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5 J. Ass'n Legal Writing Directors 32 (2008)
A Shot across the Bow: How to Write an Effective Demand Letter

handle is hein.journals/jalwd5 and id is 34 raw text is: A Shot Across the Bow: How to
Write an Effective Demand Letter
Bret Rappaport*
Whether it is strikes or war, even the biggest battles in history have ended
sitting down at a table. What is better - to be a boxing champion or a
chess champion? 1prefer chess. I
I. Introduction
Often the bravado with which war is commenced ultimately proves costly,
with an outcome uncertain and a goal illusive.2 In days of yore, to minimize the
risks of a full-scale war, a wise ship captain who spotted a pirate ship on the
horizon would order a shot across the bow - a well-aimed cannonball fired to
create a small explosion in front of the opposing ship as a warning.3 The
captain's decision, grounded in prudence, economics, good sportsmanship, and
self-interest, would elicit a response. The ship on the receiving end of the shot
could turn back, halt and raise a white flag, send out a scouting party to talk
things over, or return fire and engage in battle. Unlike a shot in the hull,
which most certainly would have led to a full-fledged fight, a shot across the bow
at least gave the opposing ship's captain and crew options by which they could
avoid a costly battle.
Litigation is the civil dispute equivalent of war,4 and lke war it is costly, the
* © Bret Rappaport 2008. Mr. Rappaport is an adjunct legal writing professor at DePaul
University College of Law and a partner with the Chicago law firm of Hardt Stern & Kayne. Prof.
Rappaport would like to thank Farzin Parang, a Northwestern Law School student, and David
Eitel, a Marquette Law School student, for their assistance with this article. Prof. Rappaport would
also like to thank DePaul University College of Law Associate Professor Susan Thrower for her
unselfish assistance and unwavering encouragement of his writing and teaching, and Professor
Michael R. Smith of University of Wyoming Law School for his invaluable assistance in editingand
finalizing the article.
Lech Walesa (quoted in Bob Woolf, Friend/y Persuasion 109 (Putnam Adult 1990)).
2 In Operation Iraqi Freedom, shock and awe in March 2003 and a declaration of Mission
Accomplished two months later have proved by 2008 to be costly, with the outcome uncertain,
and the goal of a free and democratic Iraq to be ever more elusive. See e.g. Thomas E. Ricks,
Fiasco: The American Militagy Adventure in Iraq (Penguin Press 2006); Bob Woodward, State of Denial:
Bush at War, Part III (Simon & Schuster 2006).
3 See fire a shot across sb's/the bows, Cambridge Idioms Dictionay (2d ed., Cambridge U.
Press 2006). The actual use of a shot across the bow is described in U.S. v. Officers of the U.SS.
Mangrove, 188 U.S. 720, 721-22 (1903) and U.S. v. De La Rosa-Hernande., 157 Fed. Appx. 219, 220
(11 th Cir. 2005); the phrase is used metaphorically in Thomas v. Guardsmark, LLC, 487 F.3d 531,535
(7th Cit. 2007).
4 See Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Access to Justice and The Soceal Responsihii v of Lawyers: When

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