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I Have a Good Claim, But We’re in a Recession. What Do I Do?

Posted by attorney Steven Rensch

I Have a Good Claim, But We're in a Recession. What Do I Do? The state of the times always affects the kind of claims lawyers see. For instance, back in the mid-2000s, when the real estate market was booming, I would regularly be presented with disputes stemming from a seller trying to get out of a deal because another buyer had come along with a higher offer. Then, when the real estate market collapsed, the disputes would more likely stem from a buyer trying to escape the deal because he had found a better one. It is the same now. The recession has caused the number of con men and corner cutting deals to rise, creating a bunch of new victims. And even among honest individuals and companies, the tight economy has made it more difficult to simply overlook differences. But by the same token, committing funds, time and manpower to going after the con man or litigating a business dispute has become more difficult. In fact, I believe that the reason con men have become so ever-present and large companies (insurance companies, lenders, banks) have become so unreasonable, it seems, is because they know that people who in the past would have challenged their actions cannot afford to do so now. So how have I changed my advice to potential new clients in this dilemma? Not one bit. I have done this work for 35 years, and essentially it has not changed. Litigation has always been financially, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually draining. It is wanting to fight to the death one day and wanting to give up the next. It requires commitment. And that is why, in my initial consultations, I require the potential client to convince me of his or her commitment. In my view, it would be unethical to allow that person to hire me without first conducting that cost-benefit analysis. I have no idea whether other lawyers see things the way I do or not. But assuming not all do, these are my suggestions to you when speaking with your potential new lawyer, during this recession and at all other times as well: 1. A good lawyer will know after a few minutes talking with you what most of the legal claims at issue are likely to be. Make sure he describes those claims to you in words you can understand, and most importantly make that lawyer tell you what the other side is likely to argue and the strength of that argument. 2. Understandably, clients will tend to remember the facts that favor them and overlook those which are unfavorable. Make sure your potential new lawyer presses you on key facts you may have overlooked. It is not uncommon for a case to be decided by the appearance in the middle of a litigation, or even at trial, of a fact which had never been communicated to the lawyer. 3. Except on small matters, it is unrealistic for a lawyer to tell you specifically how much a litigation will cost. But it is not unrealistic to expect a lawyer to tell you the various stages of the litigation he envisions and give you a general idea of the litigation's expense. It is in your interest to have this discussion at the beginning of the relationship. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. Don't be intimidated because the lawyer seems so important and you feel lost in the world of law. You are the customer; you're paying the money; it is your interests which are at stake. You have the right to do all you have to do to make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer.

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