We live in a society that’s familiar with the legal process, but most everywhere we look we see a version of the legal world that isn’t true to reality. A key player in this misleading charade is the “big win.” Entertainment plays it up, as do sensational news stories. After so much exposure to the supposed ideal of winning big in court, we could begin to believe that being awarded a huge sum after an arduous court proceeding is the goal to which every client should strive. But we would argue that the issue runs deeper.
Winning big can mean different things to each client. For some, this means never even taking a case to trial. Perhaps a client really just wants to make a statement and express their side of the matter. They want to be heard and for the record to state the facts. Even if their case ends in a somewhat meager settlement, this client could feel that the process accomplished what they needed it to. I’ve seen cases in which a typical settlement agreement specifically states that our client’s adversary denies or contests liability, but to that client, this outcome is still a win.
Other clients would never be satisfied with anything less than the maximum recovery of loss. And at times, a client’s goal may not even be directly related to the reason for the claim. It could be that they need a specific sum for business use, and even though the amount could be far less than their actual loss, leaving the claim process with this sum would be a win for them.
On the opposing side, a defendant could prefer to cut losses and settle for any amount less than what they project to spend on their defense. Of course this defendant wouldn’t relish paying the claimant, but just getting out from under the claim for the least amount possible could be their idea of a win.
At times, we need to explain to clients that “winning big” doesn’t always involve the courtroom. In the end, each client’s conception of “winning” will vary, and it often boils down to intent, point of view, and motivation. When it comes to our view at Calkins Law Firm, we see it as a win when we are able to represent a client in court in a productive manner. We rely on open communication, so when our client cooperates with us, explaining goals and objectives and thereafter heeding our advice, we see this as a net positive. As legal experts, we pride ourselves on doing our job to our best ability while achieving the client’s goals–that’s our big win.
In this country, our court system is the best remedy we have for resolving a host of varied claims. That said, it is far from perfect. Judges and juries are human, and being such they can and do make mistakes. Our courts simply cannot always get everything right. This factor is key to remember when contemplating litigation.
So when thinking ahead to an idealized big win in court, take the realistic view that not everyone will see your situation as you do. And whether incorrect or not, these inherent biases or opinions can enter into any courtroom. Even the most compelling case supported by both facts and the law and argued by the most expert and experienced legal representation cannot assure a client their coveted big win.
Beyond the above-mentioned external factors, there are some internal or personal risks that a client takes on when insisting on a court battle. Litigation is stressful, even in a relatively smooth case. Now factor in prolonged and protracted situations that can drag on for years. The eventual emotional and financial toll could outweigh the supposed gain of a win.
Years after suffering a loss, the prevailing party could win the case. But at this point, it’s likely that legal fees and personal time, and trouble could make the win seem smaller than at the outset. While the case extends into the foreseeable future, the claimant’s circumstances could have changed. Some claimants could even become seriously ill–or worse–before the trial sees a reasonable end date. It could then be too late for the client to take advantage of any gain.
And if the claimant does win their case, oftentimes they won't be reimbursed for legal fees and expenses. So for many reasons, we will always advise our clients that they need to weigh their options. We are glad to help clients reach their goals, but we won’t hesitate to remind them that it’s best to view litigation through a realistic lens. It is vital to understand the significant investment that a court case can require. And even in a situation where the prevailing party does recover all of what they seek, they are rarely made whole–something must be sacrificed to achieve their ends.
Even though pop culture and entertainment would like us to believe that a big win is the highest ideal, the goal of our legal system is to push both parties toward compromise. In fact, "winning big in court" is the exception, not the general rule. As everyone involved comes to realize both the strengths and weak points of their cases, and as time and treasure are invested in the slow, grinding process, compromise gains value. In the end, settling can become the very win they were seeking.
Realistic, Practical Advice
At Calkins Law Firm we stand behind our clients, and we’re ready to help you resolve things in the best way possible. We work with you to make sure that your ultimate goals are achievable, then we set about helping you to reach them. So if you’re looking for seasoned yet practical legal advice don’t hesitate to reach out. Our expertise can be the steadying force that sees you through the upset of litigation.