It is not uncommon for a practising lawyer to have their client bring to them a legal notice that the client received. One of the first responses by the lawyer is then to reassure the client that they need not worry, at least not just yet. The lawyer then seeks response from the client what they would wish to be done with regards to the legal notice received. Generally, two ways of response are applicable to a legal notice received:
1. No response
This means that the client will not act in any manner whatsoever with regards to the legal notice received and wait for the sender to act with reference to the claims made by the sender in the said notice. This may also include waiting for the client to institute the relevant proceedings before the authority and waiting for the authority to require the presence of the client before it.
2. Sending a reply to the legal notice received
This is essentially the client’s version of events alleged in the legal notice received. Replying to a legal notice becomes even more crucial where the legal notice received is not just an exaggeration of events, but is simply a vexatious and false story intended to harass the client. Legal notices are considered a form of due diligence followed by the parties to not just inform the other party of their grievances and intention to bring the matter to court, but also to make an attempt at resolving their differences and/or dispute amongst themselves and not through litigation.
There are various things to remember while drafting a reply to a legal notice. Few are listed below:
• Technical Details
Details like the date of the reply-cum-legal notice, date of the legal notice received, proper details of the sender(s) of the legal notice received, proper details of the client(s), etc. are all details that seem small, but contribute heavily towards the final takeaway from the reply-cum-legal notice. The idea behind this inclusion in the checklist is to ensure that the document should look like the professional communication document it is.
• Reply-cum-Legal Notice
Ensuring that the intention of the document to be treated as a reply, as well as a legal notice unto itself, should be clearly mentioned and visible in the document. This is generally achieved by writing “Reply-cum-Legal Notice” in the centre, in capital letters with bold font, where the subject of a document is generally written.
• Addressing all alleged facts
It is important that each and every element of each and every alleged fact should be duly addressed and replied to in the reply-cum-legal notice. Not specifically denying something might be considered an admission. Hence, it is in the best of interests of the client, for the reply-cum-legal notice to address each and every alleged fact.
• The client’s version of events alleged
It is important to present the client’s version of the events alleged in the same document as the reply. Since the reply to the legal notice is also intended to be a legal notice on its own, it is important to present the client’s point of view as well. The basic idea behind this is to inform the other side of the client’s perspective, and if possible bring the difference/dispute to a close without proceeding to litigation. This is generally done as against the reply to the events alleged, or can also be done separately after addressing all events alleged, or both.
Drafting a reply to a legal notice may not be done as often as drafting a legal notice, but it is certainly not news when one has to draft it. The pointers given above are not an exhaustive list, but are simply the most common elements found across replies to legal notices, that should be kept in mind during drafting. It is always important to remember here that, legal notices and replies to legal notices are both generally a last attempt made by the parties to resolve their differences and/or dispute. Hence, it is important to include all necessary, relevant and ancillary information required for the purpose of the legal notice in the document itself.