Keep the Hate Mail Coming

You Supply the Paint, I'll Paint Your Portrait

You Supply the Paint, I’ll Paint Your Portrait

Keep the Hate Mail Coming

By: Gregory L. Shelton
Shelton Law Carolinas

In business litigation, winners and losers often are decided by the documents, whether it be a single email, a series of memos, or hundreds of letters. It stands to reason, then, that the things people write to each other will probably affect the outcome of the case.

For the trial lawyer, simply reading the documents to the judge, jury, or arbitrator is not enough. The lawyer must use the documents to portray the landscape, the mood, the scenes, and the characters of the case. Some situations require delicate, subtle brush strokes, while other situations require an aggressive dose of expressionism.

Bob Ross’ go-to colors included Titanium White, Phthalo Blue, and Yellow Ochre. In testy lawsuits, the palette can include Nasty Green, Purple Anger, Vicious Red, Bossy Blue, Calculating Grey, and Irrational Sienna.

Written outbursts and bluster directed at the opponent offer temporary relief to the sender, but in most cases are self-destructive acts.


“I will seek punitive damages and pursue criminal charges.”

“You’re the worst architect I’ve ever seen and I’ve told everyone I can how you destroyed this project through your incompetence.”

The recipient should view these tantrums as more paint on his palette. This is easier said than done, of course . . . . The troublesome biology of fight or flight and all that.

When you receive an unprofessional letter or email, overcome your base instincts. Take a breath, count to three, and quietly thank the sender as you exhale.

Attr: Andrea di Bonaiuto, Cappellone degli Spagnoli (WikiCommons)

About Gregory L. Shelton

Gregory L. Shelton is licensed to practice in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. He is a South Carolina circuit court mediator and North Carolina superior court mediator. Greg is the Managing Editor of the North Carolina Construction Law Deskbook, the definitive treatise on construction law in the state. He is also Florida board certified as a construction law specialist. He practices at Shelton Law Carolinas. SC: (803) 670-0024 NC: (704) 940-9012
Government Contracts, NC Law, SC Law

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