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Resolution Rejected

I advised a client to accept a final settlement offer.

The client was an educated and successful individual. I liked him a lot.

We had a good meeting. While the offer was not everything he wanted and was well below the defendant’s maximum exposure, it was certainly “in the range.” I explained the risks and benefits of trial. My client asked appropriate questions. We closed with him telling me he wanted to think it over and talk with his children.

A week later, I got a polite and businesslike message rejecting the suggested resolution. The message was a reasoned one. There was nothing irrational about it.

I had a flash of irritation. My analysis was solid. I know what I am doing. I doubt anyone in Virginia has tried more malpractice cases than I have. How could any rational client reject my advice?

Easily, it seems.

As I thought about it, I quickly concluded that it’s entirely possible that my client was right. The recommendation was not an obvious call. Reasonable trial attorneys could differ as to whether the offer was enough.

When you get into the zone where the client will net “real money,” my advice tends to be conservative. In almost 39 years of being a trial lawyer, I have seen too many bad outcomes. When I was a defense lawyer, there were cases where we made decent offers which were rejected. We tried the case and the plaintiff got nothing. I don’t want to put any client (or me) in that position. That’s my bias when it comes to evaluating settlement issues.

Our clients have minds of their own. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s always their privilege to decline recommendations. My vanity is of no significance in their decision.

And, sometimes, rejecting the lawyer’s advice might well be the correct call.


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