The Netflix Cease and Desist Letter Most of you will Never Write

By now there’s a good chance you’ve seen the pretty awesome Netflix cease and desist letter asking a popup store to refrain from breaching its IP.

It’s cool, right?

And around the world, people are saying how great it is and wondering why more lawyers don’t approach these things in a similar way.

Here’s why.

In case you missed it

The Cease and Desist was Written by Netflix Counsel

You obviously noticed this, right? The letter is written by in-house counsel, not an external lawyer.

Which means that they are aware of how Netflix works, what its culture is like and what its tolerance for humour is.

Although it might be desirable to have a client relationship like that, most external lawyers have nowhere near the relationship with their client that would tempt them to write such a letter.

And even if they did have that kind of relationship – they still probably wouldn’t do it for the reasons we deal with below.

Most Clients Wouldn’t Think The Netflix Letter is Funny

If you write a letter like the Netflix one, you'll probably get firedClick To Tweet

I’m all for authentic legal writing, and I think the Netflix cease and desist letter is brilliant.

But many clients wouldn’t want their legal issues viewed through a lens of humour – because to them, it’s not that funny.

In fact, for many clients if they’ve had to go to a lawyer then something extremely bad is happening.  They’re stressed, worried and generally a bit tense about the whole experience.

While some tact and client care can certainly help those issues a lot, making light of your client’s problems probably won’t – and that’s exactly what this letter is going to read like in the eyes of some clients.

Remember – your correspondence isn’t just for its recipient, it’s for your client as well (and, as it turns out in this case, the world at large).

Nobody wants to be the lawyer whose client thought they weren’t taking a legal issue seriously enough. The client will fire you and look for someone who actually cares about their issues.

It’s Circumstantial – Netflix Would go Mental in Stranger Circumstances

With an annual turnover just shy of $9billion, Netflix isn’t likely to be toppled by a scrappy pop-up store breaching its IP.

Do you think that Netflix counsel would have written the same letter if, say, Apple had just copied the entirety of its library, systems, interface and client database?

Probably not.

Netflix can afford to be a bit more relaxed about this particular problem – and that says good things about them.

But don’t kid yourself that Netflix takes every legal issue as casually as it has taken this one.

Remember how people used to be able to unlawfully view Netflix content outside their location using VPNs and pretending they were in another country?  Notice how they can’t do that now?  That’s because Netflix crushed it (eventually).

Tell me this: how kindly do you think Netflix counsel will be if the pop-up ignores their cease and desist letter?

Your Firm Won’t Let you Write like Netflix

Other than the chance that you send someone an email while drunk, you're not going to do itClick To Tweet

In a world where most law firms don’t even let their staff produce marketing articles in the first person, what are the chances you’re going to get a letter like the Netflix cease and desist out the door?

You won’t.

Perhaps if you run your own firm, you might decide to take a more casual approach to such correspondence, and you might be able to convince your clients that it’s a good idea for their business.

Other than that, and the chance that you send someone an email while you’re drunk, you’re not going to do it.

I know… I sound like a Wastoid Right?

Yeah yeah – Chris is being all practical, serious and gloomy again (actually I don’t know what a wastoid is, because I haven’t watched Stranger Things, but hopefully it’s not rude and I’m using it right from the context…)

Netflix did a fantastic effort with this cease and desist, and it’s getting them all sorts of good publicity.

But you’re going to find that it’s not going to cut the mustard in the real world.

The combination of dumb firm policies, clients who are ultra-stressed, and matters that are more contextually weighty than this one are going to mean that any references to Dr Brenner probably won’t make their way into the final letter.

So what do you think – SHOULD lawyers be writing like this more often, or is this a unique set of circumstances that ought not repeat itself very much?

Happy Lawyering from the Upside Down!*

*I don’t know what that means either…

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