Dontcha just hate “see attached letter”?

There are a lot of annoying things about an email that says “see attached letter”.  I’ll basically just be ranting in this posting.  Feel free to skip it.

I should emphasize first that if somebody is paying my firm to do work, I will cheerfully receive any and all “attached letters” that they wish to send.  The non-US patent firm that has sent me dozens of patent applications to be filed in the US can send any email in whatever way they want to sent it.

What I am talking about is the non-US intellectual property firms, and the service providers (annuity services for example) that are receiving money from my firm.  These are the people I am complaining about when I say I am annoyed by an email that says “see attached letter”.

Why am I annoyed by this?

For me, the person having to read the email, one of the annoying things about “see attached letter” is that I have to do at least one extra mouse click and sometimes several mouse clicks just to get the attachment opened and scrolled upwards or downwards to the desired page.    For the employee of my firm who has to save the email to the client folder on our server, the “see attached letter” means a dozen extra mouse clicks as the email itself has to be saved and the attachment has to be saved.  (Sometimes we will use an EML storage format that saves the attachment without requiring extra mouse clicks.)

As one colleague pointed out quite correctly, if I later wish to do a search for a particular email that contains a particular word, the email that has an “attached letter” is an email that does not help with such a search.  In the worst case, the “attached letter” is a mere scanned image and so does not even contain characters.

A related problem is that later I am unable to search my emails for the person who wrote the letter.  Instead I have to search for the minion who was given the task of emailing the attached letter.

When I receive an email that says “see attached letter” I often feel the need to respond to that email.  For example it may contain questions that I need to answer.  Or it may contain instructions that I need to carry out and then I need to copy and paste into some other document such as an application data sheet.   If this comes up, I usually need to quote from their “attached letter” in my email.  If they had simply stated their news in the body of the email, then I could simply have hit “reply” or “reply to all” and my email client would automatically quote their message within the body of my message.  I can then delete the quoted parts that I don’t need.  But when they do this “see attached letter” business, I am stuck having to at least go into the PDF and scrape the characters and then “paste as quotation” into my response.  Sometimes however I am forced to do OCR on their image-based PDF and then copy and paste that as a quotation into my email.  And of course sometimes the attached PDF gives the appearance of containing characters but when copied and pasted, they turn out to be smiley faces and other random stuff.

As another colleague pointed out quite correctly, a bad person who wants to infect my computer with a virus will nowadays usually try to do it by tricking me into clicking on an email attachment.  Sometimes the dangerous attachment is a PDF.  So the person who requires that I “see attached file” is forcing me to do something that might infect my computer with a virus.

A striking low may be seen with Thomson Compumark’s way of reporting a development in a trademark watch.  TC sends an email that asks you to “see attached file”.  The attached file is a ZIP file, which these days is presumptively a computer virus and should never be clicked on.  Clicking on the ZIP file yields a six-page DOC file of which the first page is a useless title page that would have been the mailing address page if the six pages had been stuffed into a large window envelope.  Instead it is simply a thing that forces me to scroll down within the DOC file to the part that I care about.  Only at page two does anything appear that is actually helpful.

Another colleague points out that lots of people nowadays read emails on their tablets or smart phones.  The use of “see attached letter” is particularly annoying for such people not only because it requires extra steps to try to view the attached letter, but because image of the attached letter is probably too big or is too awkwardly formatted to fit on the screen or, depending on the type of file, cannot be viewed at all on the particular tablet or smart phone.

Now of course occasionally a foreign colleague will attach something that actually deserves to be an attachment.  A PDF for example of a certificate of registration or a PDF of a granted patent.  Maybe an invoice from the accounts-receivable system of the foreign colleague.

But a foreign colleague that I hired to do something for my firm — that attaches something that could have been communicated in the body of an email — that foreign colleague might not get sent any more work.

Comments welcome.

4 Replies to “Dontcha just hate “see attached letter”?”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I have found opposing counsel in litigation cases will sometimes write a letter, scan it, and then have their minion send it to me as an attachment. Now I can’t even sort on my opponent’s name…I have to remember to search on his domain name so I get him and his paralegal.

    I think that attorneys who do this come in two categories. The first are those older attorneys who just can’t get their heads around the idea of an email having the authority of a letter, and think that a letter will show me that they mean business. The second group are those who don’t like the uncontrolled appearance of an email when it’s printed. That’s a smaller group, but I’ve met them.

    In either case, The next time that I have a full-bore trial with one of these guys, I’m going to argue that every letter took extra time, and cost me extra time; it may be reasonable, but it sure isn’t necessary.

  2. Especially nowadays, when lots of people read mails on their cell phones, the attachment is annoying. And some attachments won’t open on a mobile device (at least not on mine). I find it annoying, too, and it’s more than a mouse click before I can save the e-mail, since I need to open said attachment first to find out what it was about, and then save it with a meaningful comment, so that someone might be able to find it again later on, when searching for something. Unfortunately, lots of agents all over the world still think they need to send a “nice” formal letter, but if at least they wrote a few accompanying/meaningful lines in the body of the e-mail, that would be ok.

    Having said that, we do still send formal letters for some issues, too, but at least in the body of the e-mail are a few hints as to what it is about. And if it’s deadline related, it’s definitely mentioned in the body of the e-mail as well.

    As to Warren’s comment: agreed – and most annoying having to search around a firm’s Website to find out who the sender of the letter is. A letter which is only signed with the name of the firm, not a person!

    On the topic of ranting: more annoying is receiving confirmation copies of e-mails. Or worse: paper copies only (in duplicate, sometimes!) – they all need to be scanned in.

  3. Preach it, Carl!

    One additional disadvantage of the “attached letter” is that it makes real attachments hard to find. If you store the emails with attachments embedded, you have to look through dozens of emails showing the attachment icon, where most could easily just have had the text in the email body and no attachment, just to find the one email with a substantive attachment (for example, a powerpoint invention disclosure).

  4. I’m one of those guys…sorry mates. Just never actually thought it through.

    These are excellent points and I will now reform.

    Thanks for sharing!


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