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To Sue or not to Sue? A 3-Step Approach to Answering the Ultimate Question

For me, one of the setbacks of practicing law, namely civil litigation, is that I am no longer able to watch legal-based television shows or movies without pointing out the multitude of inaccuracies and ultimately ruining the viewing experience for everyone I am with.  TV and the Internet are such vital components to our society, but unfortunately, they do our society a disservice by misrepresenting litigation as being glamorous, humorous, and a solution to any dispute.  Moreover, the Internet is riddled with questionable online blogs and websites containing do-it-yourself legal information, which ultimately leads people to believe that they can do just as good, if not a better job, advocating their case than a licensed attorney.  Albeit, I have seen some incredible non-lay advocates put on their case in a justice or county court, but ultimately, the risk in going forward with your case pro se (without a licensed attorney) is far too great.

Two sad realities I have come to learn as a young litigator are: (1) trials can go on for months, even years; and (2) the cost of trying a case can, and usually does, end up being more than what you initially sought to recover.  A good lawyer will not ignore these realities and should counsel you on all settlement options available prior to resorting to filing a lawsuit.  Before you or anyone you know considers filing a lawsuit, please do not throw caution to the wind and consider the following three-step analysis I’ve learned to live by as a result of trial and error (no pun intended):

Step 1: Who am I suing and what is my potential recovery?

Factors to Consider: Big companies hire big law firms who will spend as much time and money as necessary to advocate for their client; Try to take emotion out of the equation as much as possible, focus on the fiscal aspect; and consider settlement offers and other remedies available, such as mediation.

Step 2: How do I find an attorney to represent me and what should I be looking for in my potential lawyer?

Factors to Consider: You hopefully are not filing lawsuits every day, so take your time and consult with several law firms; Make sure the firm has sufficient manpower to handle your type of case; Know how much you are looking to spend assuming you have to take your case all the way through the appeal process, it is far easier to get into a lawsuit than get out of one.

Step 3: Am I emotionally and financially ready for a lawsuit?

Factors to Consider: Be educated about the realities that are ahead, both time and money-wise; Once you have filed your lawsuit, you are at the mercy of the court, so be ready to exercise patience.

Obviously, this 3-step analysis would make for awful television, but the truth of the matter is that litigation is not as glamorous as it looks on television or the Internet.  Do not get me wrong, I absolutely love litigation and believe in the importance and value of the judicial system, but it is only fun and effective when all parties involved know what they are getting into.

 

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