No one wants to spend money on hiring lawyers. When your business is involved in a lawsuit, however, you have no choice but to hire a lawyer. To maintain your sanity and decrease your legal expenses, follow these 11 tips.
1. Have a plan and stick with it
The quickest way to resolve any dispute begins with having clear goals, objectives, and a plan. For the same reason pilots file flight plans and architects draw blueprints, you need to know what you want to accomplish and how you intend to get there. If you keep changing your plan, your case is going to be more expensive, stressful, and time-consuming.
2. Be realistic
People often have unrealistic expectations about the value of their case. Consequently, they think their lawyer should be able to crush the other side. The truth is, unless the other party has done something extraordinarily bad, you're not going to obtain punitive results.
As early as possible, you need to determine how you have been damaged, and what is a reasonable compensation for the damages. Once you know this, you can make an educated decision about whether you can settle your case without the need for an expensive trial.
3. Pick the right attorney
Don’t pick an attorney who is not consistent with your goals. If you want to play games with the other side, make them miserable, and cost everyone a lot of money, there are attorneys for that. But, you're better off spending all that money on your vacation or early retirement, rather than paying for your lawyer's vacation or early retirement. For a timely, cost-effective resolution, find a lawyer who is a smart, creative problem-solver.
Also, look for an attorney that fits you. Do you have a lot of questions? Do you want to fully understand the process? Hire an attorney that will make time to provide you information. Is your business involved in a lawsuit? Make sure that you hire an attorney that understands the impact of the litigation on your business activities, and not just the finite legal issues in your case.
4. Don’t hire a bully
Some people mistakenly believe that hiring an intimidating, hard-charging attorney will help them win. Trust me — bullies only win against bad attorneys. Don’t hire a bully; it’s a waste of time and it will cost you a lot of money. Plus, bullies usually have terrible reputations with judges.
5. Understand your attorney’s role
There are many ways to resolve a dispute, if people are willing to come up with creative solutions. Good lawyers develop win-win solutions for both sides. Your attorney should help you solve the problem, not just litigate it. Ultimately, you get to make the decision on how you will agree to resolve your case. Make the decision that is best for you--not your lawyer.
6. Accept responsibility
In any business lawsuit, there are always things you can learn to do differently in the future. Maybe you didn’t read the contract or didn’t even have one. Learn what you can, so you don’t repeat the same mistake in the future. It's bad enough to have one lawsuit. Don't make it worse by having another.
7. Don’t hold back information
Often, clients don't disclose everything their attorney needs to know. Why? Sometimes clients are embarrassed about what they did, or they don’t volunteer the information because they don’t think it’s important, or they simply forget.
In any event, when the facts come out, the whole landscape of the case can change for the worse. Your attorney can't help you without knowing all the facts. Plus, chasing down changing facts costs you more legal fees.
8. Keep good records
If important documents are missing, your case is going to be a lot more expensive. For instance, if you have an email from a client that says, “I'll buy 500 widgets from you tomorrow for $20 each,” that's pretty good evidence in a dispute about the purchase price. Without that email, how much do you think you’ll have to pay an attorney to try and get the other party to admit the agreed price --- if ever?
Maintain all documents and records carefully.
9. Don’t get frustrated
Most people don't understand how much latitude both sides have during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. As a result, they get frustrated and annoyed:
Why do they get to ask me for all these documents?
Why do they get this financial information?
Why do they get to depose me?
There are always exceptions, but your attorney can’t keep much of this from happening. Listen to your lawyer about what is discoverable. If you withhold discoverable information, the court may penalize you. In fact, a court can enter judgment against you if withhold documents that you are ordered to provide.
10. Be careful with words
Whether spoken or written, litigation is all about words. Pay attention to the words you use. We’re all familiar with lawyers dissecting words to wreak confusion. There is a huge legal distinction between even the words: "a", "an" or "any." Words are important, so be careful what you say and write.
11. Get legal help early
People usually don’t get an attorney involved early enough, because they don't want to spend the money. Big mistake. The sooner an attorney knows the facts and can evaluate them, the sooner she can consider the options, develop a strategy, and get your problem resolved.
There's no doubt that litigation is stressful, costly, and time-consuming. Taking these steps, however, will make it a bit more tolerable.