Litigation Process and Basics of Lawsuits
First of all, we do NO contingency work. That means that whatever you win, you keep, but you must pay us by the hour, in up-front retainers, while we litigate. The litigation process is expensive, so you should avoid litigation if at all possible. Almost anything is better than winding up in court. Consider all manner of private settlement before resorting to litigation. If you want so sue for the "principle of the thing", be forewarned. We have never had a client who was happy about doing that after $75,000 in billings to us. They usually realize that a new Porsche would have been a better expenditure.
How Much Will It Cost? Nobody Knows.
The costs are not predictable. There is no norm or standard, and even if your case is identical to some others, that doesn't mean the judge will be, or the opposition will do precisely what occurred in some other case. The costs of your case depend on factors completely out of our control, like whether the judge grants extra discovery, orders mediation suddenly, rules incorrectly on something which requires an interlocutory appeal, on and on and on. It is not predictable, so don't ask. It is like asking how many calories it will take Mike Tyson to beat Evander Holyfield. It could be 100 calories (Holyfield doesn't show up) or 14,000,000 calories (3 separate fights and months of training in between were necessary). We hope you understand, litigation is not a controllable process because the adversary and the judge exercise a great deal of influence on the sequence and cost of events. One client demanded that we should know the cost of litigation, if indeed we were professionals, since even car mechanics know the cost of specific repairs. We had to reply, yes, but the car doesn't fight back. We hope you understand what we mean.
How many cases have you won, tied and lost?
We always laugh when someone asks this, but we patiently explain that winning is a very imprecise term in litigation. If our client is sued for a million dollars and we end up settling with the other side for ten thousand, we feel like we won big, even though technically it could be viewed as a loss. On the other hand, we have won millions for clients who then complained that they should have gotten more. They felt that they lost, although technically they won. In still other cases, a client doesn't mind losing so long as he is able to make his point, and has ordered us to litigate even though a loss is probable. As you can see, its hard to say whether we have won or lost. All we can say is whether we put a client in a better position than they were in when they came to us. And even then, there are the losses which our clients forced upon us, by refusing to testify, failing to return our phone calls, refusing to pay for necessary experts, refusing to provide discovery documents, or concealing critical information from us. So although it is tempting to ask a lawyer about his won-tied-and lost record, remember, this is not football. It is commercial litigation, and winning or losing can have a very personal or blurred definition.