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How long the settlement negotiation should be?

Los Angeles, CA |

I hired an attorney to settle my case. It is a small civil case. One week passed. My attorney told me the plaintiff’s attorney was very busy and did not return his call.

From my perspective, nothing happened. The deadline to enter default judgment against me is quickly approaching. The plaintiff’s attorney told my attorney he would not enter default judgment against me until the settlement negotiation is over. However, I am afraid I am losing my leverage to threaten a costly lawsuit for both sides if there is no agreement.

My question is: Is this normal? How long should the settlement usually take? Do I lose leverage in a situation like this? And most importantly, what should I do?

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Attorney answers 3


If your attorney has not done so already, be sure that your attorney files a written response for you with the court OR confirms an extension to respond. Extensions are often granted by the plaintiff's lawyer to the defendant or defense counsel, so that you don't need to sweat the pressing deadline, while engaging in good faith settlement discussions.

You are correct: you would lose leverage if a default judgment is taken, unless one of the steps above are taken by your lawyer. Your lawyer's experience is not unusual. Some cases take weeks or even months to settle. Simply because you make an offer to settle does not mean that it will be accepted. Offers and counter offers can go back and forth until both sides agree. It can take further negotiation to get a settlement agreement ready for signatures of the parties.

Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)

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It is not normal. Your attorney is doing you a disservice. Make sure you get in writing the opposing counsel's promise not to have a default entered against you. If there is any delay, you should file an answer or a demurrer to buy time so that you can hire competent counsel to represent your interests.


The first thing that should have happened is there was an agreement by counsel to any extension of time to allow settlement negotiations. If it has been a week, that is not unreasonable. If it has been a few weeks, that still may not be unreasonable but when you get into months for a "small civil case", that starts to be unreasonable. If you have confirmed the extension of time to respond, stay in touch with your attorney to keep this on the front burner.

If you liked this answer, click on the thumbs up! Thanks. Eliz. C. A. Johnson Post Office Box 8 Danville, California 94526-0008 Legal disclaimer: I do not practice law in any state but California. As such, any responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to a general understanding of law in California and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as legal advice can only be provided in circumstances in which the attorney is able to ask questions of the person seeking legal advice and to thus gather appropriate information.