Monday, February 23, 2015, 09:18 PM
Posted by Administrator
Luckily, the ultimate decision on whether or not to take a settlement offer belongs to the client. There is an actual ethical RULE that says that lawyers have to inform clients of all settlement offers and it applies to everything from money in injury cases to plea offers made by the State to criminal defendants.

Your client can always settle their case: just take whatever the other side is offering. And, the other side can ALWAYS settle their case: just take what you are offering. Sometimes, one of the parties does cave in and take a deal their lawyer never would have imagined they'd take....usually because they find out they have to give up documents or information that will cause them even more trouble. Paying a few extra dollars in child support sure beats explaining to the IRS why you've been doing business in cash and not paying taxes for the last 10 years.

But, last week, at 11:30 in the morning, after a couple of hours of (oral-contract-for-transfer-of-land) trial and as both sides headed to the door after the judge offered the other lawyer....who had a painful, swollen salivary gland, a continuance for a couple of days....the judge said to all of us, lawyers and litigants,"Keep in mind: A bad settlement is better than a good trial." This made me think: Don't you win big in a "good trial" and give up a lot with "a bad settlement"?

When we returned two days later to finish the trial, the lawyer's salivary gland had shrunken some and, before we got started, he said to me, more or less: "We've got an offer for you to settle the case and it's pretty much you proposed to us a little while back."

And, after a half hour of negotiations.....and, after telling the bailiff to tell the judge we needed a few minutes before he came out and re-started the trial....we had a deal. My client, rationalizing taking this deal in a trial that had been (for at least the couple of hours we had in) going quite well, said to me "A bad settlement is better than a good trial."

And, as well as the trial seemed to be going, if he'd lost, he would have lost big. And, if he'd won, he wouldn't have won that much. So, for him, at least...a bad settlement may have been better than a good trial. And, really, the settlement (which was, more or less, what we had proposed before the trial), wasn't bad at all.

I'm glad that I didn't have to decide whether to take it. And, I'm sure the judge will keep on using his line.
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