MacWilliams Law has favorably settled four cases in the last two calendar months, with one closing this week. Some cases are not meant to settle. Certainly, not all cases should settle, especially when one party is being unreasonable. Here are some of the common elements of cases that are able to reach a quick and favorable resolution:
1. Good position. The best lawyer in the world can't fix bad facts (though many lawyers will happily bill you to try!) Skilled and ethical* lawyers recognize this and "nip in the bud" a meritorious claim that does not have a reasonable defense for court.
* Unfortunately, there are some lawyers who will advise clients to litigate losing cases with the hope that the other side will be worn down and eventually reach a different settlement position, even if the claim is meritorious and the damages sought are exactly what will likely be received in court. This usually results in nothing but more costs for everyone. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to carefully consider what exactly will be achieved by fighting out an issue in court.
2. Motivated parties. Reaching settlement requires both parties to be interested in actually making a deal. It is impossible to favorably settle a case if one or both parties simply want to fight and take a "my way or the highway" approach.
3. Understanding of the risks and costs going forward. Litigation is not cheap. Contingency fees are typically 1/3 of the total recovery. In heavily litigated cases, hourly fees quickly add up. Expert and consultant fees are additional. In order to evaluate settlement options, both parties need to carefully consider the costs of continuing to fight. Additionally, the costs are never just legal costs - there are also the costs of having the business team tied up dealing with legal matters instead of business, the costs of having customers or competitors aware of the litigation, and other intangibles. Litigation is always a last resort, and refusing settlement opportunities should never be a lightly-made decision.
4. Cooperation. Just as putting a deal together in the business context requires the parties to cooperate and jointly try to reach the same goal, to resolve legal disputes, the parties need to work together to reasonably address the issues and come to a good resolution. I have seen many good settlement opportunities derailed by parties who push too hard and fight too much when they should be working together.