- Have you ever handled a case like this before?
- How much can I expect to pay at the outset, and where will the money go — damages, back pay, front pay, legal fees?
- Where is this case heading, or where can it go?
- Do you have testimonials from former clients?
DO NOT: Stick with a poor communicator
As with any important business matter, clear, consistent communication is the key to ensuring litigation goes as smoothly as possible. Legal defense is expensive, so you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth in the form of a knowledgeable, forthright attorney. Krugel said to be wary of lawyers who won’t give you a straight answer or attempt to withhold information from you.
“If a lawyer can’t explain something to you in plain English, run away,” he said.
Keith Dennen, a member attorney with the Nashville office of Dickinson Wright PLLC, also noted that a good lawyer should provide you with frequent status reports, as well as copies of all important pleadings and correspondence about the case.
During and after the case
The litigation process can be long and stressful, but here are a few pieces of advice to follow throughout the case and beyond.
Don’t try to cover anything up. “Be completely honest with your lawyer about the facts, they will come out sooner or later, and it is better for your lawyer to be prepared for them than be caught by surprise.” – Jessica Kelly
Be diligent and prompt. “Review the attorney’s invoices promptly. Ask questions when you have questions. The more you delay in responding to the attorney’s requests, the more it costs you.” – Keith Dennen
Stay focused on your business. “Don’t lose sight of the fact that you have a business to run, and a bottom line to think about. So put aside any feelings of anger or pride. Oftentimes I hear clients say, ‘We didn’t do anything wrong, why should we pay this person?’ The answer is that winning the case can cost a lot more than settling. You have to make a calculation: Will the company be better off, financially, if it pays the plaintiff $20,000 than if it spends $30,000 to win the case? As the saying goes, ‘A bad settlement is often better than a good trial.'” – John R. O’Brien
Protect yourself from copycat suits. “In light of any recent employment lawsuit, you should take proactive steps to create an HR foundation that includes creating or updating your handbook; delivering anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training to all employees and management; creating a detailed complaint procedure that is published to all employees; and providing management training on dangerous areas such as interviewing, discipline and terminations. This will not only make an impression on the current case, but it could also stop later accusers in their tracks.” – Joseph Campagna, owner of human resources consultancy My Virtual HR Director
Keep your head held high. “Do not let a lawsuit rattle your entrepreneurial feathers. Remain calm and continue to work in your business’s best interests.” – Merlyne Jean-Louis
Nicole received her Bachelor’s degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.