I didn't mean to be controversial when I said that one of the most fun and satisfying parts of being a laywer is writing mean letters, and getting paid to do so. Maybe the issue was with the language: how "nasty" is a "nasty" letter? I guess that depends.
I'm pretty nice as a human being, but I can write a letter that's ice cold, self-righteous, and accusatory. And I enjoy doing it. I can't be the only one. I know a lot of lawyers enjoy this part of their job, because lawyers will show one another letters they are particularly proud of. The difference is in the tone and the style, I guess. Some letters are truly nasty, unprofessional, and mean, and make the author of the letter come off like a real jerk. I try not to write those. I try to write chilly letters that inflict a certain sense of dread and call the recipient to action, without coming across as hostile.
Most of the important letters a lawyer has to write need to convey urgency and recommend a particular course of action. When the recipient is someone who is making trouble for your client, there are a range of ways that you can convey urgency and recommend the solution that's best for your client. A good letter is a shot across the bow; it sets out your position and makes clear what has been unacceptable about your adversary's position or behavior. It also is an introduction or a calling card. "I am tough, and I am smart, and I mean business," the good nasty letter says. "I'm civil, and gracious, and professional, but I won't take any nonsense from you, and I'm already aware of what a deficient position you are in, and I am extremely unimpressed with what you have done so far, so you'd better comply with my recommended course of action, because things are surely going to get worse for you if you don't change your ways." When someone has really blundered, or has ignored you repeatedly, you get to turn up the heat on the letter, in tone and language. You set out all of the ways why the recipient is wrong, why his or her behavior is puzzling and unforgiveable and extremely unwise. You set out why your client is right, how your client has again and again bent over backwards to do the right thing, in the face of this absurd behavior by the recipient of the letter, and how finally, you must reluctantly take action. You, the letter shows, have done your homework, and you always will. You and your client never make mistakes. You and your client are not to be toyed with. The recipient of the letter should make things right as quickly as possible. You will try to be helpful, if you can, but that really depends on them, doesn't it?
Am I really the only person who thinks these are fun to compose? Is it really unprofessional to write such letters? Nonsense. I think it's entirely possible for such letters to be civil and professional, even though they are ice cold and, if effective, put a sinking feeling of dread in the recipient's stomach. That's what I meant by bullying: a letter that intends, and succeeds, in making the recipient feel that they've blundered, that their blunder was/is unacceptable, that their inadequacies have been exposed, and that they'll be in trouble if they don't make things right. If that isn't bullying -- intentionally creating a feeling of dread in somebody else -- I don't know what is. It is the stock and trade of lawyers, everywhere. I try to do it with finesse, the iron fist in the velvet glove and all that. And there are surely lawyers who do it clumsily, or relish the dread they create in a way that's ugly and inhumane, or bring a personalized kind of anger to the situation that doesn't belong. I'm not saying that's okay. But what lawyer, at some point in his or her career, doesn't need to write out a letter that pointedly illustrates exactly how wrong someone else's course of action is, and that intends to persuade that third party to change their actions or face unpleasant consequences?
There's a place for these in every lawyer's toolbox. You need to get the tone right, and you need to deploy them appropriately -- not every, or perhaps even very many, potentially adversarial situation calls for such a letter. But when the time is right, it can be one of the most fun letters to write. Maybe because my natural voice tends to be pretty warm and personable, and because I am always looking to make friends and build bridges, I like writing as the ice queen, all understated moral outrage, superiority, and thinly veiled contempt.