During 32 years of practice it has become obvious to me that an attorney is most successful when his clients are successful. Conducting business smoothly and efficiently is the path to profit. So helping a client avoid litigation should be a high priority for every business attorney. I have worked with my clients to prepare business agreements and forms they can use to minimize misunderstandings and conflict.
However, disputes inevitably arise when business is conducted. Often a dispute can be ended quickly with forceful advocacy during meetings and by letters and phone calls. I generally advise my clients to set aside their emotions and to instead focus on their business goals during this phase in particular.
Despite the best efforts of attorney and client, there are times when litigation cannot be avoided. My longtime clients know that if we reach this situation I am capable and willing to be aggressive on their behalf. Litigation shouldn’t be sugar-coated. It is fighting – albeit a fight conducted while complying with an extensive set of rules. In that environment there is no place for timidity or hesitation. I am aware that a client in these circumstances is putting his or her business or personal financial well-being in my hands.
Litigation tactics must be proportional to what is at stake. When a company or an individual’s financial life is at stake, a powerful and overwhelming battle strategy is warranted. Conversely, it is very ill-advised to spend $25,000 to fight over $50,000. When clients are very upset, it may be hard for them to keep track of the big picture. That is why I insist on clients meeting with me to review the situation both before and, periodically, during the litigation to evaluate the best and worst case scenarios with an estimate of the range of costs that could be incurred. The course and expense of litigation is notoriously difficult to predict, given the numerous variables involved. Nevertheless, having even a rough litigation budget is helpful to clients who need to make rational and informed decisions about the intensity of the litigation, whether to settle, etc.
If you are involved in a serious dispute – or you think you are about to be – I would be happy to review the circumstances with you.
For a process which is an alternative to court litigation: see my comments about Alternative Dispute Resolution.