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Snyder: A Good Way to Make a Bad Impression

By Teddy Snyder

Thursday, May 14, 2020 | 300 | 0 | min read

Chances are that before you meet your mediator for the first time, you will submit your mediation brief. Your brief is usually the first opportunity to dazzle the reader with your well-honed points and skillful rhetoric.

Teddy Snyder

Teddy Snyder

I recently received a mediation brief that included these grammatical errors:

  • "We trusted his advise."
  • "The answer was, 'Your fine.'”
  • "They did not properly evaluate it’s value."

A technical term that was critical to the case was so badly misspelled that, if not for the opponent’s brief, I would have had no idea what was being referenced.

The icing on the bad grammar cake was the closing to the cover letter that incorrectly capitalized every word: "Very Truly Yours."

Grammar is important

One of the things I do when I’m not mediating cases is write the "Get to the Point" column for AttorneyAtWork.com. The column mostly deals with grammar and usage, and advises lawyers how to communicate better. I repeatedly counsel that sloppy communication hinders the message recipient’s ability to pay attention to your point. 

Software won’t pick up every language error, but it certainly would have helped the author of the mediation brief. Clicking the spelling and grammar checker in Word would have tagged “advise” and “it’s” for further review. A grammar checker add-on like Grammarly or WordRake would have caught the errors, plus made style suggestions for a more concise presentation.

Most importantly, the persuasiveness of the brief was undercut by its sloppiness. What did opposing counsel tell his client about the caliber of lawyering skills they were up against? How might that have affected the negotiation?

Whether you are writing a brief or a letter setting out your position, don’t start from a weak negotiating position simply because you could not be bothered to correct your grammar.

Attorney Teddy Snyder mediates workers' compensation cases throughout California. She can be contacted through WCMediator.com.

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