Stay out of court, because courts often make bad decisions that can have enormous impact on your business, your personal life and your finances. If you stay out of court, you increase your chances of controlling your own fate. If you let a judge decide, you have no control.
One of my law partners has a great expression about clients who get themselves entangled in lawsuits:
“When a client has to file a lawsuit or gets sued, he has already lost.”
What’s that mean?
It means lawsuits cost. They cost you or your business:
- Time spent in the courtroom, in depositions, reading documents, talking to your lawyer, in mediation, reading court documents, searching for evidence, etc.
- Money for attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, photocopies, travel, etc.
- Opportunities to make money elsewhere doing other things, to grow your business, or to take personal time to be with family and friends.
- Your health. Lawsuits are stressful. The only thing more stressful than getting sued is having to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits are fun for lawyers. I love them, from a professional vantage point. I get to exhibit and sharpen my advocacy and strategy skills, but lawsuits are no fun for my clients.
- Goodwill or reputation. Getting sued can hurt the image people have of your business or you. The newspapers rarely report stories accurately. Allegations and even rumors are often reported as facts. People who really, truly know you and your ethos will be unaffected. Everyone else, including your customers, vendors and potential customers, will develop doubt in you to some degree.
A good lawyer-friend of mine just got a horrible ruling from a judge in a divorce case. The judge was wrong and should be appealed, but at what cost to the client? The judge robbed a father of all time with his children in a visitation ruling. The father in the case is not a bad guy at all, but the judge, for whatever reason, decided that the man should no longer see his own children.
Amazing isn’t it? How can one human being exercise that much power over another human being. This father is dying inside, because he no longer can see the children he loves so much. It’s very sad, and that judge should be ashamed of himself.
In a divorce case, there is not much you can do in advance to avoid a divorce lawsuit. Save your marriage, if you can. Or, don’t marry THAT woman in the first place. Ladies, don’t marry THAT man! That is the only lawsuit prevention available in a divorce context.
But what about your business affairs?
Do you take these preventative measures:
- Meet with your lawyer when you are unsure of your rights?
- Meet with your CPA, lawyer and insurance agent at least once every year?
- Have your lawyer draft or review all your contracts?
- Have your lawyer develop an asset protection plan?
- Use limited liability entities properly to create a “corporate shield?”
- Train your staff on a regular basis?
- Have processes and procedures developed into an operations manual?
- Properly use insurance to transfer liability risks away from you or your business?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then it’s time to go see your lawyer.