U.S. Postal Service Halts Mail, But Why Letters Should Live On

For centuries, letters have delivered gratitude and good news. And, with the mere lick of a postage stamp, sincere, honest, and timely thanks can make anybody’s day.

Sadly, the U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering and collecting letters and other first-class mail on Saturdays starting August 5, 2013. This marks the end of an era, which started Saturday mail delivery in 1863, reports CNN.

The U.S. Postal Service reported a loss of $16 billion in 2012, but the new plan will save roughly $2 billion per year.   “It’s a responsible decision. It makes common sense,” said Patrick Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO of the postal service to CNN.

Sometimes it’s just about business.

But, just because mail delivery will suffer, doesn’t mean your expressions of gratitude to clients or employees have to. Once, the pony express wouldn’t give up, night or day, rain or shine. Now, it’s your law firm’s opportunity to ensure that posting letters doesn’t become an anachronism of the age.

Here are five letters your law firm should not forget to write:

1. Thank-you letters. Yes, the holiday party was de facto mandatory, but that doesn’t mean name partners shouldn’t write letters of thanks. Thank you notes should be specific to each person, hand-written and sincere.

2. Acceptance letters. Just because your assistant is in charge of drafting all associate offer letters, doesn’t mean your firm shouldn’t put in any effort in writing an acceptance letters for new hires. Don’t forget to focus on “you” as opposed to “we”. Instead of “we enjoyed meeting you,” or “we look forward to having you join our team,” try “you showed exceptional promise among an already impressive class of first-years,” or “you were poised and primed for work—characteristics to be admired.”

3. Rejection letters. Sometimes law firms must give bad news. Perhaps it’s human resources’ rejection of an employee application or maybe it’s the unfortunate lay-off of an esteemed attorney. Rejection letters are not fun to write, but they’re even worse to read. That’s why you should be as direct as possible. Don’t use flowery language. At the same time, don’t beat around the bush. Be courteous but honest in your reasons for rejection—your reader will be glad for it. Finally, as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s important to write rejection letters because worse than the words inside them is a lack of communication whatsoever.

4. Client engagement letters. It’s not corny to welcome a new client on board! In fact, personalized letters to clients—whether confirming their engagement with the firm or simply “checking in” on a monthly basis—are a way to maintain relationships with current clients. It may also help boost the positive word-of-mouth recommendations that are responsible for attracting new ones.

5. Letters of praise. Don’t write letters of complaint. Although it may be tempting when you feel cheated or insulted, for example, of all people, lawyers should know the consequences of putting things in writing. So, each time you’re inspired to write a letter of protest, write one of praise, instead. Choose an employee who has exhibited exceptional work product of late (or, if you must, just choose one at random!). Write him or her a brief note of appreciation for their positive attitude, attention to detail, or ability to work well in teams. Whatever the reason, writing a letter that will make a person’s day (and likely make them more productive) is far better than writing a letter that, well, won’t.

The U.S. Postal Service may be cutting back on mail, but your firm shouldn’t look to.

There’s a reason this government agency has accumulated so much debt. Despite the best efforts of Google, Yahoo, and AOL, there’s nothing like the postman saying, “you’ve got mail” in person.

Law firms manage a business, team of associates, and group of clients that can all benefit from a few key mailed letters. Personalization and postage lead to success.

-WB

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