Vail Valley: Why are lawsuits so expensive?
Ignore the legal hucksters on TV encouraging you to sue. From the Vail Valley to Timbuktu, lawsuits are expensive and should not be entered into lightly. An aphorism I invented goes like this a lawsuit will nearly always cost you more in time, energy and money than you expect and twice as much as you wish.It is worth noting the distinction between asserting your rights and pursuing litigation. Your rights should always be asserted and, if not satisfactorily resolved, an attorney should be consulted. But litigation should be the last step, not the first. Not only does a lawsuit put the other party on his heels and often entrench and polarize positions, but it is noteworthy that more than 95 percent of filed lawsuits end up being resolved short of trial. Of course, people being people, it isnt always possible to nip the legal donnybrook in the bud.Why its expensiveSix things makes litigation expensive: complexity, thoroughness, unreasonableness, inefficiency, lack of organization and emotion.Sometimes, something simply has so many moving parts that mastering the subject just takes time. If there are thousands of documents involved, they must be read, digested, understood and fitted into the intellectual matrix of the case. If there are complex legal issues, they must be researched. If there are complex factual issues, they also must be researched. Experts, who seldom come cheap, must sometimes be consulted.Thoroughness means doing things the right way. An attorney who is doing things halfway is doing his client no favors. It is a false economy for an attorney to do only enough to push things along rather than giving the matters involved the sharp attention they deserve. A sloppy attorney is not a good attorney. A thorough attorney must carefully check his facts, critically formulate his arguments and present them intelligibly and forcefully and with impeccable substantiation. Thoroughness cannot be scrimped in the interest of thrift.Thoroughness does not, however, mean that things must be done inefficiently. Too many attorneys let things lapse, are inattentive, do the wrong thing at the wrong time or must be constantly prodded by opposing counsel to simply get things done. All of this, of course, costs money and usually both sides of the dispute end up the victims. If an attorney, say, enters the wrong date in an order submitted to the court, not only must it be re-done but, often, the error must be pointed out by opposing counsel, costing both parties for their attorneys time.Lack of organization can be an expensive bugaboo. An organized client is a client mindful of his wallet. If, for example, the documents provided to an attorney are in a jumble, the attorney rather than the client must spend his time and the clients money to sort things out. The attorney, too, must be well-organized. Organization and efficiency, if not quite twins, are at least kissing cousins. If your attorneys desk is so deep in paper and so disheveled that he can never quite put his hands on what hes looking for, you might think about a new attorney. Time is money and time spent in an Easter egg hunt looking for your documents hits you in the wallet.Being reasonableIn order for a reasonable settlement to be crafted, people must be, well, reasonable. If any of the parties or their counsel is unrealistic, a reasonable resolution to the dispute will be hard to craft. A good attorney should counsel his client as to both the strengths and weaknesses of the clients case and guide the client toward the practical. If any of the parties or their counsel has his head in the clouds, the costs of litigation will reach there too.Emotion. Ill let that one word sentence stand there on the page a sec for emphasis. Emotion, and its cousin, principle, must be weeded out of the equation as early in the dispute as possible unless you want to pay exorbitantly to assuage hurt feelings, punish or to simply prove youre right. Litigation should be coolly calculated as a business decision. There are personal aspects of any dispute, but the goal should be to resolve the dispute in a satisfactory way in the most cost-effective manner possible.With all that said, law is more art than science and, as there are usually a multitude of angles from which to approach a particular dispute, costs are often difficult to estimate and contain. Still, if one marshals maximum efficiency, thoroughness and organization, to the greatest extent possible eschews emotion, and prays that all involved are reasonable, the financial carnage may hopefully be kept to its essential minimum.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. His practice areas include: business & commercial transactions, real estate & development, homeowners associations, family law and divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of Community Focus. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address: email@example.com