In our three practice areas, business litigation, trust litigation, and real estate litigation, cost-benefit considerations are always paramount. Whether we are defending our client against such a lawsuit, or bringing a lawsuit to enforce our client’s rights, cost always has to be a factor. Few clients have unlimited litigation budgets; nor should they.
A business litigation or trust litigation case should be viewed as a financial investment by the client. In a plaintiff’s case, it is obvious that our clients should expect to reap a positive financial return from the case. Put simply, the results sought and obtained need to make sense relative to the legal and court costs involved. There is no point in spending $50,000 in legal fees to secure an outcome of similar size. For plaintiff’s cases Buffington Law Firm will usually never take the case unless we believe that the expected value of the outcome is something that yields a positive return relative to the estimated litigation budget. Civil lawsuits, at the end of the day, are usually fights about money.
For defense cases our goal is also financial in nature: normally we seek to minimize the overall cost of the suit to the client. In a purely defensive business litigation or trust litigation lawsuit (one where our client is not prosecuting a cross-complaint) there is no upside: the goal is and should be to minimize the cost of the matter to our client.
Whether the case is a plaintiff’s case or a defense case, maximizing the financial return to the client and/or minimizing the financial burden requires careful strategy. Sometimes settlement can be a good strategy for achieving our client’s objectives. For example, in a case in which $100,000 is at stake, perhaps the defendant will offer our side $85,000 fairly early in the case. If we estimate that there is considerably more than $15,000 in future litigation costs to conclude the case at trial, settlement would make sense in this context, since the net return by settling would be higher than if the case went to trial, even if trial yielded a higher gross dollar outcome. Similarly, in a defense case, it is not uncommon that we will recommend a “cost of defense” settlement, i.e. one in which our client pays a small settlement which we estimate is less than the dollar amount that a successful defense trial will cost. This both minimizes the net cost of the suit to the client, and, as with most settlements, it eliminates the risk of an adverse outcome — all trials entail some risk; there is no such thing as a sure thing.
In other cases, when the other side makes it necessary, taking the case to trial and verdict is the best strategy. At Buffington Law Firm we firmly believe that preparing for trial is always the best strategy for bringing our client’s case to the best outcome. When the other side knows that we are prepared to go the distance, this often makes them inclined to negotiate sensibly. If not, such preparation is always the key to a successful trial.
If you have a business litigation, trust litigation, or real estate dispute case, we invite you to call us for a free legal consultation with one of our experienced Orange County trial lawyers. There is never any obligation.