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Kaplan College Paralegal Studies


September 2005

Read All About It In The Firm's Letterhead

As anyone who did not graduate in the top 10 percent of their law school class knows, for each resume cover letter sent to a law firm, there is an equal and opposite rejection letter. I, for one, know quite a bit about this. I don't like to brag, but during law school I received "ding letters" from some of the most prominent law firms in the country.

It is after accumulating enough "good luck in your future endeavors" letters to wallpaper a law school dorm room that one starts to notice certain similarities in the letterhead used by law firms. In fact, most prominent firms use the same style letterhead. This is something that the less-than-prominent attorney can use to his advantage.

Even if you are running a law practice out of your garage, not everyone has to know this. You really don't have to worry about this until you actually have some clients. To the outside world (i.e., those outside your garage), your letterhead can put you on par -- on paper at least -- with the biggest and best law firms.

To compete with the big boys, all you need is a few carefully placed words and a good stationery shop. Below are some of the things you should include on your letterhead:
  1. Names. Everyone is impressed when receiving a letter from a law firm that includes dozens of names running down either side of the top of the first page. It is not uncommon to see lists of names that extend beyond the text of the letter itself. In such a case, however, no one reads the text because they are distracted by the long list of names.

    The implication of listing the names of lawyers on your letterhead is, of course, that these individuals actually work at your firm. This, however, does not have to be the case. By simply listing lots of names, any names at all, you can bring instant credibility to your firm. (You might also bring an instant knock on the door from state bar investigators.)

    Among the names on your letterhead, it's always a nice touch to include a few that are followed by the years of their birth and death. For some reason, people seem to be impressed by the fact that you work at a firm where the people it was named after are now deceased.

    If you are going to list dead lawyers who have absolutely no affiliation with your firm, you might as well go all out. Consider including a few well-known names on your letterhead such as "Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)," "Richard Nixon (1913-1994)" or "Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)." This will cause people to take note of your law office. Living celebrities can also be used, but they might take exception to your unauthorized use of their names and decide to sue you. It is therefore recommended that such individuals simply be listed as "of counsel."
  2. Address. Law firms are willing to spend significant amounts of money per square foot in order to be able to include "43rd Floor" or "Suite 5900" on their stationery. This is actually a good investment because clients accept the fact that lawyer's billing rates rise with the floor numbers where their offices are located.

    There is, however, no real need to actually lease expensive office space. Instead of paying $30 a square foot for prime office space, you can simply rent a mailbox for $10 a month on a major boulevard. If your current address is "Room 4" or "Storage Bin 36," another approach is to add a high suite or floor number to the address on the letterhead. It's almost as good as being there -- assuming no one ever bothers to stop by your office.
  3. Paper. The paper your letterhead is printed on should be thick and expensive. This will encourage deadbeat clients to ask themselves: "Can I afford a firm that has stationery as nice as this?" Heavier-hitting clients will simply assume you are one hell of a lawyer if you spend lots of cash on letterhead -- even if it amounts to more than what you pay on office space.

Spending a little extra time, money and imagination on a law firm's stationary is very worthwhile. It may even make up for the shortcomings you and your law firm colleagues may have when putting actual legal advice on paper.

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