Law firms are consulted frequently by clients who want to sue another party or who may be defending an action from another party. Often clients have become involved or want to be involved in litigation for the first time. Inexperience can be a trap and it must always be remembered that there is no certainty in litigation. Lawyers advise on what they believe the likely outcome to be, but a Judge may disagree. Even the Judge may not necessarily be right. He could perhaps be corrected by a higher Court, if there is the ability to appeal and the client can afford the cost of appeal. Any system run by humans is prone to mistake, so here are some guidelines:
- Always try to get the facts right. Check them carefully. Make sure you have a complete understanding of what has actually happened.
- Get all the documents. Be aware of any documents which you may not possess.
- Be reasonable. You may have a good claim, but you might be inflating the damage which has occurred to you. Or you may have caused damaged to some other person giving them legal rights against you. An admission of partial or complete liability may be a good idea.
- Take the advice of your lawyer, but don’t be afraid to query and challenge it. Your lawyer will be assisted by your wish to obtain a complete understanding of the advice.
- Whether you are claiming or defending, consider making an offer to settle early on. Much cost can be avoided by a reasonable early settlement.
- If you are going to pursue your claim or defence, make yourself aware of the likely cost. Your lawyer will give you an estimate but he is not a soothsayer and delays on the part of the other party, the other party’s lawyer, or the Court, can all add significantly to the cost of the proceeding. Sometimes there can be unexpected developments so be prepared to pay more if, in spite of your solicitor’s best efforts, the case drags on.
- If you win your case, enjoy your victory. You will probably learn a good deal from it in terms of the legal process and human nature. But don’t let it go to your head. You might lose the next case if you think you are invincible! If you lose the case, be philosophical. But do not let it discourage you if at a later time you have a good claim arising from a different matter.
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