Originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of the ABA Journal.
BY ANDREW J. McCLURG
My colleague recently received a mail offer to purchase an amazing new book called The Someone Cares Encyclopedia of Letter Writing. This real book contains “over 525 thoughtful letters . . . for every conceivable occasion already written for you.” The “heartfelt” form letters cover everything from complaining about your kid’s soccer coach to offering sympathy for an “unnamed tragedy.”
What a great idea for lawyers! With all our form books, we’re still at sea when it comes to personal correspondence. Lawyers encounter lots of emotional situations where a heartfelt letter could prove invaluable. The decision to leave a law firm is a perfect example. Breaking the news to one’s colleagues can be agonizing. Think how great it would be to flip open a book and find a sensitive letter ready to be custom-fit to your situation:
Form 269: Law Firm Resignation Letter
I regret to inform you that I am leaving the firm. Please don’t think my decision has anything to do with my [low salary/long hours/dislike for you personally/sexual harassment suit]. I’ve been thinking about this for some time and feel the timing is right given our recent [open and honest communication/frank discussion/bar brawl].
I can honestly say I’m going to [miss you/miss this place/miss your spouse/ruin your name/the beach every day]. I will take many things with me, the most important of which is [our friendship/a grudge I will hold for the rest of my life/the office furniture]. When I look back, the picture I will always remember is [the day you hired me/the first case we won together/the one I took of you at the firm party and keep in my safe deposit box].
To show my [appreciation/good faith/utter disdain for you], I plan to send you a [special gift/sizable check/dead cat].
Thanks for taking this so well. You are a true [friend/lawyer’s lawyer/##&$%%].
[Warmly/Sincerely/I’m Outta Here!]
Such a personalized letter is likely to touch any former colleague and to prompt a similarly heartfelt response:
Form 270: Reply to Resignation Letter
It is with a heavy [heart/handgun/stack of work you left unfinished] that I reply to your notice that you are leaving the firm. Your service here will never be [forgotten/forgiven/understood/discussed], no matter how long you have been gone.
We wish you lots of [happiness/good wishes/personal setbacks] in the future. If there is any way we may [be of assistance/enforce our non-compete agreement/be rid of you more quickly], please do not hesitate to let us know.
You can just stick your office key [on my desk/in the mail/where the sun don’t shine] and collect your final [congratulations/paycheck/humiliation] at the firm meeting on Friday.
I don’t know about you, but I could really use a book like this. Like a lot of men, sometimes I’m simply too absorbed in important things like [my work/myself/watching sports] to feel. I’d much rather pay someone else to do it.