THREE THINGS I’VE LEARNED in 25 YEARS OF PRACTICE
1. The bar exam is too easy(1). Bad lawyering is probably the number one reason why litigation takes so long and costs so much. Bad lawyers don’t recognize weak cases; instead, they waste everyone’s time and money without changing the outcome.
2. The 11th Commandment of the Commercial Lawyer is “Thou shalt settle every case, because it’s only money(2).” Years ago, I knew a Municipal Court tip staff who would always open court with a speech: “[n]ow is your chance to go into the hall and resolve your case among yourselves. You can do a better job than the court can. And if you can’t work it out and yourcase is tried, you may not be happy with the outcome – even if you win.” These were the words of a very smart man. Good lawyers can make this easy. Bad lawyers can make this impossible.
3. Pick your spots. Not every dispute is worth a lawsuit, no matter how right you think you are. Often, once you are in, you can’t get out without your opponent’s consent – which may not be readily forthcoming. Then, the floodgates are wide open. It costs a bare minimum of $20,000.00 to take a case to trial, and often much, much more. Don’t start a suit that you don’t intend to pursue to completion; in other words, bringing suit primarily to “put pressure” on your opponent usually doesn’t work.
(1) Credit my wife with this observation; she’s not a lawyer, but she’s absolutely right.
(2) Credit for this one goes to a colleague, who is both older than I am, and wiser, too.