“In order for me [the law firm] to contribute maximum benefits, you [the client] need to address what’s within your jurisdiction. Be an honest examiner of your own issues and change what you can change—just as you’ve admonished me to do.”
[Upon receipt of the fateful “love” letter from its fictitious IP client, the fictitious law firm was speechless—momentarily. Feeling aggrieved and misunderstood, and yet hopeful that their relationship could be saved with an added measure of TLC (top-tier legal counseling), the firm summoned up the courage to prepare this reply letter. In an act of contrition (or maybe vindication?), the firm has taken the bold step of publishing it on IPWatchdog. Note to commenters habitually fed up with clients large and small: This one’s for you.]
Dear [IP Client]:
It really hurt to receive your letter, especially considering how much we’ve been through. I wish you had raised your “claims” earlier and not let your disenchantment fester for so long. After I read your troubling words, I tried unsuccessfully to reach you by phone, and you haven’t responded to my voicemail messages. (Just to clear the air, this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve had difficulty reaching you and eliciting responses). Please respectfully contemplate this written traversal of your arguments.
As a preamble, I want to emphasize—from the bottom of my heart—how important you are to me. You can’t deny that over our long engagement, I’ve been deeply dedicated to making you happy (though not entirely on a monogamous basis). I do appreciate your airing of concerns, and rest assured that I’m doing some intense soul searching.
Nonetheless, because we’re in this relationship together, I feel a certain duty of candor. This means that I must disclose to you my own perspectives, and my objections to your conduct. I must clearly and unmistakably surrender to truth.
It seems to me that you view our connection like a marriage of convenience. Terms and conditions are unilaterally imposed by you, subject to modification only when you will it. When I sent you a grateful letter of engagement expressing equitable covenants, you vetoed the letter, demanding amendments to protect your self-interest. You unreasonably delayed its consummation, unnerving me and my accountability partners, who have a stake in me pursuing rewarding associations. As I awaited your assent, you expected me to give my all based upon good faith alone. But I’ve been burned at the outset of other affairs and betrayed by longtime companions who withdrew ex parte. Where’s your compassion?
Your letter alluded to “money issues.” I don’t substantially dispute that we come from different backgrounds as you stated. Yet, you failed to acknowledge your own complicity in our conflicts. You appear to use money in a calculated manner, in order to control me and extract whatever you can. You imply that you’ll leave me if I don’t cave in to your demands. It doesn’t seem to matter to you that this stratagem is horribly toxic—that it diminishes the contentment I can bring to you.
Also, too often you pit me against mysterious unidentified competitors who supposedly are ardently seeking your hand. Your trademark saying is, “they can provide the same, or more, value in this relationship at less cost to me.” And you’re painfully dismissive of the notion that fees and expenses that accompany our sacred contract should ever increase, even commensurate with inflation. Though I try to be a long-suffering partner, your constant races to the bottom make me doubt whether you’re a true soulmate.
Even when we do reach agreement on spending, your penchant for breaking promises further erodes my trust in you. How many times have you failed to pay a bill on time, thereby putting me on the defensive? How many times have I funded the deposit account and shouldered your ever-mounting debts, all on a zero-interest basis? I can always anticipate your excuses: you forgot, you’re distracted, the bill wasn’t submitted properly, there’s a new process or system you’re waging war with. The list goes on.
Your letter painted an especially unflattering picture of me in two aspects: (1) the ways in which I communicate with you, and (2) the level of creativity I exhibit. In your eyes, I’m not proactive and creative enough, and your long-felt needs remain unmet. What you don’t apparently grasp is that you send strong unspoken signals that are strikingly incongruent with your spoken declarations. They demoralize me and deter me from rising to the occasion.
What are these unspoken signals?
First, you telegraph that you don’t desire the best I’m capable of offering. You never ask me to help solve your biggest problems, and you’re possessive of information and people in your circle. As such, you constrain me from prosecuting my craft for our mutual improvement.
Second, you intimate that I’m a fungible commodity whom you’re well-prepared to jilt. The power plays, the zero-sum games, the patronizing actions, your frugality beyond belief. They comprise the cruel message that I’m around at your pleasure to complete your honey-do-list, and that our destiny rests exclusively in your capable hands.
The irony is that the more you style yourself as a sophisticated player, the less I believe that you’ve got a monopoly on answers. In your weaker, more reflective moments, you talk about how complex life is, how oppressive forces and persons plague you, and how it’s so tough to make a difference. As long as I’ve known you, your melancholy tune doesn’t change. Obviously, you need a remedy for the deficiencies of prior artless methods.
So, here’s my appeal:
- Don’t expect me to read your mind.
If something’s troubling you, please do us both the favor of speaking your mind. Frankness and definiteness will allow me to step up to the plate to earnestly address your needs and concerns. Otherwise, I’m liable to operate largely on the basis of ignorance and misconceptions. And I’m likely to miss the boat.
- Give me a real chance to make life better.
I want you not only to set high expectations for me, but also to foster the enablement of my talents. By not enlisting me for consequential matters, by marginalizing me, and by disempowering me, you ultimately sabotage what I potentially can achieve for both our sakes.
- Keep your commitments.
Broken promises threaten to destroy us. When you make a commitment—financial or otherwise—please follow through. I understand that sometimes things fall through the cracks for reasons not your own. However, please honor our engagement by rolling up your sleeves and intervening whenever possible to help clear obstacles.
- Remember the old saying “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Leaving aside tensions on the money front—which realistically are unavoidable despite our sincere intentions—I enjoin you to define your critical objectives and how success might look. Then, weigh investing resources wisely in relevant areas in which I can assist. For me to “surprise and wow” you as requested, you may need to put money where your mouth is. But I’ll try my utmost to deliver measurable positive impact.
- Get your own house in order.
Although I like to think of myself as a knight on a white horse, I recognize that I only can meet you halfway. In order for me to contribute maximum benefits, you need to address what’s within your jurisdiction. Be an honest examiner of your own issues and change what you can change—just as you’ve admonished me to do. Otherwise, you’re likely to project your own problems onto me and to blame me for things I can’t conceivably influence.
- Treat me with respect.
Ours should be an institution rooted in unity, fidelity, and continuous practice of the Golden Rule. Treat me as someone of inherent worth, as someone who can do great things—rather than as one fish among plenty in the sea, to be discarded on a whim. In so doing, you’ll inspire me to operate at my highest capacity. Both of us will prosper for many years to come.
Thank you, dear significant other, for considering my heartfelt perspectives and counterclaims. May they induce you to approach our relationship with renewed energy, optimism, and reasonable diligence. I hope you answer this letter—and remit what’s outstanding.
I guess it’s a sequel to our story
From the journey ‘tween heaven and hell
With half the time thinking of what might have been
and half thinkin’ just as well.
I guess only time will tell.
– Harry Chapin, from his song Sequel (1982)
This article reflects my current personal views and should not be necessarily attributed to my current or former employers, or their respective clients or customers.