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“Dear Sirs”¯ banned by global law firm

  • September 19th, 2016

I abandoned that salutation in my correspondence over 20 years ago.

I notified my partners that I was dropping salutations completely. I hoped others would too, but Chapman Tripp was so tolerant of diversity that though few did (some of my staff) no one objected (at least to me).

Nor did I get any client or counter-party objections until someone on the other side of an acrimonious exchange noticed and assumed I had done it just to be aggressive/offensive.

I dropped the common salutation “Dear Sirs” partly because it seemed pointlessly discourteous to women in other firms, but also because I was irritated by my dithering over salutations generally. We agonised over just how familiar to be. We worried about being too matey, or not matey enough with addressees of lower or higher status, or of the opposite sex.

I’d seen colleagues getting letters completely retyped (or reprinted) just to change from a Dear ‘firstname’ to Dear ‘surname’, and vice versa.

I’ve got more relaxed. If a staff member has prepared a letter or message for me, I may not bother now to delete the salutation. And “Hi” seems to work without thought.

Twenty-something years ago I thought my example might catch on more widely. It didn’t.

But better late than never Freshfields – unless instead people are wasting time dithering among a slew of PC replacement terms. Just drop the pointless salutation!

The article from NZ Lawyer does not say whether Freshfields have replaced it:

“Global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has banned the use of “Dear Sirs”¯ in its communications and documents.
The magic circle firm has taken the move as a “relatively small”¯ but “significant”¯ move designed to highlight how the language used in legal communications may alienate clients and peers.
A Freshfield’s associate in London discovered that in recent IPO activity the exclusive use of “Dear Sir(s)”¯ was widespread among law firms, banks and corporates.

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