Civil lawsuits are legal, and they are expensive.
In fact, they cost the government $12 billion annually to resolve.
That’s more than all the civil litigation brought in the U.S. during the last two years.
In addition to the cost, it can take up to four years to file a civil suit, according to the National Association of Attorneys General.
So the more time you spend with a civil case, the more likely you are to win it, says Lisa M. McEwan, a former associate general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board and a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie.
If you win, you may even get a lower settlement than if you lost, she says.
But you can also make money on settlements by using legal tricks to get the money you can’t pay your legal bills.
So what does a civil lawyer do to maximize the potential of a settlement?
McEwans research suggests that a lawyer should always ask for a specific amount of money and never ask for anything in the form of a check, she explains.
For example, she would ask a lawyer if he or she would be willing to pay $1 million.
This would put the lawyer in a bind: He or she has to ask if the client wants to be paid the $1,000,000 that the lawyer says they will.
If the lawyer thinks that the client would be upset by that, the lawyer can offer the client a lower amount.
A lawyer should also ask for the amount of time that has passed since the case was filed, whether the case is active, and what was done after the lawsuit was filed.
The longer the time has passed, the less likely the case will be resolved, McEwaans says.
The time that elapsed after filing the lawsuit also matters, says Robert C. Biesinger, an associate professor of law at the University of Michigan.
“It can take longer for the judge to decide a case than it does to resolve it,” he says.
For instance, if a judge finds that the civil lawsuit has not been litigated, it could take a longer time for the case to be resolved than it did for the lawsuit to be filed, he adds.
A civil lawsuit can be a good way to build leverage in a negotiation process, says Dan R. Shapiro, a law professor at the New York University School of Law.
But don’t let your lawyers do all the work, Shapiro says.
“In some instances, a lawyer may be the best negotiator.
But a civil attorney should not be the only negotiator in a negotiating session,” he adds, pointing out that there are other professionals who can negotiate better.
Some lawyers may not be willing or able to negotiate, or may be unable to.
If this happens, then the civil lawyer should try to find a mediator to help resolve the issue.
Mcewan says that civil lawyers who are involved in settlements have been known to make false promises to the settlement money to try to get it.
“A civil lawyer may make a big promise, and then he or her will not honor that promise,” she says, adding that the settlement is often worth less than what was originally offered.
In some cases, Mcewans says, a civil lawsuit settlement may be worth more than what the lawsuit itself cost.
That could be because a lawyer was paid to prepare a legal argument for the settlement.
In many cases, this lawyer will not disclose that he or he was paid by the settlement to prepare an argument.
But this lawyer could still be a big loser in a settlement if the settlement did not include an admission of guilt or a promise not to sue the lawyer or his or her client, Mcwaans explains.
You may be tempted to agree to a settlement even if you think you would not be able to afford it if you did not win the lawsuit.
But, she notes, you shouldn’t.
You should think about the long-term financial consequences of agreeing to a lawsuit settlement, she adds.
“You may end up with a huge settlement,” she adds, “and it may cost you money, but you may have no way of knowing how much of that money you have.”
For example: You may have to repay your legal fees or settlements if you win the civil case.
The amount of your legal settlement will depend on the amount you were paid and the number of lawyers who were involved in the settlement, according, Mcewans.
Also, the amount the attorney paid may be less than the actual amount of the legal settlement.
But in many cases that amount will still be less expensive than the lawsuit you settled, Mcwanans says — or the lawyer who was involved in it, if the lawyer is not your lawyer.
“If you are not paying a lawyer, then you are losing money and you are paying for your lawyers fees,” she explains, “so the money is