YourABA: November 2012
YourABA October 2012 Masthead

5 ways to keep clients’ litigation
costs down

As the economy still sputters, lawyers face pressures from clients to keep litigation costs low. Olivier Taillieu, a partner at Zuber & Taillieu in Los Angeles, and Mark Wolf, assistant general counsel at FMC Technologies in Houston, offered these tips in a recent issue of GPSolo to keep costs in check and clients content.

  1. Develop and maintain an open line of communication with the client. A lawyer, for example, might spend hours tackling a problem in a case only to learn that the client already addressed the problem successfully in another case. The lawyer may end up on the hook for a big bill that the client is not inclined to pay.

    In another scenario, a lawyer might press a client to adopt a strategy in which he or she is not totally on board. This bullish tactic runs up high legal bills and possibly pushes the case down a path from which there is no easy way to turn around.

    Listen to your clients, and learn their strengths. If a client is a great negotiator, say, this may be a way to reduce litigation costs. The client may already have an effective information technology group or vendor with whom special low rates have been negotiated. Use that relationship to take on as much of the document review process as you can.

  2. Focus case strategy. Save your client money by establishing your overall case strategy early on, so that it informs your output. A thorough pre-filing investigation is a must: Identify relevant facts and witnesses, appropriate legal theories, and whether the availability and measure of damages in the case even make it worth your client’s time to pursue the case. This cost-benefit analysis shows the client you’re willing to help minimize costs, and this trait will often be rewarded with repeat business.

    If you and your client decide to pursue the litigation, your pre-suit investigation will allow you to draft a narrowly tailored complaint that will help contain your client’s costs and reduce the likelihood that you will have to defend against a motion to dismiss or a motion to strike.

  3. Cooperate with opposing counsel. Strive to develop and maintain a collegial relationship. A strained or outright contentious relationship with opposing counsel nearly always causes litigation costs to skyrocket.

  4. Form an efficient team. The cost of hiring expert witnesses can add up. Your expert team should have a blend of experience and be low cost. This can often be accomplished by hiring an expert with a competent staff. The staff prepares drafts of the report under the expert’s supervision, and the expert adopts the report and conveys the message during depositions and at trial.

  5. Choose your court wisely. Although you might have grounds to bring the case in federal court, you may be more successful at keeping costs down if the case proceeds in state court. State court actions are less likely to face costly summary judgment motions as part of the litigation.

Click here to read the full article.

GPSolo is a publication of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

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