Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Life Cycle of a Michigan Civil Case

On TV dramas, an entire case is wound up  in an hour.  In real life, cases move along in “lawyer time.”Small cases can take months to resolve. Most circuit court cases take a year or more to be tried.  This doesn’t mean anyone is delaying – it is just the process. So what takes so long?

Pleadings. Once a complaint is filed, it must be served on the defendant. While this usually happens quickly, it may b delayed more than a month. Once service is made, the defendant has three or four weeks to answer.
Discovery.  Once the pleadings are in place, a pretrial order is issued setting the timeframe for conducting discovery, disclosing witnesses and exchanging exhibits. The initial 90-180 day period set by the Court is often extended by the parties with the Court’s permission.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). After discovery ends, the matter is typically scheduled for case evaluation or other ADR procedure. This period lasts about 6 weeks to know if the ADR will settle the case.

Trial Scheduling. After the period of ADR closes, an initial trial date is usually scheduled between four and 12 weeks out.  Trials are often adjourned by the parties or the court. A typical delay caused by an adjournment of trial is one to two months.

Michigan Legal Intelligence is authored by W. Jay Brown, a Midland Michigan based civil litigation attorney. The foregoing is intended to be for general information purposes only and is not intended to be specific legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between W. Jay Brown PLC and you. Individuals with legal issues are advised to consult an attorney of your own choosing for advice specific to your situation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Economics of Hiring a Lawyer

Legal services clients should look at hiring a lawyer as an investment. As with any investment, you need to address three questions:

1.      How much does it cost?
2.      How much is the return on the investment? (ie – what can I expect if I succeed?)
3.      How much the risk involved? (ie- what is the likelihood of success)?

This economic analysis should be in the forefront of a client’s mind when choosing to hire a lawyer.   It is one thing to invest $10,000 with a lawyer when you have a 75% chance to obtain $50,000.  It is quite another to spend the same $10,000 if you have a 25% chance to obtain $15,000.  
I think every client should expect their lawyer to provide answers to these questions.  Sometimes the answers are unknown at the outset of the representation. In those cases, a client should expect the lawyer to tell them how much it will cost and how long it will take to determine the answers.

The same analysis applies regardless of whether you are bringing an action or defending one. If the question is one of defense, the analysis concerns what you have to lose instead of what you have to gain. There are exceptions to the economic analysis - - one of the most common are those instances where it is necessary to “stand on principle.”   For instance, a client may need to stand up to a bully or avoid setting precedence.