Business Litigation, pt. 2 Victory
1. Get everything in writing and keep good records.
My client had evidence that he'd gotten, in writing, something showing the Plaintiff had given up his interest, but that the file mysteriously disappeared when the Plaintiff quit working for my client. What could my Plaintiff have done differently? He could've had his lawyer at the time draw up the document, make it legally clear, and keep triplicate originals--one for the client, one for the man who gave up his interest, and one for the lawyer (just to be safe). Also, my client could have kept his employee files locked (the testimony was that the files weren't locked).
2. Understand the sheer randomness of a jury.
I always tell clients that you never know what a jury is going to do in a trial, and I really couldn't tell, until they returned a verdict in our favor, what the jurors were thinking. I try to pick up on body cues (do they appear bored when I talk? Are there arms crossed? Are they attentive), but this is not an exact science, and worse yet, an attorney (or his client) can drive himself crazy trying to put meaning into every action of a juror. At one point, the jury sent a question to the judge, and when it was read, my client thought we had lost. Instead, we won; jurors create an emotional rollercoaster for the parties involved, and I think my client knows this now.
3. Place a value on your opportunity costs and your time. This case, in the grand scheme of things, did not involve a lot of money. In fact, early on it became clear that--if carried to its finish--my fees would eclipse the value of the case. However, this case involved (to my client) principle, and, honestly, a bit of a grudge between two individuals. My client was fully prepared to to pay my costs to the end. However, I believe if he were to be asked now, he'd rethink settling earlier, not for the fees he's having to be me, but for the amount of money he probably lost having to sit at trial for a week. My client is an entrepeneur, a commercial real estate developer, who travels the country. During the time he spent in trial, my client missed an important meeting with his largest customer in South Carolina (who, in fact, was going to present him with an achievement award), and also had to forego trips to other parts of the country to oversee and/or initiate start-up projects. The greatest loss, for a client like this, is not the court costs, but the missed opportunity costs.
Things aren't all bad, however. I obtained this client because he was on the opposite side of a lawsuit about five years ago and, though I'd handled many cases for him in the interim, they'd all either gotten dismissed or settled. This was the first opportunity I'd had to show my client how I reacted in the stressful setting of a courtroom in a week-long jury trial. Many corporate lawyers sit behind their desks advising clients, but I hope that my client has now seen my advice put to action.