Scary Lawyer Letter? Emulating Monsters, Inc. as a Tactic
HAVE YOU RECEIVED A SCARY LAWYER LETTER?
Have you received an aggressive lawyer from a lawyer accusing you of terrible acts and threatening horrific things unless you pay a sum of money?
How did reading the letter make you feel?
While some people are angered by such letters, the emotion these missives are intended to evoke is FEAR.
Here are a few examples of the fear-mongering language attorneys love to include in demand letters:
- “Unless the sum of $X is received in this office within 10 days, my client will file suit, in which event we will seek multiples of the sum demanded herein, together with exemplary damages, costs and attorney’s fees.”
- “We will seek treble damages based upon your knowing conduct.”
- “We will obtain a substantial Judgement and thereafter execute upon all of your non-exempt assets.”
- “Your conduct will almost certainly result in the award of exemplary damages in the six-figure range.”
If you have received a lawyer letter with language like this, you need to know something:
Including this language in notice letters has a single purpose – to manipulate you through fear.
WHY DO LAWYERS SEND SUCH NASTY LETTERS?
I’m going to let you in on a dirty secret: Demand letters designed to involve fear are a staple of the legal industry. Where these letters are concerned, there’s an unwritten rule:
“The scarier and more threatening a demand letter is, the better!”
I’m not talking about simple notice letters putting an opposing party on notice of a claim or invoking a remedy.
I’m referring to the downright mean, intimidating, bullying and shitty letters. The kind of letters that make you want to pull all of the money out of your bank account and hide it under your mattress.
Why do lawyers send these letters? Because often times they work!
After all, fear is one of the greatest human motivators. Some researchers believe fear is primal and etched into our brains by adrenaline.
Fear has been characterized as the single greatest manipulator because it is “instinctual.” Fear, it is said, allowed the cavemen to survive in a dangerous world.
As explained by Simon Sinek in his fabulous book “Start with Why,” fear is also a well-worn marketing tactic. Sinek points to all types of ads evoking fear, but one example is most poignant – the 1980’s Anti-Drug PSA by the Partnership for a Drug Free America:
Back in the 1980’s, that ad scared the timid away from even experimenting with drugs.
The same principle works with scary lawyer letters. Lawyers use fear to elicit settlements because fear frequently works!
But stirring up fear doesn’t always work! That’s where Monsters, Inc. comes in.
POWERING THE MONSTER WORLD WITH HUMAN SCREAMS
If you have never seen the 2001 Pixar movie Monsters Inc., stop reading this and go watch to immediately! Not only will it help you better understand this article, but it is a darn good movie! It’s hard to believe it was made 20 years ago, but in my opinion, it is a timeless classic.
The movie features a ragtag group of monsters who work in a factory in the city of Monstropolis. The main power company in the city is called Monsters, Inc. Factory work involves entering the human world through an assembly line of doors, and jumping out of bedroom closets to scare human children across the globe.
But the movie monsters don’t just scare the kids for fun or to be mean. Instead, the human screams are collected in canisters and then released to power the Monster World, including Monstropolis.
Serious problems begin in the Monster World when the human children are de-sensitized and no longer fearful of the monsters. The fearlessness has resulted in a “scream shortage” that threatens life in Monstropolis. Suddenly, the scare victims are overcoming their fear. Without the screams of fearful children, the monsters cannot power their city because they lack “scream energy.”
Without fear and the screams it produces, the monsters cannot extract the energy they need to survive.
In a way, bully lawyers who send awful letters are much the same.
CHANGE YOUR LEGAL SITUATION BY MANAGING FEAR AND IDENTIFYING A BUSINESS PROBLEM
Like the human children in Monsters, Inc., recipients of overly-harsh laywer letters designed to frighten their recipients can become de-sensitized or unafraid.
Sometimes, being unafraid is a choice. Other times, overcoming (and not succumbing to) fear requires a shift in mindset. A new perspective.
I tell prospective clients that it is key to read between the lawyer’s chest-beating and saber-rattling.
ASK YOURSELF: What is the actual purpose of the letter? What is the lawyer actually hoping to accomplish? What good does scaring me do the lawyer’s client?
No matter how harshly they may be written, most lawyer notice and demand letters are designed to open a dialogue. Lawyers actually prefer to settle cases without the necessity of filing a lawsuit.
I realize that scaring the person you hope to engage with is almost never the way to start a productive conversation. Yet, many attorneys believe that coming on really aggressive from the beginning establishes a balance of power. You must recognize that this is a choice and and tactic, just like any other manipulation.
Understanding that the crappy letter is merely a negotiation tactic – and a bad one at that – will help the person opening the letter put the matter into perspective. As perspective and understanding increase, fear diminishes.
So, rather than panic at a nastygram or obsess with addressing the inaccuracies (there are always some), an individual receiving a Rambo lawyer letter should identify the communication as presenting a business problem. Any problem that can be solved with money alone is inherently a business problem.
Business problems require business solutions arising from business responses. There is no role for fear in this exchange. After all, fear is an emotion and there are no emotional solutions to business problems.
From the moment you open a nasty lawyer letter, YOU HAVE THE POWER TO DECIDE!
Will you scream, thereby powering the lawyer’s mini Monstropolis and allowing your fear to energize the lawyer and his client? Or will you simply picture Sully and Mike Wazowski and refuse to be scared?
The choice is yours!
DON’T FEED THE MONSTERS!