Authored by John Berge
A lawyer’s individual practice style is an issue that is often discussed and even joked about. When faced with a dispute, a lawyer’s primary goal should be to resolve the dispute in the most efficient way possible to the client’s satisfaction. However in most instances, the dispute has an emotional impact on the client that clouds his or her ability to consider the primary goal.
This emotional impact can come in many forms. First, the prospect of having to hire an attorney to assist in resolving the dispute is uncomfortable at best and causes a client to focus on the costs associated with the process. Additionally, the client’s emotions may prompt him or her to need to be seen as “right” no matter how much money is required to prove the point. I often hear that the client is concerned with “the principle of the matter”—in those cases, the client becomes focused on “proving” the correctness of their position to the other side.
In 26 years of assisting clients, it has been my experience that the “principle of the matter” tends to go away after they receive billing statement #3. But if the emotional impact has pushed the client toward the “meanest S.O.B. lawyer they can find,” they’ll find themselves stuck with the expense and time-sucking process of a traditional court case since an overly-aggressive attorney will often do nothing more than exacerbate and broaden the dispute. Although overly aggressive tactics can be successful when the opposing party is worn out and possibly out of money, in most situations, an overly-aggressive attorney is counterproductive to the primary goal of resolving the dispute to the client’s satisfaction and in the most efficient manner possible.
It is essential that the lawyer maintain objectivity, not become emotionally involved in the dispute, and try to refocus the client on the primary goal of efficient resolution. In an effort to resolve the dispute efficiently, a dispute resolution attorney should initially assist the client in maintaining objectivity and considering possible resolutions that may not be ideal, but workable. Thus, the practice style of the attorney selected can have a great deal of impact on how long—and therefore, how much money—is required to resolve the dispute. Care should be given when choosing an attorney to not be influenced by the emotional impact resulting from a dispute. Choose an attorney who has an effective balance between cooperative negotiation along with the ability to litigate the matter through resolution if necessary.