When I was a young lawyer I was always impressed when I received a piece of engraved stationery from another lawyer. I ran my finger across the ink on the page. I studied the font and the layout. I read the addresses and attorney names. That fancy letterhead made a positive impression.
I also read articles (most published by printing companies I think?) that espoused the value of professional letterhead. You have to have it! Your credibility depends on it. You are a lawyer for God's sake, get some fancy letterhead! I wanted (dare I say "needed"?) that fancy, engraved letterhead. So I contacted some printers to get my own fancy letterhead. Guess what? That stuff is expensive! I couldn't afford it. I bought some letterhead, just not the top of the line, engraved stuff.
I now pronounce that lawyers don't need engraved stationery. Here is how I can make that statement:
After a few years of practice I began to gain some self-confidence as a lawyer. Letterhead took on a different role in my life. I still enjoyed studying the letterhead of other lawyers, and I still appreciated the quality of fancy letterhead. However, I also began to appreciate that the quality of the letterhead was not necessarily in equilibrium with the quality of the lawyer sending the letter. I worked with some great lawyers that had cheap letterhead, and I worked with some bad lawyers that had exquisite letterhead. I reached the conclusion that I was a good lawyer that did not need to prove it through my letterhead, especially when it was just going to get stuck in a file to collect dust. I also began to appreciate that technology gave me choices to traditional printed stationery.
When HP brought the first laser printers to the market I got one. Then I spent a couple of hours creating my own letterhead. The layout matched anything I had seen. The fonts were the same as the fancy letterhead I had seen. The end product just wasn't weaved paper with engraved printing. It looked good, it was affordable, and it was convenient. I liked it, and now everything we print -- including our letter -- goes out on the same bright white paper from printers in our office. To comply with the California Rules of Court everything is on recycled stock (Yes, there is a rule that requires that. Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 1.22). In our office there is no switching of paper trays and paper stock. In fact, because of the improvement in printer technology, we don even use the more expensive laser printers anymore. Instead, we use much more economical ink jet printers. Guess what? No one complains, and no one questions our competency because of our letterhead.
Just as significant is how the internet has changed the sending and receiving of letters. I do still receive and write and send letters via snail mail. However, with the advent of email, and chat, and text messaging, the ceremony of letter writing has been diminished. When I receive a letter I spend very little time touching and studying the paper it is printed on -- that is if I even open the envelope. Instead, a staffer usually opens the envelope, then the letter is scanned and put into my electronic inbox to be read. I don't even see the paper product anymore... How I send letters is also different. The majority of the time these days, when I write I letter I usually convert it to pdf, and then email it to the recipient as an attachment. Paper quality, engraved printing, paper color, all of that has become irrelevant. I still send out good looking letterhead, I just don't pay for it.
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Thank you for visiting the Family Law Lawyer Tech & Practice blog. My name is John Harding. I am a family law lawyer practicing in Northern California. Long ago I realized that I could practice law more effectively and more efficiently (i.e., better and easier) by availing myself of the technological tools that are out there. I also learned that a successful law practice requires successful marketing. Hardware and software working together make me a better lawyer, and make my life easier. Marketing helps to bring in the business necessary for professional survival. By this blog I hope to share the tips, tricks, and technology that I have learned about so that others may benefit!