Michael Lodge, NCPM
My way or the highway never works. It makes the other side say, ok, this guy doesn't want to resolve this, he wants to make the conflict even greater and spend money. I am cheap, and I am the first one to admit it. I don't want to spend money and not knowing which direction it can go because once it gets into court you have no idea what the jury will do, or what a judge will do. I am always, thinking, gosh, I just spent $100,000 in legal fees and I could have had a nice boat to do the Great Loop in. That's just me.
I once had a legal case with a client. Personal story now. The client had promised he was going to pay his invoices but never did. I serviced him for three years which added up to a grand total of over $500,000 in fees. We had done a lot of work, we had represented the client on three years of tax audit work, a review of the pay-per-view contracts, and other issues for the client. Three years’ worth of work that took us away from other clients’ needs and finding new clients. You must think about that aspect when you take on clients. I was just a small firm, and one bad apple would spoil the whole bunch - boy. Sorry, that song came to mind.
The legal team on the other side were ruthless, top entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles. My contract with the client had a clause for mediation and arbitration. The opposing counsel tried to avoid mediation and tried to move it to Federal court. We tried to get it moved back into state superior court, which we succeeded in doing, and then went to arbitration - per my contract. Just to get all that done there was a retainer of $45,000. By the time we had done the movements from court to arbitration, the legal bill came to $250,000. Now if we would had gone straight to arbitration the cost would have been about $16,000. The case was easy, it was just about invoices owed for work done and it needed to be paid. And when we went to the table, we had options to show the other side to resolve the issue. Arbitration took 7 days, and it was done. The point from the other side was to do damage to my firm, not to resolve the case and to be fair, but to do damage. Their view was that it was their way or the highway. The highway ended in mediation and arbitration.
Gosh, for that $250,000 I could have had a really nice boat.
Don't be foolish with the highway business. If you are serious about finding a fair way to work things out you will hire a mediator, listen, develop options, negotiate, respond fairly, and come to an agreement. But if you are going to be the highwayman, it never works out well.
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