Receiving a Letter of Demand: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

We often hear about people receiving a letter of demand, or a “lawyer letter” in common parlance, and associating with it a certain gravitas. People certainly tend to feel threatened by it, or at least to take it as an intended threat. But what is a letter of demand? And what should you do if you receive one? A letter of demand does not denote a lawsuit A letter of demand is a written letter setting out a list of demands from the sender for the recipient to comply with. It is generally backed up by the threat of legal action being taken against the recipient should the demands not be met within a certain timeframe. It is important to note that a letter of demand does not constitute the beginning of legal proceedings. Most individuals and companies do engage law firms to send out letters of demand; lawyers are not generally wordsmiths, but they can be reliably expected to be clear and precise in their language, and their involvement does lend a certain weight. However, a letter of demand does not necessarily need to be written by a lawyer; anyone can personally send one. It merely outlines certain claims and asserts the willingness to begin legal proceedings in order to back up those claims. If sending a letter of demand is not the first step towards filing a lawsuit, why send one? The most practical reason is that going to court in Singapore is often costly in terms of both time and money, and most people would wish to avoid that if an agreement can be arrived at privately. The courts also do not wish to be bogged up by cases which do not absolutely require their attention. In many instances, an official letter of demand from a law firm is sufficient to make the point that the sender takes his demands very seriously and is indeed willing to engage in the costly process of civil litigation to enforce them. This has a very persuasive value. At the end of the day, the purpose is to get the recipient to comply with the demands, and not for the sender to have “his day in court” to fulfil a sense of superiority or vindication. The courts themselves do not take kindly to having their time wasted, and in some cases letters of demands may need to be used in court proceedings to show that concerted attempts to obtain compliance have been made before a lawsuit was filed. Moreover, in the course of engaging a law firm to send a letter of demand, a qualified lawyer would be able to advise on whether the matter is justiciable, and whether the demands can be enforced through the due process of the law. What does a letter of demand contain? A letter of demand usually contains the following information: 1. The identity