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The Myth of Litigation

The word lawsuit is not a dirty word.  It is rife with myths.  We need to get used to it.  It is a fundamental part of life and it is far better that you understand it so that you can control it, rather than be afraid of it.

The first myth that people have with respect to lawsuits is that they are going to cost so much money that you will have to sell the family home and rent out the family dog.  While this sometimes can be true, it does not need to be.  There are different ways to conduct lawsuits.  The traditional way is to pay the exorbitant hourly fees that lawyers charge.  That method is going the way of the Bricklin automobile.  A far better way to approach litigation is what is called “value based billing” or as an alternative, contingency fees.  With value based billing, you enter an agreement up front with the lawyer whereby you agree to pay him on the basis of success.  In effect, it is not simply a concomitant of time but rather, a reflection of the value and expertise that he contributes in bringing your dispute to a successful resolution.  Contingency fees are a very practical way to allow you access to justice.  In effect, you agree to pay on average 30% of whatever is achieved through the lawsuit to your lawyer, out of which you normally recoup approximately half from the other side.  You will normally be responsible for disbursements and ongoing expenses.  However, even that can be negotiated with your lawyer.  Remember, if you have a good lawsuit then there will be a lawyer who is prepared to take it on for you.  The myth of excessive costs is simply that – a myth.

Another myth that people tend to believe is that lawsuits are going to take so long to resolve that they will be in the grave before it is over.  Certainly, that can happen.  However, there is no reason for that to happen today.  The Civil Justice system has built into it various mechanisms which are designed to make lawsuits move forward in a timely manner.  Mediations, Pretrials, Settlement Conferences – all of these steps are aimed to assist the parties to try to resolve their disputes in a timely and cost effective way.  If your lawsuit is still on-going years after it started, then you need to ask fundamental questions about your lawyer and what exactly is taking so long.  Remember, it is your lawsuit, take control of it and ask pointed questions.  The time frame from start to finish for an average lawsuit should be in the range of 18 to 24 months.  That doesn’t mean you can’t resolve your dispute at an early stage.  You can, but only if you focus realistically on the merits and risks of your lawsuit.

For the average person, the word lawsuit is not a happy word.  They are afraid of it.  They have been told various myths as noted above and it is simply not part of their day to day experience.  However, you need to look at a lawsuit as a focused form of negotiation.  It is easy to throw away demand letters.  It is not easy to throw away a lawsuit and thus any negotiation to resolve a dispute becomes much more focused.  A lawsuit is a way for people to try to build bridges in order to resolve their dispute.  When it works and those bridges are built, there is no reason a dispute cannot be resolved in a timely and cost-effective manner.  However, in order to properly negotiate any resolution of a dispute, you need to have all your horses in order in case that bridge collapses if the attempts to resolve the dispute are not working.  There is a reason that trials take place.  There are credibility issues, there are legal issues and various other things that require the Courts to respond and make decisions on lawsuits.  However, it is not a science, it is an art form.

In order to successfully resolve any dispute through a lawsuit whether that be through negotiation or through a trial, you need to have the right lawyer that fits your personality and can obtain a just result in a cost-effective and timely manner.  Remember, it is your lawsuit, take control of it and don’t be scared off by myths.