Saturday, September 13, 2008

Patience or Why Does Everything Take So Long?

One of the things I always try to remember as a practicing lawyer from all of my experiences sitting on the other side of the desk, is that a legal matter always seems to take in an inordinate length of time. At a bar association get together last week, one of the senior attorneys here in my little town explained why he only takes criminal law cases. They can be finished in 120 days or less. Sitting to my left was a lawyer who had been on a probate litigation case for over 14 years. In criminal law there is a constitutionally based "Speedy Trial Rule" that helps to keep things moving along.

Even in the best of scenarios when nothing else can go wrong, there is the matter of coordinating schedules. Add in a little miscommunication or unprofessional behavior between counsel and problems tend to unnecessarily multiply. Unfortunately, the nature of the beast is paperwork and process intensive. There really are not that many simple matters in the practice of law. The simple matters are largely being attempted by the public. The only problem is that the public really has a hard time truly distinguishing between a simple matter and a complex matter.

Consequently, that in turn often results in the need for a lawyer at a later date. Twenty years of delay and a couple of thousand dollars of legal fees might have been avoided by a $200 legal consult and drafting project. There is no substitute for the trained legal eye. Of course, seeing a lawyer does add an extra layer of cost and time into any project and it's not a foolproof measure because lawyers also make mistakes.

Any kind of civil litigation by its nature is going to likely involve more time than other methods of settling a dispute. Civil litigation is a paperwork and personnel intensive process that takes time. My advice is to psychologically prepare for the long haul when a party to a lawsuit and previous efforts for non-judicial settlement have failed. Patience is a virtue in life and a necessary characteristic for all parties in a lawsuit. Fortunately, although more lawsuits may be filed, fewer and fewer matters are actually going to trial.