Should I hire an attorney?
There are situations when your only option is to hire an attorney and litigate. However, remember: an attorney is like a boxer that you hire to try to win a fight by brutal force, by defeating the other. Maybe you are so upset with the other that what you really want is to make them pay for whatever it is that they did to you… When emotions are high reason is out of the window. Thus, you are looking to hire an attorney to “punish” the other party, to make them suffer and pay and look as bad as possible. However, if you hire an attorney, the other party will feel forced to hire an attorney of their own… Quickly things may get worse. Their attorney will attack you, in return, trying to make you suffer and pay and look really really bad… You know how it works: It is called conflict escalation. You probably will end up wasting tens of thousands of dollars in a protracted fight that has no other winners than the attorneys themselves. Remember: attorneys never lose. Their clients do. Attorneys make money when there is a fight and as long as there is conflict, and that’s when the clients lose. That is the reason you should be very careful when talking to an attorney: you certainly need legal advise, but when emotions are high, you will be vulnerable, upset and willing to act on these emotions. You will be easy prey for unethical attorneys that will easily persuade you into signing a contract and paying a retainer to start a fight that you may regret deeply down the road. Just think twice.
Remember Charles Dickens words:
Becoming involved in a lawsuit is like… ‘being ground to bits in a slow mill; it’s being roasted by a slow fire; it’s being stung to death by single bees; it’s being drowned by drops; it’s going mad by grains.’ Hundreds of thousands of people are exposed to such torture each year, some of them actually choosing to initiate the process. They invariably find the experience painful, protracted, and expensive. When it has run its course, they often realize that it was futile. Yet there remains a queue of victims impatient for their turn. Charles Dickens, Bleak house, 1853.
How do I know if mediation is good for me?
In some situations mediation may not be a good choice for you. If you are afraid or feel intimidated by the other party, you may ask the mediator for a mediation in separate rooms, where you will feel empowered to make reasonable decisions. However, if your fear of the other is such that even when separated, you don’t feel it will be safe for you to push for the resolution that you need, then mediation is not for you. In many jurisdictions, if there has been violence (interpersonal or domestic violence), the Court will excuse the parties from attending court ordered mediation.
Other than these situations, as long as both parties agree to participate in mediation in good faith, when there is a dispute, mediation will be better than litigation or war.
When do I need to hire an attorney?
If, after you have tried mediation, the other party keeps pushing for a settlement or resolution that you cannot accept, or that you perceive as abusive, then you need proper legal advice and representation. First, you need to see, if what you want is within what the law can reasonably give you and can be obtained by litigation at a reasonable cost. Then you will know if hiring an attorney is a reasonable option or not. For example, you may be entitled to compensation in the amount of $5,000.00, but obtaining that will cost you one year of litigation and $10,000.00 in attorney fees and court costs… Is that investment reasonable? It is up to you. On the other hand, if you are fighting for an estate worth million, then the attorney’s fees and the pain of litigation may be well justified.
It is really important to understand the value of what is at stake and the odds of getting it in Court… and the consequences if you lose. If the other party prevails in Court, you may end up not only not getting what you wanted but also paying the other party’s attorneys’ fees… on top of yours. You lose twice. Talk to several attorneys, also see if you can get free legal advice from a pro bono organization.
Just try to be reasonable. Remember that as long as you are willing to pay, there will be an attorney willing to take your case, even the most hopeless.
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