Lawyers must send fewer letters of receipts during the pandemic


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US Post Office in Lower Manhattan (Photo by David Lat).

Sometimes it can be difficult for lawyers to assess the impact of our actions on others. In fact, decisions made by lawyers can have an enormous impact on others, but we are often unable to monitor the consequences of those actions. I, like many attorneys, regularly send certified letters requesting a return receipt for his signature confirming delivery. Sometimes I mail this way because court rules or statutes are required, and other times, I use this method as a preference. Although I haven’t received a certified letter requiring signature in years, I recently received two letters like this in the mail. Experience has shown me that lawyers should try to send fewer approved letters with the return receipt required during a pandemic for public health and other reasons.

You have been a passionate subscriber of Informed Delivery®, A service from the United States Postal Service, For years. This capability is amazing, and it basically allows you to see all of the mailing pieces that you will receive on a given day via email each morning. A few weeks ago, I noticed that I would receive two certified letters from a random attorney in my area that would be delivered that day.

All day long, I tired my mind thinking why I was receiving such approved letters. I was pretty sure the letters were part of a group mail, because the addresses on the letters were in a strange format included in the public records relating to my apartment. Unfortunately, my anticipation of the purpose of the approved letters did not end that day because the postal company left me a note in my mailbox indicating that I would have to come to the post office to receive my letters because a signature could not be obtained when the letters were delivered.

Normally, the trip to the post office isn’t much of an issue, but several weeks ago, I suffered an annual “backhand attack” that pretty much got me off the hook for a few days (thankfully, I’ve since recovered!). The post office in my city was more than a mile away, up the hill, and since the parking lot on my town’s main road is a nightmare, I knew I would have to walk to the post office. Slowly making my way to the post office with my bad back, I discovered the line at the post office was so long that it stretched out.

I stood in line at the post office for over an hour, and my back was incredibly sore the whole time, only to sign approved letters. I noticed that several people in line at the post office had the same paper slip that I received and we headed to come to the post office to sign our mail. While standing in line, we all had to stand inside for an extended period of time next to dozens of other people, and the post offices are not known to have good ventilation.

After finally signing my approved letters, I found out I was getting a notice because a developer wanted to make changes to the area my residence is in, and I was given a notice of a zoning board hearing to discuss the issue. I was very upset! I had absolutely no intention of attending the session that discussed this worldly matter. Additionally, I did a quick search of all the laws mentioned in the letter, and found no requirement to send any certified mail notifications with the return receipt request (although I readily admit that I missed something!). In the midst of my frustration with wasting hours over these approved letters, I considered sending the attorney who wrote that letter of my own with the required return receipt so that she can savor what you’ve been through. However, I soon thought of the situation better, and licked my surgeon by heading to White Castle near the post office to satisfy my craving. At least the trip wasn’t a complete waste!

There are some situations where attorneys need to send certified letters along with requesting the return receipt because the law or court rule requires this method. In addition, there are certain situations in which it is beneficial to use this method. Just as my opponents would easily move, I am a practitioner of the dark arts of transgression, which often requires that a party be notified about their claim and obligation to preserve evidence. One of the best ways to prove that one party has received notice of a claim is to send them a crush letter and use a return receipt card to prove that the other party received the letter. In addition, sometimes the parties want to send certified letters with a request for return receipt in order to broadcast to the other party that the message is important.

However, we are currently suffering one of the worst public health crises in more than a century. Forcing people to wait in line at the post office doesn’t help with social distancing, and when attorneys send hundreds or even thousands of approved letters with the required return receipt in one community, it can burden the postal service, which doesn’t need any additional problems now. As a result, lawyers must carefully assess whether they really need to send letters via a return receipt by certified mail required for the rest of the pandemic.


Jordan Rothman is a partner Rothman Law Firm, A full-service law firm in New York and New Jersey. He is also a founder Student Debt Diary, Which is a website that discusses how to pay off student loans. You can reach Jordan via email at jordan@rothmanlawyer.com.


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