Legal Consumer Tip #5 – Evaluating Settlement Issues

Copy of Illustration from Novel "Bleak Ho...

Copy of Illustration from Novel “Bleak House” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In September 2012, we blogged about a Colorado jury’s $2 million verdict against a law firm that pressured a client to settle a contingency fee case for less than it was worth. In that post, we noted that settlement comes up in virtually every case that is in or bound for litigation, and often attorneys pressure clients to settle. The question we posed for legal consumers is . . . is the attorney pushing settlement in the client’s best interest or in the attorney’s best interest?

There are a number of things legal consumers should consider when faced with an attorney pushing settlement. These include:

  • Why is the attorney pressuring me/us to settle?
  • What is the attorney’s assessment of the case and reasons for recommending settlement?
  • What are the pros and cons of embarking on, continuing or ending litigation?
  • What are the chances of winning/losing?
  • What is considered winning/losing?
  • What was the outcome in similar cases?
  • What are the terms of the proposed settlement?
  • What are the pros and cons of each proposed settlement term?
  • What does each proposed settlement term mean?
  • How does each proposed settlement term operate initially and in the future?
  • Will/should the settlement agreement have a confidentiality provision and will that be any problem in the future?
  • How long will litigation take?
  • How much will litigation cost?
  • How does litigation cost compare to the outcome/recovery?
  • What are the benefits for the attorney if I/we settle (monetary, recognition, etc.)?
  •  Is there anything else specific to my case/situation that I should be considering?

This list is by no means exhaustive. The ultimate question is whether you will benefit from a settlement or be sorry you settled. Ask your attorney these and other questions specific to your case or situation to be sure you are making an informed decision. If you don’t understand any aspect of your case or your attorney’s answers to your questions, probe him/her further until you feel comfortable that you understand every aspect of the issues bearing on the settlement decision. And, if you can, consider getting a second opinion. Remember, an educated legal consumer makes better decisions and is more likely to be a satisfied client.

You’ve got options.  The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field.  Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970. 


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