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Cost vs. Benefit vs. Emotion

Whether you are a plaintiff or defendant, it is tough to keep your emotions out of litigation. I was once involved in a case where I represented a commercial landlord in a litigation matter to collect past rent. When I took over the case, I determined the landlord was owed $4,500. I advised my client to avoid the lengthy court battle and settle with his former tenant. Despite my best efforts, he refused. He did not like the defendant and wanted to make life difficult for him. Conversely, the defendant didn’t like my client, and his attorney couldn’t convince him to make a reasonable settlement amount either. I eventually “won” the case and obtained a judgment for my client. But in the end, my client spent considerably more money than he recovered because he let emotion cloud his judgment.


When approached about a litigation matter, the first thing I do is weigh the cost versus the benefit. Every case is significant, but lengthy litigation expends time and energy, and often, considerable cost. When a client is emotionally invested, the bill could outweigh any judgment I eventually obtain. My goal is to break down the case to the client in basic numbers. This includes a litigation strategy, as well as a settlement strategy, and the associated costs. I work with the client to find their comfort threshold for settlement and explain that it can feel like you are admitting defeat, but sometimes you need to concede to save yourself time and money. By taking emotion out of the litigation equation, the client can get a better result.

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