We’ve been working on some cases recently that serve as valuable reminder for this old warning.
In litigation, it means don’t spend more on your attorneys than your case is worth.
We see this a lot. It’s natural for people or companies who are on the verge of a big fight to be angry. The problem is, all that emotion tends to ignite needlessly self-destructive over-reactions to the problem at hand. People make emotional decisions and write huge checks to wage a war, all based on that anger. And quite frankly, much of the legal system doesn’t do enough to stop them.
The upshot is that after the quick satisfaction of hiring the biggest firm in town and being promised a nuclear attack, all that remains are huge legal bills, years of litigation, and an ever-shrinking pie to fight over. All this is made worse when the lawyers involved fail to encourage a more sane and proportionate legal strategy.
You don’t want to become a modern-day version of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, where everything that is in dispute is swallowed up by legal fees.
So how do you avoid this? A few things can help:
First, find a firm that has the experience to handle your case well but which also has a rate structure that makes it more affordable to go the distance and actually try the case if necessary.
Second, don’t be fooled by the idea that a super expensive firm will just magically make your problems disappear. We have plenty of experience going against large or aggressive firms that have charged multiple six figures in legal fees to their clients without moving the case forward.
Third, don’t let your anger dictate all your early decisions when it comes to hiring an attorney and developing a litigation strategy. Yes, you need a “pitbull” in the courtroom. But you also need a smart, sober, and proportionate legal advisor in private. Find a firm that is both.
And last but not least, look for a firm that is really focused on what you are trying to achieve, after all the dust settles, and which takes the time to develop a realistic and affordable strategy for getting you there.
Litigation is almost always expensive and unpredictable. But taking these simple steps can help make sure it doesn’t become even more expensive and unpredictable than it needs to be.