Director’s Tip: Raising a Glass to Counsel for Jack Daniel’s for Professional Correspondence

A “cease and desist” letter recently written by counsel for Jack Daniel’s shows that an attorney can competently represent a client’s interests without resorting to blustering and intimidation. 

When you begin your law practice—particularly if you litigate–you will inevitably get letters from opposing counsel demanding things from you in not-so-nice language.  I can recall clearly receiving the first such letter specifically addressed to me.  In three paragraphs, the opposing counsel told me that all my discovery responses were inadequate, essentially suggested that I was intentionally hiding things, and demanded immediate action—or else.  It was difficult to get through reading the letter—by the end I had a pit in my stomach.  I took it to my partner.  He was not fazed.  He told me that’s just how a lot of lawyers practice.  They try to intimidate from the start.  It may be because their clients demand it of them—I know that I had a client or two who probably wished I was more that sort.  

But some don’t take that path as a matter of first course.  Recently, counsel for Jack Daniel’s sent a “cease and desist” letter to an author whose book cover resembled the logo for her client’s whiskey. Rather than demand that he immediately pull all his books from stores, pay damages, etc., she simply explained why her client needed to protect its brand, and asked that going forward, the author use a redesigned cover—even offering to assist in paying for costs to redesign the cover.  And she did so using polite, straightforward language.  (You can read the letter by going to the link at the end of this article).  

This attorney accomplished all that she needed to do without coming across as a jerk—stating the facts and making her request.  In addition to being professional (and garnering national attention for it), if this letter were ever to become an exhibit in any future dispute, it seems that a judge would certainly appreciate her approach, and possibly give her the benefit of any doubt.