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How to Write a Funny Demand Letter

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

It's not every day that a lawyer writes a funny demand letter.

The very thought of it sounds like a bad joke -- as if lawyers had a sense of humor. But one Netflix attorney broke the mold recently, showing that even attorneys can be funny and effective in their jobs.

Bryce Coughlin, Netflix's senior counsel for content and brand IP, tested his comedic chops on a bar that was broadcasting a Netflix show without permission. It's not going to get him an Emmy, but it got the job done.

Stranger Things

Netflix streams a dramatic horror series called "Stranger Things," starring Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder, and others. Nominated for two Golden Globes, the popular program revolves around an adolescent boy lost in a horrifying alternate reality.

The stranger thing is, full-grown Chicagoans apparently like to watch it while they get buzzed. The Upside Down, a new bar in town, had been showing the series in a pop-advertisement and planned to continue the run into the show's second season.

Cease-and-desist, Netflix said in not so many words. The attorney actually wrote:

"Look, I don't want you to think I'm a total wastoid, and I love how much you guys love the show. (Just wait until you see Season 2!) But unless I'm living in the Upside Down, I don't think we did a deal with you for this pop-up."

Joking Aside

Coughlin closed the show this way:

"We're not going to go full Dr. Brenner on you, but we ask that you please (1) not extend the pop-up beyond its 6 week run ending in September, and (2) reach out to us for permission if you plan to do something like this again."

According to reports, the funny-guy approach worked. It's also a primer on corporate branding, according to the Atlantic. Brand-building can happen anywhere:

"That's the way companies should be thinking about literally everything they do, and legal is no different than customer service," said Kevin Lane Keller, a professor of marketing at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.

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