Beware the Client Who Is too Busy to Litigate
BY WILL SEFTON
Litigation can not only have significant costs for the parties but also require a big time commitment. Will Sefton explains how clients often underestimate this.
Mediation offers not only a cheaper but also much faster approach. 93% of mediations are settled on the mediation day or shortly after, letting clients move on with their other commitments.
Clients need to understand from the outset of litigation not only how significant the cost of litigation can be, but also the time commitment.
Readers may well be used to advising their clients of the time involved if their case runs to trial, including giving evidence, hearing opponents’ evidence and attending pre-trial conferences. But, do clients really understand that they will be required to invest significant time in the litigation long before a trial comes around.
For busy and wealthy clients, in particular, who are used to delegating, the necessary time commitment can be a very unpleasant surprise and cause great difficulties for the solicitors, leading to a spiral of increasing costs and tension in the relationship. To avoid that, clients need to understand (i.e. solicitors need to explain) from the outset that there are some aspects of the litigation process which simply cannot be delegated, no matter how busy (and important/wealthy) they may be.
In this article, we offer some guidance on how to foster client engagement and maximise the chances of engagement when it is really required. If a client is reluctant or too busy to engage when they need to, there are going to be problems. If they are thinking of bringing a claim, are they really prepared to make the required sacrifices and do you really want to act for them if they aren’t? If they are a defendant (and therefore have no choice about being involved), do they really understand how their prospects are impacted if they do not commit to the process?
Since these are the clients that tend to make complaints or bring claims against their lawyers when things don’t work out, careful thought should be given at the outset to explaining their role, obligations and the expectations you and the Court have of them, in order to maximise the chances of a successful relationship and outcome.