To Litigate…or To Compromise: That Is the Question
Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer.
–Robert Louis Stevenson
Whether you’re running a business or just helping to manage your homeowner’s association, problems will occur. Negotiations fall apart, disputes arise, and sometimes legal action is required.
When the time comes to get legal help, failing to thoroughly research the lawyer you hire can lead to serious problems down the road.
Due diligence in finding the right legal help means looking past a law firm’s marketing content and its advertising copy. Just because you find a spectacular website with impressive testimonials and a nice portrait, that’s no indication of any attorney’s ability to help you achieve your objectives.
Keep in mind that legal service websites, mailings, and seminars are nothing more than marketing tools. They’re designed to build your confidence in their particular services to the point of “sale”. While you may have already been “sold” and have actually hired an attorney, that’s not the time to abandon common sense or to ignore your business, fiduciary, or management obligations.
Recklessly deciding to litigate and generating excessive legal costs may violate those responsibilities.
Lawyers generate fees through billable hours. The more hours spent on your issues, the higher the fees will be. Once you’ve hired an attorney, you may be told your legal problems are more complex than you first thought. You may be told that litigation is the only way to resolve your problems, and that you have a “slam-dunk” case.
The truth, however, is there are no “slam dunk” cases.
This is the time to stop and think. What is your real objective? Winning a lawsuit that may or may not cover the legal costs involved in the fight? Or resolving a dispute with as little stress and aggravation and financial loss as possible?
While your attorney may indeed be giving you sound legal advice (“The law is on your side!”), remember that in the beginning you are in complete control. Also keep in mind that the consequences of pressing forward toward litigation and the costs involved will be yours.
The simple fact is most problems and disputes can be resolved without entering a courtroom. At the very outset, your lawyer should encourage the most efficient and cost-effective solutions for you. Once lawsuits are filed and you’re on the slippery slope toward a courtroom, that control you initially had will begin to shift toward the attorneys on both sides of a case. What you first thought was a reasonable objective may now be out of reach simply because of the escalating fees you’re now facing as well as the mounting resistance of the other side.
That is often the moment when you might find yourself wondering “What was I thinking?”
But that doesn’t mean you need to give up thoughts of a settlement. Cutting losses can actually be a “win”.
You hired a good lawyer (after rigorous due diligence) for a good reason. That doesn’t mean you can just wash your hands of the issues and trust your lawyer to handle everything in your best interests. You are in it now, from start to finish!
Don’t get caught up in notions of “pride” or in an iron-clad determination to be vindicated in a court of law. Many who prevail in court go broke doing so.
You need to stay involved and keep your original objectives in mind.
At Real Estate Matters, we look for positive win-win solutions, not conflict.
That’s why our business card reads… “We go where lawyers should not go…and where accountants do not want to go.”