Can Judges Reduce Litigation Costs?

It’s a familiar scenario – a lawsuit on the evening of trial suddenly settles after years of litigation and seemingly innumerable dollars spent preparing the case.  Most clients wonder whether anything could have been done along the way to settle the case earlier and avoid the enormous fees and years of uncertainty.  In an April 24, 2014 article titled “10 Things Judges Can Do To Help Business Litigation Be More Efficient And Less Expensive,” Patrick Lamb of Valorem Law Group proposes that judges may be able to reduce litigation costs.

Prefacing his thoughts with the disclaimer that he has never been a judge or clerked for one and has no knowledge of the issues judges confront, Mr. Lamb proposes the following 10 things judges could do to reduce costs:

  1. Accelerate the end – adopt a faster case track.
  2. Require senior trial lawyer involvement – senior lawyers can often reach agreements junior lawyers cannot.
  3. In business to business cases, get the businesspeople involved – businesspeople are more interested in the outcome than the process of getting more information before settlement.
  4. Identify and decide key issues first – find and decide the key issues that impedes resolution.
  5. Guard against too much process at the expense of practical outcomes – lawyers like the process, but clients want quick results.
  6. Standardize rules in ways that drive efficiency – eliminate redundant work like numbering exhibits for depositions and renumbering them for trial.
  7. Limit discovery – limit written discovery (interrogatories, document requests and requests to admit) unless there is a compelling reason for more.
  8. Master e-discovery cost drivers – judges should understand electronic discovery and the enormity of information it generates or have someone who understands the process and can address the issues and costs.
  9. Reduce the briefing – judges should allow one-page letters or phone calls for certain issues that do not need to be fully briefed.
  10. Decide quickly – all delays increase costs, and the one-page letters or phone calls could provide fast decisions and save fees.

Mr. Lamb states that litigation costs are increasing because of e-discovery, and that the court rules were written before e-discovery existed:

Litigants, even sophisticated companies, often find themselves caught in tangled mess of barbed wire, caught amongst outrageous expense and discovery complexity, rules that were mostly drafted in an age before electronic information was commonplace and lawyers who seek to turn every misstep into a fight to the death or a sanctionable offense no matter how small the consequence [to] the particular case.

The system is indeed broken, and while judges may be able to limit litigation costs as Mr. Lamb suggests, they would be but one part of mending a system that needs to be reformed.

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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