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A Shot Across the Bow: How to Write an Effective Demand Letter

26 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2008  

Bret Rappaport

Dominican University

Date Written: September 15, 2008


Litigators should give the opposing party options by which it can avoid a full-scale legal battle. Such options are provided through the pre-litigation process of negotiated settlement.

It is curious why so much time, training and effort goes into teaching law students and lawyers how to litigate, and so little into how to efficiently achieve as much of a client's goal as possible through the process of negotiated settlement. The process of dispute resolution through effective negotiated settlement involves carefully crafted strategies. What's more, settlement negotiations typically begin with a strategy that is the legal equivalent of a shot across the bow - a demand letter.

In this article, I argue that writing an effective Shot Across the Bow letter requires the attorney to engage in specific analytical writing, and tactical strategies. I also propose a methodology for the preparation and execution of such a letter. By breaking down the steps and providing an example, I contend that a well-conceived, well-written, and well-sent Shot Across the Bow letter can increase the likelihood of a prompt, efficient, and satisfactory end to a civil dispute.

Keywords: demand letter, negotiated settlement, legal writing

Suggested Citation

Rappaport, Bret, A Shot Across the Bow: How to Write an Effective Demand Letter (September 15, 2008). Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Vol. 5, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Bret Rappaport (Contact Author)

Dominican University ( email )

7900 West Division Street
River Forest, IL 60305
United States

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