In the past, we have provided some guidance about how to manage supply chain and other business to business disputes.

2020-2021 has been the year of supply chain disruptions and customer disputes. Not all disputes lead to a courtroom – many of them are resolved. However, there are certain practices when it comes to sending internal emails that are worthwhile to consider. Some of these are obvious.

  1. A lot of times when we talk about email practices, we look at it defensively, i.e., if there is a dispute. Some of my partners call email “God’s gift to trial lawyers.” I think the point they are making is that email can be misconstrued because typically “tone” is read in and also because it often is written quickly. So, as an initial rule, I encourage people to apply the 24 hour rule if the email is dispute oriented at all. Sometimes you can’t wait to respond, but if you can, it is always better to send a placeholder email.
  2. Avoid sarcasm or jokes because again, it often is not delivered the right way.
  3. Mind your cc’s. Ccs are often used as a weapon and when dealing with a customer/supplier/vendor, it can look like you are taking someone to the “principal’s office.” Also, there may be a strategic reason to keep executive management out of it until the right time.
  4. For smaller companies, you should encourage people to relay significant concerns in person or over the phone. On the quality side, I know a lot of folks want to email the world, but oftentimes I have seen engineers, etc. speculate about issues and then change their minds. But, that initial email is there forever. So, make sure folks adequately investigate something before putting it in writing.
  5. When we train quality/sales, etc. we always tell people that emailing people is fine. Often, when you give people rules, they say they will never email anyone again. It is more about helping them identify the risks themselves as opposed to telling them what to do.
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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or…

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.