Well that depends on what the question was!

If it’s “would you like another drink” then you might say that silence was the wrong response, because you might go thirsty.  On the other hand, you may have perfected the “are you mentally ill” look that my children are so good at, so that you don’t actually need to say anything in response.  Actions really can speak louder than words.

In business, particularly when you’re not face to face with people, giving your opponent the silent treatment might be seen as unprofessional or even childish.  Nevertheless, I think it’s an underestimated weapon in our armoury.  If in doubt, do nought, can still be a good mantra.

It is common for opponents to make demands of myself or my clients, but unless there is a court order in place, you don’t have to do what they want, and even if you are going to do it, you don’t have to do it by their timeframe.

What you do need to do, is weigh up the pros and cons and then make a commercial decision.

If I do what they want, where does that leave my client?  It may well leave them no worse off than they are now, but if the demand is to make a payment that we don’t think is due and owing, then clearly we’re not going to comply.

So we could go back and tell them that we are not going to comply, and why not.  However, if we’ve already said that several times before, all we’re doing is running up more fees for our client, with little prosect of achieving anything.  If they didn’t listen to me last time, why are they going to listen to me this time, or next time!

Which leaves us with sitting on our hands.  If we’re not going to pay up, and we’ve nothing new to say, and any attempts at negotiating a settlement have failed, then all we are left with is calling their bluff and wait to see what, if anything, they do next.

When I’m on the side making the demand, and I receive no response, I do sometimes have clients accusing the other side’s solicitor of being unprofessionally.  They should at least acknowledge the communication.  Actually that’s not the case.  I must do what my client instructs me to do, provided it’s not in breach of the rules.  There is nothing in the rules that says I have to acknowledge a letter, even if the letter demands such an acknowledgement.    So I can do nothing.

I also have clients telling me that if I don’t get a response to a letter that gives a deadline, I should chase again, and give another deadline.  I will always do what I’m instructed, but I always advise against repeated deadlines.  In the same way as you shouldn’t ask a question unless you can deal with the answer, you shouldn’t make a threat unless you plan to go through with it, or plan to drop the case.  If you write to me and say if your client doesn’t pay in 7 days I’m issuing proceedings, and then the time passes and no payment is made, why I am I going to take a second letter from you any more seriously than I took the first letter!

Finally, just because someone sets a deadline, doesn’t mean you have to comply with it.  Don’t miss it for the sake of it, but don’t rush to meet it if it doesn’t suit you.  You can always sending a holding response, saying that you will reply but it might take longer.  They may tell you that they will still go ahead and issue proceedings, but the reality is that if they give you until 5pm on Friday to respond, and you don’t, it is highly unlikely that they will have issued proceedings by 10am on Monday morning.  It’s much more likely that it will take them a couple of days to draft the paperwork, get the fee from their client and submit everything to the court.  So in most cases, a 5pm Friday deadline, probably means around lunchtime the following Wednesday at the earliest!  Unless of course I’m the issuing solicitor in which case I’ll have it done for you by Saturday lunchtime assuming there is no football on!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  Where silence can sometimes be golden.