republic, but we recommend writing the name of the month in full in order to avoid problems with interpretation.
If there is any reference number to be included, it is usually placed under the date.
Recipient's address then follows on the left side.
Then comes a subject line, which introduces the subject matter of the letter. Subject line can also go after the salutation. Some writers prefer using RE: (regarding) before the subject line and others omit RE: and write the subject line in bold instead.
Salutation should not be underestimated:
- To whom it may concern or Dear Sir or Madam is used when you don't know names of the addressees.
- Dear is recommended in formal correspondence and you never make a mistake when using it. For example, Dear Mr Johnson or Dear Peter.
- Dear Madam addresses a woman whose name you don't know. Dear Mrs is used for a married female, Dear Miss for an unmarried female, and Dear Ms for a married or unmarried female. Please remember that Ms is not the abbreviation of Miss (as lot of Czech people think!). Older unmarried women prefer Ms. If you don't have enough information about a female recipient, use Ms.
- Use Yours sincerely when you address the recipient by his/her name.
- Use Yours faithfully when you don't know the recipient's name.
- Best regards (also kind regards) is a bit less formal and preferred in e-mails but still acceptable.
Novák & Partners
Modřanská 17143 00 Praha 12
31 January 2015
Mr Zbynek Domanski Your ref. 2015/CT-H
Domanski & Partner