Are there any recommendations you can make to help people avoid going to court?
J. Eric Higgins’ Answer:
A good attorney will help his clients to manage their expectations. Once we’re able to identify what issues are contested in a case, look at the evidence on those particular issues, know which court we’re going to be in, and know which judge is going to be making these decisions, then we can sit down with our client and be realistic about the range of possible outcomes if we took the case to court. Hearing that they’re not going to get everything they want and that they could actually lose on key issues encourages most clients to be reasonable and settle out of court.
Another thing that helps cases settle is preparation. For instance, if a client says that they have $100,000 separate property interest in a retirement account, I can send a letter alleging this – but without backup documentation, it’s going to be hard to get the other side to agree.
If our client helps us by providing all the documents necessary to prove their claims, than the other side realizes that you have a realistic position, you’re prepared to go to trial, and you have your evidence to back up your position. At some point, that case is going to settle. It may settle on the steps of the courthouse, but preparation helps resolve cases.